Keenly aware of the herculean task that awaits him, Victor Martins says the title fight is the furthest thing from his mind as he prepares to fight back following a frustrating Qualifying session in Spa-Francorchamps.
Track evolution meant that it would all come down to the final laps set as the chequered flag was waved. Unfortunately for the ART Grand Prix driver, a mistake on his last attempt cost him dearly and he will now start both the Sprint and Features Races from P24.
A disappointed Martins admitted that this was not the way he wanted to return to the track after the three-week summer break, particularly after looking to have the pace to be fighting at the front of the field earlier on in the session before the Red Flag.
“That's not the session we wanted to do. After the summer break, you always want to come back stronger than in the few races before and we prepared really well, we were ready to do a good result, but the conditions were really, really difficult. That’s always the risk when you have one lap to go, every lap counts because the track is improving a lot and I simply made a mistake on my last lap which cost me at least the top 10.
“It was difficult at the beginning because we had the wet tyres on, and it was the first time we were running them for the weekend, so everyone was exploring a bit. In the end, it was fine on the wet, we had the pace, I just made a few mistakes which was why I was around P7. Then when switched to the slick, I was on the pace straightaway, always in the top four so it’s a shame.”
Whilst he faces an uphill battle come lights out on Saturday and Sunday, there is one silver lining – there's no shortage of overtaking opportunities around the Belgian circuit. Martins says he prepared to leave nothing on the table and to focus solely on carving his way his way back up into the points.
“For sure we need to keep calm, analyse what went wrong today – what can I do, what I could have done better, and we could better as a team in those conditions to maximise what we will have tomorrow, get a good car and try some good overtakes.
“I’m looking ahead with no pressure and not in control, just sending it through the field and I’m sure we will be able to score a few points or maybe a lot, but let’s see. I just want to work and see what happens on Saturday and Sunday.”
Whilst he wasn’t the only title contender to struggle on Friday, the fact that the top four in the standings all start at the back of the pack is no consolation for Martins. Arthur Leclerc will line up just ahead of his rivals in P20 and Championship leader Hadjar will be keeping his fellow Frenchman for company in P24, ahead of Jak Crawford, who brings up the rear of the field.
“To be honest, I'm not looking at it. We can see that in the Championship fight there is (Jak) Crawford, (Oliver) Bearman and (Caio) Collet who is going strong. I just want to be in front, winning races and getting pole positions and it’s like that that you will take the Championship, so I’m not focused on everyone else out there.”