The first race of the 2023 FIA Formula 3 Championship saw Pepe Martí win his first-ever race in the series – and he did so with a commanding performance. Two great overtakes on Caio Collet and polesitter Franco Colapinto gave the lead to the Campos driver, who then never looked back and crossed the start-finish line in first. Feeder Series and selected media spoke to the 17-year-old after the first race of the season.
By Daniele Spadi
It’s never easy to start the season on the right foot – especially on a track like Bahrain, where everyone knows its secrets from pre-season testing and teams are therefore closer to one another than on other circuits. This only makes Martí’s performance in Saturday’s Sprint Race even more impressive: the Spanish driver, who started on the front row of the grid behind Colapinto, was on pace right from the start despite losing second place at the start of the race to Brazil’s Collet.
In fact, Martí was consistently the quickest man on the track, taking home the additional point for the fastest lap of the race – the icing on the cake for his perfect Saturday.
An unforgettable moment
“It feels amazing. Obviously last year I struggled a lot, especially with qualis and delivering good results in races,” Martí said after his efforts. “The first [restart] was really good. We made the move on Caio in Turn 4, and a couple of laps after the second restart, I managed to do the overtake on Franco.”
The 17-year-old then managed to defend from the Argentine, who was never able to make a move to take the lead back from Martí as the Campos driver consistently lapped quicker than his main competitors.
“In the test, we knew we had really good pace,” Martí said. “Franco wasn’t able to pull away from the DRS, but I was, so in that sense. the biggest takeaway for me [from the race] is just that we have the pace, and obviously for me, it’s a massive boost of confidence.”
The Spanish driver was pleased with the work of the team and backed it up with a stellar performance.
“Over the winter, me, Campos, all the guys, we’ve worked really, really hard and I think we put a really good package together, and obviously it showed,” he said. “Coming across the line and seeing the chequered flag in first, obviously it was just great – an amazing feeling, and I’m hoping to do it more in the future.”
Turning things around
Talking about pre-season testing in Bahrain in February, Martí said that it was a positive three days for him and the team in general, as they learned valuable information to use during this weekend. “When we came back here for the test, we brought a lot of new things to test, and we tested most of the things we wanted to do. We followed a really good programme and we were able to come away with really good conclusions.”
Martí was one of the drivers who struggled the most to show his true pace in 2022, his rookie season in Formula 3, but eventually he showed a glimpse of what he was capable of at the end of the season by finishing in the points in the sprint race in Monza. He then impressed in the post-season test in Jerez by finishing in the top five in five of the six sessions.
The main step forward we made wasn’t over winter; it was just from the end of last year to nowPepe Martí (Campos Racing)
“I think the main step forward we made wasn’t over winter; it was just from the end of last year to now,” he explained. “In the Jerez test, we were already quite strong. Most of the work was done throughout this last season. In winter we just capitalised – obviously a lot of sim and a lot of work. The engineers have been working really, really hard over the winter.”
A tough race ahead?
With one race yet to be completed this weekend, Martí has the chance to back up his maiden Formula 3 win with another good result. However, the man from Campos will line up 11th for Sunday’s feature race, and with such a close pack at the top end of the field, even the Spaniard thinks it will be difficult to show his true pace starting outside of the top 10.
“It was like that for the whole of last season. Obviously, it makes a big difference, starting at the front or starting at the back, especially in this championship. Even here in Bahrain, with three DRS zones, two back to back, it’s still difficult to overtake,” he told Feeder Series.
“Starting at the back is never nice, and even if you have amazing pace, you start P11 and at the end of the first lap, second lap, you’re five, six seconds back from the leaders. It’s much harder to pull through the field than, for example, Formula 4 or karting, so it makes a big difference.”
Though the feature race promises to be harder, Martí will have 22 laps to try and move up the field as much as possible. Given the amount of pace he showed on Saturday, he will have many eyes focused on him. “Starting from P11, it’s obviously going to be really hard to score another podium, but I feel like with the pace we had today, it’s certainly going to be a good fight for the points.”
Header photo credit: Campos Racing
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