With promotion into Formula 2 not materialising for Alex Smolyar in the off-season, the Russian racer believes he’s got the next best thing, saying he’s “really happy” to sign with MP Motorsport and citing 2022 F2 grad Logan Sargeant as a “great example” for him to follow.
Winning twice and taking four podiums overall, Smolyar finished sixth with ART Grand Prix in his second year of F3, but unlike his teammate Frederik Vesti - who finished fourth – he was unable to secure a seat in the top tier of junior motorsport.
Instead, Smolyar will spend 2022 in F3 with Dutch outfit MP Motorsport, who enjoyed their best season to date in 2021, placing fourth in the Teams’ Championship, with one win and six podiums.
“With MP, I am really happy. I have been racing against the team for the last two years and I see them improving each year,” said Smolyar. “Last year, they were more or less on the same level as ART, and I expect them to improve even more this year. I’ll try and help them with my experience from the previous two years.
“I am not sure that I am 100% happy with last season. Getting into F2 was close to impossible: unfortunately, I don't have a lot of budget to spend, and sixth place in the Championship was obviously not enough. I really need to win the championship, or at least fight in the top three to get a seat in F2.
“I am happy that I managed to stay in F3 and continue fighting. Every year we think we can fight for the title, but in the last few years, that hasn't been the case. PREMA have been on another level.
“But as I said, MP have been improving in the last few years and there will come a point where PREMA just cannot improve any further. This year, we will try and reach their level.”
Although the 20-year-old may not have been overly satisfied with his second season, he did display a clear improvement on his rookie year, taking three more podiums and his first victory. He also scored 48 more points.
But having finished out of the points eight times in both 2020 and 2021, Smolyar feels that becoming more consistent would take his drive to the next level.
“I am confident in my speed, but I was not confident in my consistency last year,” he continued. “I tried to work on it, but with a different format that I wasn't used to, it was harder. This year I know what to expect. The only thing I need to work on is consistency.
“There are a lot of quick drivers in F3, but it isn’t enough to be quick. You need to avoid unlucky situations. You need to always be in the right place at the right moment and you need to actually be able to get the results. Maybe in some situations, I didn't go for the right move, and this led to punctures. Last year, I had like three punctures.
“I also think that sometimes you need to take risks. This year, I will try and avoid bad situations on the track, while still trying to take risks. That is what (Dennis) Hauger was doing really well last season, he was taking risks but not crashing.”
And the Russian also pointed to the season Sargeant had in 2021, with the American remaining in F3 for a third year. Signing for Charouz Racing System, he helped the team to their first win, first podium and best F3 finish, before earning promotion into F2 for 2022 with Carlin.
“It is a great example. You are looking at logan last year and it was a tough situation,” he said. “You see him get into F2 and I think that maybe I have a chance – there’s always a chance.
“I think this year with the new format, I prefer it, so hopefully it will be better for me, and I’ll get my chance in F2 next year.”