MP Motorsport will be hoping to crack the top three this season after consecutive P4 finishes in ’21 and ’22. Taking three times as many wins as they did in 2021 last season, it was an assured step towards more regular contention for victory. So what comes next?
An intriguing line-up for the new campaign includes Franco Colapinto, freshly signed as a Williams Racing Driver Academy prospect. Jonny Edgar switches from the blue of Trident to the orange of MP, and both partner rookie Mari Boya, who has plenty of prior experience driving for MP.
After the conclusion of pre-season testing, how is the new campaign shaping up for all three and the team as a whole?
When the times were at their quickest during pre-season testing, Colapinto was leading the MP charge, a tenth off of Dino Beganovic’s P2 time. Grégoire Saucy’s session-topping time proved an anomaly amongst the rest of the leading times - some half a second quicker - but the top five could hardly be separated otherwise.
Last year, in what was Colapinto’s first visit to Sakhir, he kicked off the campaign as strong as possible. Pole position as a rookie in his first competitive session of Formula 3 was a great effort, and could lead to some confidence heading into the first race of this year. With a season of experience now in the books, the Argentine is already very eager to get underway for 2023.
“I think they were three really positive days for us. We were just trying a lot of stuff, trying to find the perfect balance for the car, trying to maximise all the potential of the package that we felt. And I think we did quite well with that.
“Of course, we need to wait for the race. I think we will only see that on Friday afternoon in Bahrain. I’m really looking forward to race already. I want to start racing, it's been a long time since September and I‘m just really looking forward to starting the season. I’m super happy with MP, they’re full of great people and they’re all really smart. I think we are gonna push the team forward during the year.”
His fast start continued into the second round of 2022. A Sprint Race victory around Imola put him on 20 points in the early stages and inside the top 10 in the Drivers’ Standings. It was a position Colapinto held onto for the remainder of the season and it’s a lesson he is taking into 2023. A strong start can make all the difference come the end of the year according to the Argentine.
“It's a really long Championship. We will need to have consistency and to score points in each race and then we'll see at the end of the year where we are. I think a positive start will be good and then we can go racing.”
For Edgar, he started Day 1 inside the top five too and was the busiest of the MP drivers on the first day lap count-wise. The trio combined for a total of 412 laps across the test, a very strong effort that will provide plenty of data to delve into before Round 1.
Team Principal Sander Dorsman was satisfied the team had accomplished all it set out to having managed to complete its run plans each day. He added that testing taking place at the same venue as the first weekend of the season was hugely beneficial, particularly for Boya and other F3 rookies.
“We had a busy schedule for this week but in the end, we managed to get everything done that we wanted to. I think like most of the teams, we now have to go back over it all and we have a week to analyse all the data that we gained here, have a look at how we can come back as strong as possible for the race.
“Especially for the rookie drivers coming into F3, probably none of them have been here and it’s not the easy track. So for them, it’s good to learn to track and have the mileage on a relevant circuit just before we go racing here. I think it's also good idea to do it like this because it saves us packing up!
“We knew Franco from the past, he raced with us for three years in the past, Mari as well so those guys are just coming back into the team. Then we have a new driver in Jonny but we’ve done some post-season testing with us so it’s not entirely brand new. We’ve done some work over the winter and the more time you spend together on test days like this, the more you understand each other.”
With the team more than capable of race victories, 2023 will be about maximising those opportunities and ensuring they arrive on a more regular basis. With Colapinto a proven race-winner in F3, Edgar arriving off some stellar late-season form in 2022 and Boya a strong rookie prospect with MP experience, the pieces are in place for another step in 2023.