Drivers rely heavily on data to measure their performances out on track, so it’s no surprise that Dino Beganovic’s mind is firmly fixed on the numbers as he assessed his rookie Formula 3 campaign. Finishing sixth in the Drivers’ Standings with four podiums and 10 points-scoring finishes are statistics not to be overlooked.
Yet there was one major reoccurring blip that eventually came back to bite the PREMA Racing driver – his struggle to build back-to-back top 10 finishes across a weekend. Hindered by the fact that he was unable to score in five out of the nine Sprint Races this season, the Swede admits that weaker Saturday performances kept a shot at the final top three, that was within touching distance for most of the campaign, just out of reach.
“It’s been a good year to be honest, very positive. Statistically, I think it’s been really good. I’m one of the best qualifiers of the year and also have the most Feature Race podiums which is nice, but at the same time I haven’t put everything together and I was still missing something on the Saturdays.
“It’s the small stuff that hasn’t paid off and it’s these things that I still need to work on, but overall, I think it was a positive year just because of these statistics. I would rather have more Feature Race podiums than Sprint Race podiums let’s say.”
He added: “I was super hungry for the win. In the beginning, I said it’s part of the game, it will come because I was playing the Championship game.”
Going from Swedish karting tracks to racing on some of the most iconic circuits on the Formula 1 calendar, Beganovic’s promotion to the third tier was already an achievement in his eyes. In only his fourth season of single-seaters, the 19-year-old’s sacrifices had seen him take one step closer towards realising his ultimate goal.
“It’s quite unreal because as a kid you always say the dream is Formula 1, but you don't really understand how long the path is and how tough it is to get there. It's not just something you say and that you will do it one day. There is still a long way to go, and we’ll see now at the end of the season how it all pays off and where I am next year. Still in the end, it's far away, but also close at the same time after so many years and putting a lot of commitment into it. I left school after ninth grade and moved to Italy when I was 16 by myself, so I’ve put a lot of commitment into it, but I don't regret anything.”
Entering the field as the reigning Champion from the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine, the Ferrari junior wasn’t complacent about the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead. Shaking off any self-doubt ahead of the season opener in Sakhir, Beganovic says that he was unfazed by the external pressure and hype surrounding him. Instead, he set out to prove to himself that he wasn’t going to leave anything on the table from start to finish.
With a clear target in mind, Beganovic immediately set out to match that. Qualifying in seventh on his debut, the PREMA driver finished fourth in the opening Sprint Race before taking his first trip to the podium with third the following day.
“F3 is a very competitive Championship, so I knew it would be tough. Yet at the same time, my best points-scoring weekend was Bahrain, which was my first weekend. I scored good points in both races, not starting too far towards the midfield on Saturday to still be able to get very close to the podium and then getting a podium on Sunday. I expected it to be tough and these kind of rookie mistakes I knew I could have them, but then it’s better than expected. For example, we have the most podiums on Sunday out of anyone this season, so that’s what makes me happy.
“Obviously you’re coming in with much more confidence that you would’ve done if you had an okay year before it, which is always nice. You always need a boost and you’re always doubting yourself, no matter who you are. It was nice to come into Formula 3 after such a great season and we did a great first weekend, so I didn’t feel any extra pressure. I think the pressure I feel comes from myself because I want to do good.”
Reflecting on the peaks and troughs across the nine race weekends, he says he sought to utilise the early rounds as a learning opportunity to build a foundation for himself to go from strength to strength as the season unfolded, whilst overcoming setbacks.
A mechanical issue in Silverstone cost him a shot at Qualifying, relegating him to the back of the field for both races. Despite making up 33 places in total around the British circuit, he eventually finished just outside the points.
However, it was the unpredictable weekend at Spa-Francorchamps that carries the bitterest sting, with Beganovic finding himself on the wrong side of the conditions, something which cost him valuable ground in the fight for the top three in the Standings.
“Coming into the season, I said after having a really good year in FRECA that the goal was set high. From the beginning of the season, our plan was to do well, always be there and then towards the end of the season to make that little step to try and challenge for the Championship. Gabriel Bortoleto has been very good this year and he built a gap in the first two rounds, but also the consistency that he has had has been really good, so it was difficult to challenge him.
“Then we were still in the fight for P2, but then a really disappointing weekend in Silverstone put us on the backfoot quite a lot for the Championship. The target at the beginning was to be there at the end of the year to fight for the Championship, to accept these small rookie mistakes early on and then tidy it up at the end, which I think we managed well halfway through the season. Then we had a very, very messy round in Spa, which a lot of it was not in our control with the strategies and the weather.
“After a difficult weekend in Silverstone, it was tough to come back, but we came back really strong with the P2 in Budapest and then to try to carry that momentum with the difficult conditions was tough. Not perfect driving from me, but also not the right calls by us as a team. It was tough to go off for the summer break afterwards because it was running through my head all the time. It was like I was not even going on holiday because I always had that running in my mind.”
Ultimately, just 27 points would separate second from seventh in the Drivers' Championship and with little margin for error, every point counted. For Beganovic that meant that the Sprint Races became more of a significant decider in how the Standings played out than what he expected.
“I think the consistency has been there, but not consistent weekends. For example, between the Sprint Races versus the Feature Races. If you look at only at the Feature Race results, I will say it’s been very consistent as we’ve been on the podium quite a lot, but at the same time, I haven’t scored as much in the Sprint Races, which I should have done. It kind of makes it uneven.”
In hindsight, it’s clear to see that extra emphasis. Out of the maximum 99 points available on Saturdays, Beganovic scored 17 compared to teammate Paul Aron’s 47, Franco Colapinto’s 51 and Josep María Martí’s 30, all of whom rounded out the top five.
A recognisable name in PREMA Racing’s single-seater line-up since his 2020 Italian F4 campaign, the Ferrari junior says that familiarity and understanding of him as a driver aided his transition this season. Complimented by the experienced Zak O’Sullivan, Beganovic didn’t make the step-up alone, joining alongside long-time stablemate Paul Aron – something which he sees as a force for good, with their shared competitive drive pushing them forward to go beyond their potential.
“Working with the team for so long is definitely an advantage because I know the people. Obviously, it’s not exactly the same people from category to category, but it’s the same spirit. Everyone wants to do well and there’s a lot of motivation and family feeling in this team, which is important for me to feel.
“Paul and I, it’s our third year together and we’ve been pushing each other quite hard all the years we have been teammates, which is nice because we push ourselves to our limits all the time and it makes us better.”
Overall, Beganovic’s maiden Formula 3 campaign is one that he’ll look back on with his head held high. Whilst he reflects on the many lessons from a whirlwind rookie year, he knows that there is much for him still to learn.
“I learnt to put a lap together in Qualifying. The lap that counts the most is the last lap if there is no Red Flag or so on and obviously, you have a lot of pressure on that lap. You cannot risk it too much, but at the same time, you need to do a lap much better than before, and I think that’s why I’ve been one of the best qualifiers of the year because I’ve been able to do it.
“That’s a step I made from pre-season testing throughout the whole year. It was not great in Bahrain, less in Australia and then from there, we had the two mid-year tests and after that, it was just spot on all the time. I still have many things to work on, but I definitely feel more complete now.”