Full of optimism heading into his rookie Formula 3 campaign, Gabriele Minì learnt the hard way that mistakes and misfortune are two things a driver can’t afford if they’ve got their sights set on title glory.
Rocketing out of the box with session topping times in Jerez post-season and Sakhir pre-season testing for Hitech Pulse-Eight, Minì seemed to rapidly adapt to his new machinery with ease. Earning one win, one podium and two pole positions in the opening three rounds, he says his assured start left him with a belief that it was game on in the title fight.
“We knew after the test in Bahrain that we were one of the quickest and we were always pretty much in the top three for overall times and race simulations,” Minì noted. “We knew that going into the first weekend that we could fight for big points. That’s what we tried to do and what we almost did.
“Looking after the first test, the goal was to hopefully try our best to fight for the title. The first three rounds were super good and after Monaco we were only 17 points away from Gabriel (Bortoleto) with one less Feature Race win, so it was looking really strong.”
That 17-point margin could have been even closer. Scoring pole on debut in Sakhir, the Alpine junior looked set to convert it into a Feature Race win on Sunday. However, disaster struck after he received a time penalty for incorrect positioning in his grid box. Yet a podium finish still seemed on the cards, until a race-ending Safety Car wiped away his efforts to build a gap and relegated him to eighth.
The pain of costly errors reared its head throughout the season. A mechanical problem on the way to the Feature Race grid in Spa-Francorchamps prevented him from taking advantage of the leading title contenders’ woes, compounded by a disqualification from Qualifying in Monza for a technical infringement.
Ultimately ending the season seventh in the Standings, 20 points off a top three finish, Minì believes that he and the Hitech team had the speed to be right in the mix up front all season long but were unable to have enough straightforward and clean weekends to capitalise on their potential.
“In Barcelona we struggled a bit. We were really quick and showed really good pace, especially in the Sprint Race with a really good comeback. Of course, with the penalty we didn’t get any points sadly and it was the same thing in Spielberg.
“The thing that we really missed is that we didn’t always maximise the points available, there was always more stuff happening like contact or a penalty that prevented us from scoring more points.”
He added: “Heading into Monza, we knew that we needed a really good weekend to be in the top two, but the top three was possible. After Quali, we were in a really good position. Sadly, we got disqualified – these things can happen, and we tried to do our best and we did. We gained 20 places in the Sprint Race, but the Feature Race was just a lot of fighting.
“It is what it is, of course it’s sad because I don’t feel like we did the best we could have done. I think that at least without all the stuff that happened in Spa, Monza, Bahrain or even Barcelona, we could have fought for P2, it was definitely possible.”
Despite the tinge of disappointment at how the season eventually panned out, there was one weekend where the Alpine junior was virtually untouchable – Round 4’s visit to Monaco. Highlighting the need to strike the right limit between the risk and reward, Minì admits there was no better feeling than putting together the perfect lap.
“Doing a lap and putting an almost nine tenths gap to P2 in your group and six tenths to P2 overall, it’s something nice, especially on the streets of Monaco. Usually, you know when it’s a good lap. There was an issue on my delta, so I went through Sector 1 and I was two tenths slower, and I was like ‘no way, it felt faster’.
“Then, I went through the slow part of the track and saw the sector time under the tunnel, so I said ‘okay, now I either do a big crash or I do something mega – which I did. Of course, it’s a really small margin between going into the barriers or doing a really good lap. It’s really tricky, but you have to take risks and, in the end, I took them and it went very well.
“As soon as I saw my lap time, I saw a 0.2 and went oh no. Then I saw that it was 1:23 and I was like ‘oh my god!’ I was super happy; you could see my head going forward because I immediately celebrated. It would have been a bit embarrassing if somebody had improved, but in the end, it was good enough.” #
Looking back on the 2023 campaign, Minì points to the small what ifs that when put all together, held him back from enjoying more success. Nevertheless, he recognises that as a racer, he has to make the most out of whatever situations are thrown his way if he hopes to be in with a shot of the title next season.
“In Spielberg, we were on for a really, really good lap and I think we could have fought for pole considering that Paul (Aron) got his lap deleted. There were just really small things that built up in the lap that made the last corner problem happen. I just tried a bit too hard, and the lap was a bit more on the limit, so I did too much at the last corner and basically lost the lap.
“It’s always disappointing because you know you have one chance and if you miss that, then you’re going to be way too far behind. So, I tried to learn from that in Silverstone and to do a good job in Quali. It was not bad, of course it was not the lap of my life, but it was a lap that managed to put me in the top six, which is better than the top 20.
He concluded: “Everyone for sure has their reasons for what went wrong, and everyone had some stuff happen to them. We know it’s like that – it’s motorsport, but sadly things happened a bit too many times, so we lost too many points.”