After finishing their best FIA Formula 3 campaign to date, Campos Racing are setting their sights ever higher, aiming to capitalise on their strong 2023 season.
Fighting for the Drivers’ Championship with Josep María Martí, Campos achieved their highest finish in the Championship to date, ending fourth on 172 points.
“It's definitely a big step from the previous years. I cannot complain obviously,” Team Principal Adrian Campos Jr says. “I think that we had more performance than what we saw at the end. We managed to finish P4 in the Championship, but I think that Pepe has been very unlucky.”
There were times when it looked as though the Spanish outfit might be able to mount a late title fight with their compatriot leading the charge. Martí was Gabriel Bortoleto’s closest challenger for parts of the 2023 campaign, but incidents, mistakes and misfortune ultimately took him out of contention.
Still, it was more than a satisfactory effort for the team’s eponymous Team Principal, who says that Martí’s efforts were evidence of the team’s progress from 2022.
“In some races where the potential was to win or in the worst case, to be on the podium, because of the circumstances, he didn't manage to do it. For example, Australia - his pace was amazing, but he had to start last in both races because of a stupid accident on the first push lap.
“Also, he had pole position in Spa then it started to rain, and we had a very difficult decision to make. It could have been a lot better, even if it has been a good season, that's my point of view.
“Pepe could have been fighting a bit more for the Championship in the last race. I knew that we were very competitive. The team was doing a very good job. I knew that it was going to be a very, very competitive season because we saw his potential and we prepared him well.”
2023 Teammates Christian Mansell and Hugh Barter also were able to achieve points finishes during the season, with the former starring in the damp Spa-Francorchamps Feature Race to finish P2.
Again, their strong performances were down to the steps forward the team made over the previous winter, as Campos became the only team to score a point in every single race across the 2023 season.
“For the other two drivers. I was not expecting that much, but they delivered good results, and I was very happy with their performance.
“Christian for example, I think that in his rookie season, it was not expected that he’d be fighting in the top 10. I think that they all did very good, and we made a step. I am sure that next year, we'll make another.
“We knew that with Mansell and with Barter, it was going to be a bit more challenging for them because it was their rookie seasons. Drivers are human beings that need to feel great in a good atmosphere. They need to be working with people that they trust. They need to feel that the team trusts them also, so they can focus on only what they need to, which is driving as well as possible.
“This is our philosophy, whether it’s a more experienced driver or a rookie, we need to give them the tools they will need to make the difference.”
Perhaps the peak of the season came at home as Campos claimed Feature Race glory on home soil with Martí dominating Sunday’s race. The Red Bull Junior Team driver became just the second F3 driver to win Campos’ home event, after David Vidales won the 2022 Sprint Race with the team. It stands out as you might expect to Campos Jr.
“It was amazing. Things didn't start well in Free Practice as we had a lot of Red Flags. Pepe didn't manage to put a single lap in and it’s not ideal to face a Qualifying without any single push lap in Practice.
“But anyway, he managed to do a great lap, he was really, really strong on the last set of tyres, he brought the difference to the rest and made a three-tenth gap to P2. To do this and then win the race in our home event and for him because he's from Barcelona, it's just amazing, it was a great feeling.
“Pepe is a driver that we’ve helped a lot because from his first test, he’s been with us and grown with us. He has been developing his skills with us and we feel part of his success. We’re proud of the steps that we have been making this past season.”
While the title fight didn’t pan out as the Spanish team had hoped, there is always room to improve and for 2024, one area does stand out.
While Martí was able to coax the best out of his Pirelli tyres at times, the team struggled to replicate his performances across all three cars and all three compounds. The medium and soft compound Pirelli tyres in particular proved trickier to fire up than the hards, which played more to Campos’ advantage across the season.
“We have been very competitive when we were on the hard compound, extremely competitive I would say. It wasn’t the same on the other compounds.
“Pepe was making the difference managing the tyres very well when we were struggling with tyre management because he's very good on this. But if there is a point where I think that as a team, we can work on more maybe we could be more spot on with the medium and soft tyres to get it as good as we are on the hards.”
Next up in 2024, challenging the established outfits for the Teams’ title. It’s a sizeable challenge but one that Campos Jr says he and his squad are more than ready for based on their progress from this past campaign.
“A realistic goal is to be in the top three in the Teams’ Standings at the end of the year. I am sure that PREMA is going to be very, very strong with their driver lineup, but we can be there fighting, and I think that we can do very good next year and fight for the Drivers’ Championship. That's our goal.”