There were high expectations for Franco Colapinto going into his second FIA Formula 3 campaign, not least those he placed on himself, but 2023 didn’t pan out the way he’d imagined.
There were some strong results for the MP Motorsport driver and a level of consistency few others matched, but ultimately, he fell short of his goal of winning the title.
That’s not to say that 2023 was a terrible season for him. The Argentinian says the team were perhaps unfortunate to not enjoy better results, with the early part of the year spent getting to grips in a new squad and working environment.
“I think with time, driver, team, mechanics, engineers, you all get a bit more comfortable working together. We have had bad luck in many of the races and we lost points from some silly mistakes, just those small little details, we lost a lot of points because of those. But I also think we’ve maximised what we have. We maximised the performance each weekend so that's important.”
Colapinto was a point-scorer in every single round bar one: Melbourne. The Australian weekend was arguably MP Motorsport’s strongest he says, with teammates Mari Boya and Jonny Edgar both also looking solid during Round 2.
After post-race disqualification for a technical infringement meant Colapinto lost his Sprint victory, Sunday was not a redemption day either, as he was out of the running following opening lap contact.
Looking back on his season, Colapinto points to that race as the one that got away from him and the team and the one key ingredient that was missing from their campaign – a truly dominant round. Had he enjoyed those Sprint Race points and a better Sunday result, second in the Championship was a more likely outcome than fourth.
“Melbourne was one of the weekends where we were the strongest in terms of car performance across the team, all three cars. I won the Sprint Race starting from P7 so that showed it was a good race. We could’ve showed a lot of pace in the Feature Race too, we were looking for good points, maybe a podium or even a win on Sunday, but in the end, we finished with zero points from a weekend that maybe we should have scored the most all season.
“It was definitely not what we were expecting after the performance that we showed. But motorsport goes that way sometimes. Unfortunately, luck was not on our side. On other weekends, we scored the maximum we could and scored points in almost every race. When some weekends don’t go your way, it's not the easiest to recover, but we did that well this year I think.”
Reflecting on the better moments, one stands out to Colapinto. With the MP Motorsport family was going through difficult times in the weeks after the tragic passing of Dilano Van’t Hoff, a moment of respite at Silverstone is the highlight of the year for the Argentinian.
Handling the typical British summer weather with aplomb, the MP driver was an F3 race winner again in the Sprint Race after a hard-fought drive to the top step of the podium through rain and shine.
“I think it was probably the Silverstone win. Not for how it was but for the moment and the special weekend it was for the team with Dilano passing away the week before. It was a good moment that brought some happiness and joy to the team. It was a tricky race with the rain, so it was a nice moment for everyone.”
2023 was the first year that Colapinto enjoyed as part of the Williams Driver Academy. It was a huge bonus and a season-changing experience he says, with the collaboration helping him improve off the track as well as on it.
With the even higher levels of attention to detail alongside the extra resources to improve his driving, Colapinto says that his season as an F1 junior driver has made him an even stronger prospect, able to identify and eliminate weaknesses and show his skills on the track more.
“With Williams, it has been incredible, my first year with an F1 team. I enjoyed every second when I was in the workshop and factory. I’ve enjoyed working with Williams, working with the engineers, being on the simulator. Having this experience, it’s something that’s been super important for this year. It’s given me a lot more tools to see where I can improve and see where my weaknesses are. Williams has worked really hard to try and develop me and the other academy drivers. I’m super grateful to be there this year.”
Looking back at his 2023 overall, Colapinto says that the improvements from his rookie campaign to the latest season were clear to see, evidenced in his challenging for vice champion honours. Two Sprint Race victories and a further three podium finishes were good enough for fourth in the end, and 110 points was well above his ’22 total.
Though a Feature Race victory wasn’t forthcoming, he feels a more accomplished and rounded driver, and had luck gone their way a little more in 2023, things could have been very different he says.
“I think most of the things that I learned from last year I did improve. I wasn’t really consistent in ‘22 whereas this season, I improved a lot on that. I think what we missed this year was a super strong weekend on top. We didn’t have one and that might have cost us a few points. It didn’t look like we were truly on top on any weekend. We were really consistent which I think is really important in F3, but we also had some bad luck. Sometimes it was in our control and sometimes not. We struggled with some mistakes and when things don’t go your way, it’s easy to get upset and I think this year, I was able to take these difficult moments in a different way.
“I wanted to get the most out of them and get on with the next race. I would’ve loved to have a weekend where we were super strong and in front of the rest, but we didn’t have that. I think Melbourne might have been the one where we were really, really strong but we couldn’t use it to our advantage. I think we had a decent year but of course you always want more. We would’ve loved to win the Championship but that’s how motorsport goes.
“I’ve learned a lot here which is important and I'm really grateful and we worked really well together. It's been a positive year. Everyone has worked so hard in the team.”