A nervous wait begins for Victor Martins as his hopes of claiming the 2022 FIA Formula 3 title hang in the balance, with the all or nothing fight going to the chequered flag in Sunday’s Feature Race. Nevertheless, the ART Grand Prix driver remains undaunted by the task ahead of him and says that whatever comes his way, he won’t give up.
That certainly was the case in the Sprint Race. Starting ninth on the reverse grid put him right in the middle of the fray. Contact with Championship rival Arthur Leclerc on the opening lap sent him bouncing through the gravel.
Luckily, the Frenchman was able to return to the track, but he then faced a herculean fightback to finish in the points from P27. Looking back on that eventful start, Martins admitted he wasn’t sure whether he’d escaped the incident unscathed, but knew he had no time to dwell on it as he fixed his eyes forward once more.
“I think I did a good start, it put me in the mood of going ahead, trying to make up some ground but also to protect my position. I think I was around P9 or P8 at that moment alongside Leclerc before Turn 3 and we all know that the slipstream going into Turn 4 is quite big, so we all want to stay in the slipstream.
“I think he was just trying to put me out the slipstream, not being on the line and then we touched. I know how hard of a racer he is; it’s not coming from nothing. I’m sure it’s a racing incident, we need to look at it, they need to look at it also.
“After that I was around last, I didn’t know if there was a problem on my car or a front wing issue, but I just kept pushing. I asked the team if they could check the car in the main straights and then there was the race to look ahead to try to get at least one point.”
Knowing exactly what he needed to do, Martins remained laser-focused on carving his way through back into the points. In spite of a few nervous moments along the way, he did exactly that, leaving it right until the end to claim the final points-paying position in P10 on the final lap.
Whilst missing out on a solid haul of points was a setback for him, the Alpine junior is resolute in turning the negatives into positives – particularly the pace that he showed. It has given him the confidence that he has what it takes to fight for the win in Sunday’s Feature Race from fourth on the grid.
“It was a good race. I think the pace was really, really strong – one of the strongest of the season that we’ve had. It feels good, a positive for tomorrow. Of course, we’re starting P4, I know I can win. I know I have the feeling that I can win with the car like that.
“Now in the end, to score a point it’s a positive, maybe it will be the difference in the end, you never know! For sure, I will analyse my racecraft, where I could have done better. I did a really good job, but sometimes I made a few mistakes by going a bit offline or stuff like that. We will analyse everything in the afternoon, have some rest and then go again tomorrow."
The Frenchman showed resilience, grit and determination in his comeback drive, something which Martins says he’s developed over the years – the crucial ability to stare the truth in the face and then rise above it, using any knockbacks as fuel to push him further forward.
“To reset, it’s not an issue for me. I have since a few years ago managed to face the world which is in front of me, and I take it as a challenge, but then in the end, when the car is fast you have the confidence and you overtake people. It’s easier to be in the mood to push and have the confidence. So, I will just say it was because of that I was overtaking that many cars. I think when I look at some moves, I will be like ‘did I do that?”
Given all that he’s learnt from the shorter Sprint Race, the Championship leader is under no illusions that Sunday’s battle will be one of the toughest yet, with those around him having nothing to lose. Meanwhile for him, everything is at stake with 23 points separating the top six title contenders and only 13 standing between him, Isack Hadjar and Oliver Bearman.
Hoping to flourish at the final hurdle, Martins is prepared to play the long game, accepting that sacrificing a position might hurt, but fighting it might be too much of a risk to take. Balancing that risk versus reward will be a fine line for him to tread, but the ART ace is resolute in his belief he can take the title no matter what.
“I think to stay calm because everyone is just a bit crazy sometimes, it’s the last race, they want to show who is the best. For sure, being calm, being intelligent in the race, also our racecraft – being clean with what you go on track with your driving and playing it smart I think will be key for tomorrow.
“It’s the year, at the end I know I will do it. It’s just a different path that you need to take, sometimes you have some problems, you have an issue, or you have a crash. You need to face that challenge and I feel that today it was a challenge, it was something that has been put in our way, but I will not give up. I will just get around it and take the title tomorrow.”