After a very enjoyable feature race with plenty of overtakes and fun battles, the first FIA Formula 3 weekend has officially come to a close. Despite crossing the start-finish line in second place, Gabriel Bortoleto claimed his maiden win in the series following Gabriele Minì’s time penalty for a starting procedure infringement. However, plenty of other rookies showed positive signs during Saturday’s feature race – and the whole weekend, too. Feeder Series analyses the best performances among the 17 rookies that competed in Bahrain.
By Daniele Spadi
Making the step from lower categories such as FRECA and Formula 4 is never easy, as the F3 car offers a significantly different driving experience. Thankfully for them, having the first weekend of racing on the same track where pre-season testing is held gives them the chance to start their Formula 3 career on a track they already knew.
However, it is still impressive to have observed so many great performances during the first weekend of the season, as returning talents such as Franco Colapinto and Grégoire Saucy had a tough time dealing with the newcomers and their decisive and effective approach to the series.
Minì and Bortoleto: The best of the best
Ever since the drivers stepped on track for Friday’s free practice, it was clear that two rookies would be the talking point of the weekend: Italy’s Gabriele Minì and Trident’s Gabriel Bortoleto. The two of them were better than anyone else in both practice and qualifying, with the Brazilian topping the former and Minì getting the better of his rival later in the afternoon.
Despite a strong start on day one, they both struggled in Saturday’s sprint race. Bortoleto had a tough time, picking up a 10-second time penalty for causing a collision with Rafael Villagómez that took the Mexican out of the race and having contact with Kaylen Frederick’s ART a few laps later.
Minì had a nightmare start after stalling the car, which resulted in him dropping to the back of the grid. He then managed to gain some of the lost time back, but eventually finished in 17th and out of the points.
However, a terrific display in the feature race showed just how good these two can be. Both Minì and Bortoleto had pace right from the start and were in a class of their own – proving that their performances on Friday weren’t flukes.
Whilst a five-second time penalty for Minì and a late safety car meant that he would finish in eighth, it did not take away from the fact that he led most of the laps and was deserving of the race win.
Goethe and Beganovic: Impressive consistency
On the other hand, a couple of newcomers have impressed for their consistent results over the course of the weekend. Though F3 doesn’t officially consider Oliver Goethe a rookie, his F3 experience amounts to two race weekends in 2022 and he is at the start of his first full season in the series.
After qualifying an impressive fourth, the 18-year-old moved up the grid in both races, finishing sixth in Saturday’s sprint race and stepping on the podium after a brilliant performance in the feature race.
The German showed some great speed on Sunday; after he got through on Saucy for third place, Goethe’s pace was on par with the top two, and his second place finish is a fantastic result that he thoroughly deserved.
Dino Beganovic will also surely leave Bahrain with positive thoughts. The 2022 FRECA champion came to the first race weekend with many expectations and two very tough teammates to get the better of.
The 19-year-old Swedish talent managed to finish both the sprint and the feature race ahead of Paul Aron and Zak O’Sullivan, showing great pace and awareness when battling against others and becoming the only driver to finish in the top five in both races this weekend.
Sitting third in the drivers’ standings, Beganovic showed everyone that he could be a championship contender come the end of the season.
Browning and Montoya: Drivers to watch
With such a close field, it’s difficult to stand out from the crowd after a bad qualifying result that inevitably complicates the whole weekend. On Sunday, however, 2022 GB3 champion Luke Browning did just that.
Though he looked quick right from the start, a troublesome qualifying session left the Brit in seventeenth place at the start of the feature race. However, the winner of last year’s BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award had a terrific showing, biding his time and going for clever moves that brought him up the order while keeping him out of trouble.
Browning came away with a solid fifth-place finish, thanks to his consistency and some great overtakes. Once the Brit gets the hang of the car in qualifying, other championship hopefuls will have to watch their backs and consider Browning as a driver to look out for.
Sometimes, there’s a fine margin between starting on reverse grid pole for Saturday’s sprint race and lining up in fourteenth on both occasions – and unfortunately for Sebastián Montoya, that was the case for him in Bahrain, as the Colombian missed the top 12 in qualifying by less than a tenth.
Despite missing out on a good opportunity to score big points on Saturday, the 17-year-old was one of the six drivers to finish in the top ten in both the sprint and the feature race, adding three points to Hitech’s total. Though Montoya didn’t quite have the pace that teammates Minì and Browning had, he was able to show why he belongs in the series – and he could well and truly be a threat for the main competitors in future races.
Header photo credit: Prema Racing
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