It shouldn’t be a surprise that Zane Maloney has suddenly rocketed up the FIA Formula 3 Drivers’ Championship standings. The Trident driver has earned all the plaudits as of late with back-to-back victories in the Spa and Zandvoort Feature Races, but look beyond those headline moments and his current form is ‘just desserts’ rather than ‘just getting started’.
Maloney has flown under many people’s radars this year after a difficult start to life in Formula 3. Falling out of touch in the initial rounds of the 2022 season has ultimately left the Bajan driver with a lot to do if he is to clinch the Championship against sizeable odds this weekend at Monza. Nevertheless, he’s found his best form of the year at the perfect time to pull off an upset.
“The season has had many ups and downs,” Maloney surmised ahead of Monza. “We’ve had the pace the entire year. Mistakes from my side and things that have happened that are outside of my control too have caused us to lose many points in the Championship. We’ve come back very strong.”
A strong debut in Sakhir turned to despair in the Feature Race with an issue putting him out of the podium fight and onto the sidelines. A spin out of the lead at Imola undid his hard work to bounce back. In Barcelona, he missed the FIA weighbridge during Qualifying which resulted in a pit lane start for both races that weekend. He was then taken out of contention for points at Silverstone after opening lap contact sent him spinning down the order.
“I think the loss of points has been the weakest part of the season, the mistakes too - in Bahrain and then Imola when I spun in the lead. I’ve made a few mistakes and I don’t want to look back on the season too much, we’ll do that after Monza.”
In those Barcelona and Silverstone Feature Races though, Maloney showed some of the mettle that now has him fighting for the crown in the final round of the season. Firstly, a fightback from the pit lane to finish P13 was impressive to say the least. He then followed that recovery up with another stellar effort at Silverstone, cruelly denied a consolation point, ending up 11th that day.
Raw speed has been a clear strength of Maloney’s since day one, and he is very happy to have shown how quick he is on pure pace.
“Qualifying has been the strongest aspect of this year. I’ve been in the top 3 five times, we’ve been amazing in Qualifying. We’ve had the pace all year.”
He isn’t wrong. Compared to his Championship rivals, Maloney has been a cut above all season on a Friday. In Zandvoort, he became the only repeat pole sitter of the 2022 season, and three fastest laps this season puts him at the top of the leaderboard in those stakes too.
A podium in the Budapest Feature Race just prior to the summer break set the tone for the remainder of the campaign. The Trident driver has finished no lower than second since in the Sunday races, taking back-to-back wins at a critical point in the season.
The latest at Zandvoort was arguably Maloney’s best, showing just how far he has come since the early rounds of his rookie season. With Victor Martins snatching the lead away from the pole sitter early on, Maloney kept his head cool and pressured the ART Grand Prix driver in front.
Keeping his tyres in better condition than the Championship leader, he quickly swept back through and off into the distance to record his second victory of the year. As far as statement victories go, passing and driving away from the man to beat is quite a strong one.
Last season, it was a Trident driver that stood on the top step of the podium in the Feature Race at Monza, with Jack Doohan the winner that day. Could Maloney make it three Feature wins on the bounce? He hasn’t given up on taking the Championship at the very last hurdle.
“The job now is to do a great race. It’s the team’s home track and I’m looking forward to putting on a show for them. I’m sure we can do great things in this last round and it’s never over until it’s over. The Teams’ title is still up for grabs and not officially over yet and so is the Drivers’ title. I’m going to try and continue from where we’ve left off, two wins in a row, it would be amazing to be up there again and to fight for the win. That’s the plan for Monza.”