Victor Martins says getting Round 3 in Barcelona underway by topping the timing sheets in Free Practice is an important first step for him to launch a consistent title fight.

The Championship leader set the pace for the second Practice session in a row, clocking in a best time of 1:32.796 to go 0.076s clear of his title rival, PREMA Racing’s Arthur Leclerc. The pair are currently tied at the top of the Drivers’ Championship on 36 points, with the ART Grand Prix driver ahead on countback. 

“If I want to get the title in the end, I need to improve every race, step by step towards the title,” Martins said. “I wanted to come here first to focus on Practice. I'm happy about what I did this morning with the team, and then go to Qualifying and deliver the lap.  

“It's true that in the first two rounds (of the season), I was a bit confused. The situation was not great and from what we had in Imola while we were running to go P1 or P2, I ended up P6. In Bahrain there was the incident (with teammate Grégoire Saucy) and the job I did in Practice was not good.  

“I always had to stay calm and come back every time the session after. Now I just want a clear weekend from start to end - do the job when I need to, to be focused, more confident about myself and I think we will get the points that we need!” 

READ MORE: Martins leads title rival Leclerc in opening Barcelona session

Despite having completed 87 laps around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya during the in-season test last month, Martins doubts that the data from these two days will be beneficial given the higher temperatures this weekend.

“During these two days, I thought I wasn’t doing the right thing with the track conditions that we had, but I knew that during the race weekend it would be completely the opposite – it’s warmer, the track was also really dirty,” he explained.

“We did a lot of setup changes on the car during the two days (of testing), so we have seen what was good, what was bad. From my side, I didn't want it to change my mind or to be a bit lost because it was going to be a lot different.”

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Returning to the Spanish circuit holds mixed memories for the French driver. Last season, he qualified third on his F3 debut but missed out on a maiden victory, having been unable to overtake Olli Caldwell on the final lap. However, Martins is determined to use that experience as a foundation to build on.

“I was waiting for this round because I love Barcelona. It was a tough one last year, so I really wanted to come back here and put on the track what I’ve learned from the past. From the first push lap, I wanted to be right there on pace to build confidence and work with the team to improve the car if we needed. 

“The feeling is great. We will see, but I think it's a good start to the weekend as the championship leader.”