Sat in his hotel room, Victor Martins is speaking from an Alpine Academy training camp situated on the Valencia coastline. Things look very different for him than they did 12 months ago.
The Frenchman was dropped by the then named Renault Sport Academy at the end of 2019 but wrestled his way back in by taking the 2020 Formula Renault Eurocup title. A win that Martins credits for saving his fledging career.
Enjoying a quick breather before going on a hike with his fellow Alpine juniors, Martins looks back at what was arguably the biggest season of his career to date and discusses how it has prepared him to make the step up to Formula 3 with MP Motorsport.
SPLITTING WITH RENAULT
It’s cliché, but in many ways it’s true: you learn more from the tough times in life, than the good ones.
Martins lost his Renault backing at the end of 2019, after finishing as runner-up to Oscar Piastri in Formula Renault Eurocup. The Frenchman opted for another crack at the same championship in 2020, knowing that a win would reunite him with the French team’s junior programme.
If I didn’t win the title, then that would have been the end for me.
Signing up for a season with ART Grand Prix, he’d have to do it without the luxuries he’d grown accustomed to with Renault.
“I didn’t get the advice from them that I had in the past,” explains Martins. “I didn’t get the luxury of their simulator, the physical preparation I did with their trainers, I didn’t have any of this. I had to go it alone and do it myself, with the help of ART and my family.
“There was pressure on me to win the title because I knew it was my last chance. If I didn’t win the title, then that would have been the end for me. It took so much focus and I had to adapt to every difficult moment. I had to fight to make the low moments better ones, and the great moments, even greater.
“It was probably the toughest season of my career so far, but it was a chance for me to keep growing and keep learning, both in the car and on the mental side. I experienced situations that I never have in the past, like leading a Championship. It was a great challenge and I am proud of the way that I managed it.”
The gamble paid off as Martins beat Caio Collet to the title by 44 points. A tenth-place finish in the opening race was as bad as it got for the Frenchman, who cruised to seven wins and 14 podiums. He never finished outside of the points and only finished out of the top five once. After just a year away, he was back signing fresh terms with Alpine for a return to their junior programme.
TEAMING UP WITH HIS TITLE RIVAL
After a season of fighting one another for the title, Martins and Collet will join forces as teammates at MP Motorsport in 2021.
They may be rivals on track, but the duo are friends through the Alpine Academy, with Collet also out in Valencia at the moment as part of the same training camp. The Brazilian will not only provide Martins with a familiar face in the garage, but also a benchmark with which to measure his own success this year.
“It is a really strong project at MP,” continues Martins. “I have Caio as a teammate, who I know already. I know he is a really good driver and I know that I can work well with him. I think that together we can really help the team.
“There will be some rivalry because you always want to be in front of your teammate, but first and foremost, I want to work with him. The goals of the team are quite clear, they want all of us to work together to develop both the car and ourselves.
“The most important thing for me will be to have a good relationship with him to provide the team with points and feedback. We want to work together to help the team to fight for race wins. If we start the season strongly, I do believe that could even be title contenders.”
STEPPING UP TO F3
Martins and MP have history, it was the Dutch side who led him to second in Formula Renault back in 2019. Renault have opted to put full faith in Sander Dorsman and his team and Martins says he’s excited by the project they’ve laid out for him and Collet.
“When I was in Formula Renault, we did a great job and our relationship was great,” says Martins. “We were really productive and they gave me a lot of confidence, helping me to develop, not just as a driver but as a person as well. Alpine and MP have built this project for us and I think that it will be a really great opportunity to perform.”
Alpine and MP have built this project for us and I think that it will be a really great opportunity to perform.
Martins saw his 2019 title rival Piastri move up to F3 in 2020, but resisted the urge to follow him, firm in the belief that his patience would be rewarded in the long-term. He now believes he’s in a better place to succeed than he would have been 12 months ago.
“Moving up to F3 has been a goal of mine for a long time and I’m now going to realise it,” Martins says. “All of the work that I have done in the past and everything that I learned last year in Formula Renault, I will be able to use. I’ll be racing on a Formula 1 weekend and that gives you that look at your ultimate goal and it makes it feel that much closer, it's great motivation.”