Sebastián Montoya returns to Albert Park this weekend, the scene of his maiden Formula 3 podium in 2023 following his P2 finish in the Sprint Race.

He is hopeful of repeating that outcome again this year as he looks to build up momentum after a tough start to the campaign.

The Colombian driver’s 2024 season didn’t get off to the best of starts after a battling ill-health which hampered his running at both the pre-season test and Round 1 in Sakhir.

But ahead of the Melbourne weekend where he has been seen spending plenty of time with the fans, Montoya says he is back “feeling healthy” again as he looks to get his season up and running.

“I was quite sick in Bahrain for the test,” said Montoya. “I felt a lot better in the race and now I am feeling better. I lost some weight in the race, so I was not as strong as I should have been, I wasn't in the best state, but I am feeling healthy.

“It was a long flight here, but it was quite nice. I am really enjoying it; it has been really nice. Today I have been hanging out with the fans which is an amazing experience always.

“It's been an amazing experience. I feel like the atmosphere they build around the race is quite nice, and you don't really get that at other circuits, so I think it is quite particular to this place.

“Last year we had a podium here, my maiden podium in Formula 3 so hoping to replicate it just up one more step here.”

Montoya has been enjoying the atmosphere in Melbourne ahead of Round 2 in 2024
Montoya has been enjoying the atmosphere in Melbourne ahead of Round 2 in 2024

Looking back on Bahrain, where he started both the Sprint and Feature Race from 29th following his final attempt in Qualifying being deleted for exceeding track limits, the Campos Racing driver insists he has taken plenty from the experience despite not scoring points.

“I think there is a lot to learn from it,” said Montoya. “Obviously being ill in the test and not being able to complete a lot of laps obviously set me back. From there you don't really have much during the race weekend to really step it up.

“You have four laps in Practice and then the three shots in Qualifying and sadly enough that last shot went too wide in Turn 4 and that was it. Obviously, it wasn't ideal, as a team the speed wasn't perfect either, so I think that wasn't the best thing ever.

READ MORE: Melbourne Preview: A return to action Down Under “But I think we just learn from it and move on. Obviously, I think here is going to be a lot more equal playing field because no one tests here, it’s a track you haven't driven since last year, so I think it’s a lot more equal and I have that second-year experience that I can really use to make a step for this weekend.”

Talking through his preparations since Round 1 in readiness for Melbourne, Montoya stated: “I think the biggest thing from my side, my goal for this weekend is really the moment I get on track is just to be there a bit quicker.

“Like the pace is fine, but just being able to unlock it a bit faster I think that's a goal for me. Just from FP trying to step it up, that's kind of my aim for the weekend, so I am going to try and do that and just build it.

“I think that's kind of the thing I can do, is just building on the speed, which is really good. If those steps can be a bit smaller by the time Quali comes round it can be a lot better.

The Campos driver says he feels back to normal after a tough start to the campaign in Bahrain
The Campos driver says he feels back to normal after a tough start to the campaign in Bahrain

“If you are able to maximise the speed, it’s a lot easier to find three or four tenths in Qualifying than trying to find a second, a second and a half, so I think that's probably my aim and trying to score some points.”

As one of 13 drivers on the grid with previous experience of racing around Albert Park in F3 machinery, Montoya believes this should put him in a good position for when things kick off on Friday.

When asked if this could help him achieve his goal of being on the podium or winning in Melbourne, Montoya replied: “That's exactly the goal, that's why I am here. That's pretty much the goal for every weekend.

READ MORE: WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Key points ahead of Round 3 in Melbourne

“For Bahrain, I think my goal was just trying to get through a weekend, maximise as much as I can, learn from it and just build. I think that's the biggest thing at the moment, I found that especially in the last race finding myself a bit more.

“In F3 you don't really have that many tests and the last time I raced in F3 was Monza and that was back in September. So, just finding that momentum and just building on it. I think that's the most important thing.

“If you want to win the Championship you just have to be consistent and if you have a good momentum throughout the year that is what you need to have and just build on that. We had a bit of that at the end of Bahrain and here is just to keep it rolling on.”