Rested and recharged ahead of the longest-ever FIA Formula 3 season, Franco Colapinto enters his sophomore campaign with a new spring in his step after becoming the newest member of the Williams Racing Driver Academy.
Whilst most drivers would be feeling the weight of the Formula 1 ties on their shoulders, the Argentinian racer isn’t feeling the pressure. He reckons his newfound stability will give him the chance he needs to put all the pieces into place a second time around.
“Being in Argentina with no budget and really struggling to stick with it year after year, that’s been the pressure, that’s been the difficult thing to deal with – the inconsistency of maybe not having a seat until almost February in some years,” said Colapinto.
“Then going race by race and racing on that Sunday without knowing if I was going to race in the next one and with everything depending on the results, that puts a lot more pressure than having two other drivers in the Academy.
“I think this year I have a lot less pressure actually! It’s one of the years where I’m fully signed, one of the first ones that I have a nice package around me, and everything is going in the correct direction. Everything I didn’t have in the years before I think I’m going to have this year and it’s something that is removing the pressure.”
One key part of this is returning to a familiar fold at MP Motorsport – the team that helped him achieve third in Formula Renault Eurocup in 2020. The Dutch squad finished fourth in the Teams’ Championship for the second consecutive season and the reunion has left Colapinto upbeat about their chances of success once more.
“I’m feeling really good and excited, super happy to be back with the team that I started with a few years ago in Formula Renault Eurocup. I have a good relationship with them, it’s a nice team to be a part of and I really enjoyed my years there, so of course I’m excited to work with them again.”
He added: “I’m looking forward to getting started and to see what the upcoming season is going to bring. Of course, I spent quite a lot of time in Argentina, and I think my energy and batteries are full again for this season.”
Alongside Zak O’Sullivan and Oliver Gray, Colapinto is one of three Williams juniors representing the prestigious British team in F3 this season. With the precedent of Logan Sargeant’s recent promotion to F1 and his own unexpected call-up last year to look at, the Argentinian’s determined to seize his newfound opportunities.
“I think Williams are one of the best F1 academies. There is a chance that if you have good results and perform by doing your job, they can actually give you an opportunity in F1. That is of course my goal to have a chance in F1 in the future and to show what I can do there and I think it’s one of the best academies for that.
“They’ve shown it this year with Logan in F1. I spent a few days in Grove, and I really enjoyed it there. It was my first time meeting all the people in the factory of a Formula 1 team and it was very exciting from that side. I think that great things are coming. We will see what is going to be my job in the future, but it’s looking good and I’m really happy to have joined Williams. It’s an amazing opportunity for me and I’m very grateful for all the support they are giving.
“Motorsport changes so much. At the end of 2021, I was struggling quite a lot with what I was going to do in 2022 and then suddenly the opportunity of F3 came. I was thinking I was going to stay in sportscars or maybe do another year in Formula Regional, but F3 was not really an option and suddenly when that opportunity came, it was a great thing for me which I was not waiting for.
“This year was the same, Williams gave me a great opportunity which I wasn’t aware of beforehand, and it was also very sudden, very quick. I’m going to try to give my best, to use it and maximise it fully.”
Whilst his rookie campaign last year with Van Amersfoort Racing wasn’t without its difficulties, the 19-year-old went on to finish a strong ninth in the Standings, earning two memorable victories and a further three podium finishes.
Acknowledging that some errors held him back in 2022, Colapinto’s experiences have left him with a clear understanding of where he can make the difference, with an eye on a potential title charge.
“I think it was a great season for me as a rookie driver with a rookie team. I had some great moments, and I had some others that were not very good, but I learned from those, and I think it was a great experience. I learned loads of things that are going to be useful this season and have that advantage over some of the drivers.
“As well as being a second-year driver, joining Williams is going to help me a lot with my physical aspects and many other things that maybe I was a bit weaker with last year. Everything is coming together slowly, and I think this year is going to be better than the year before.
“I made many mistakes, and I did some other things that weren’t very good, but the most important thing is that I capitalised on that, and I understood what was wrong and what was right and to put it all together this season is going to be the most important.”
He concluded: “The goal is to go race by race, just see how things go, work well with the team and then results will come. I’m not really thinking about any results yet. It’s really early and the season is very long, as we saw in 2022. Of course, the final goal is the title, but I’m not thinking about that yet.”