Pepe Marti and Campos Racing enjoyed a dream weekend at the 2023 Spanish GP as they claimed their maiden FIA Formula 3 feature race victory on home soil as the team’s 25th anniversary celebrations began
The results achieved during the fourth round of the championship lifted Marti to second in the drivers’ standings with a tally of 68 points to his name. He is now 24 points behind Trident’s Gabriel Bortoleto.
Car and driver were operating on a sweet spot from when track action began on Friday, when Marti claimed the team’s first pole position in the series by a margin of 0.250 seconds despite a troubled practice session. He started the reversed-grid sprint race on Saturday from 12th place, however that didn’t prevent him from scoring three valuable points as he took the chequered flag in eighth place. Sunday’s victory was a perfect round off to a brilliant weekend.
Formula Scout spoke to Marti and his team boss Adrian Campos Jr about what that victory means for both driver and team.
“It feels crazy now. It feels obviously unbelievably good,” Marti said as he celebrated with his Campos colleauges.
“We’ve had a great car all weekend. We got pole by a good margin. Yesterday, we managed to get a few points and today we were able to just pull away and win another race by a good margin. So what can I say? Just feels unbelievably good. Massive thank you to the team for giving me such a good car and massive thank you to everyone for the support.”
The weekend was a busy one for Marti. On Wednesday, he took part in the presentation of the grand prix in the centre of Barcelona, his home city. Then on Thursday, Campos Racing’s 25th anniversary celebrations kicked off with a media event and a team party at the circuit’s Panorama Village. Notwithstanding, Marti stayed focused on the target and didn’t let nerves get in his way.
“No, not at all actually,” he said on whether the pressure had affected him throughout the weekend. “I was actually thinking that maybe I would struggle with the pressure or whatever. But as soon as the week started and obviously you get into doing media events —I was at the presentation of the grand prix— and to be honest, it’s just all been positive nerves.
“It’s like the nerves you want to get out on track and, you know, being on track every in-lap, every outlap, seeing so many people there: incredible. Friday at 11am for practice, there was already people. Today, today was just unbelievable. I was going through turn seven and I think the crowds were as full as they are now for F1. It was just an unbelievable feeling. I honestly cannot put it into words what it means.”
With Marti starting on pole, there were high expectations around Campos’ tent in the F3 paddock on Sunday’s morning.
“I actually don’t really have a pre-race ritual or whatever. But today I tried to focus a lot,” Marti said about the moments before heading to the grid. “Honestly, like I think I stayed for a good 20 minutes after I warmed up like by myself with music, just trying to get in the zone. And honestly, I was saying hi to everyone and obviously you feel the support. It was awesome to feel that before going into the race, that extra bit of support. Like I said, every piece of support is nice and when it comes from people you keep close, like my family, it’s like such a big push before the race.”
Already on the grid, Marti “was going through the multiple scenarios in my head that could happen going into turn one”.
“After the formation lap, I knew that we had a good car to start, like we had a good start procedure and I was quite confident in it. I knew that if Taylor [Barnard] got alongside me, I knew exactly what I had to do and I did so at the moment of truth.”
On lap one “everything went okay” as “I managed to keep the first position; I managed to protect the lead well into turn four and five and then just slowly built a gap.”
Jenzer Motorsport driver Barnard did place himself alongside Marti under braking into turn one and tried to hold the outside line, but eventually had to take the run-off area. In spite of that, the stewards didn’t deem it worth investigating.
“I was not worried at all to be honest. I felt like I had the position. I had every right to take that line and I did,” said Marti.
“So I was quite confident that I wouldn’t get a penalty. My engineer didn’t even mention it at all. To be honest, if I’d gotten a penalty, I would have been very, very surprised because I feel like that was a fair move. It was okay. Maybe to the eyes of some may seem a little bit too aggressive, but in my personal opinion, I did what I had to and I kept the lead.”
Marti soon broke away as Barnard struggled to match his pace while in second place. The leader focused on taking care of his tyres, and when MP Motorsport’s Franco Colapinto closed on him he increased the pace again.
“There was some tyre degradation. I had to manage the tyres from really early on. In fact, I think I had Taylor behind me and at one lap, I started to push away. And the very next lap when I realised that the gap had widened by quite a bit, I slowed down just to save tyres. Honestly, the tyres were a big issue today. At the beginning, when I had Taylor behind me, I wasn’t really concerned because I saw that his pace was a little bit slower than ours.
“And all of a sudden I looked behind me and Franco was really on the edge of getting the DRS. So I upped the pace a little bit, returned to my original pace. Since then I tried to stabilise myself, I tried to stabilise the tyre temperature and as soon as we did, the pace was too much for him to follow.
“In fact, he dropped quite a bit at the end. I assume because he was pushing quite a bit behind us. It’s all thanks to the team. I mean, the car was on rails today and it was just so easy to keep that consistent pace.”
“Obviously, when you get closer to the win, you start realising that you’re about to win at home,” he followed. “To be honest, I had the same feeling I had in Monaco [winning the sprint race]. I was just pushing. I actually even did a slower lap on purpose to try and see if I could get closer to my fastest lap. The tyre was completely done, so I didn’t even get close.
“But I knew that we were there and I knew that if I didn’t make any mistakes, the win was ours. So I just tried to manage the tyres because you never know if a safety car can come out or whatever. I just did what we had to.”
Only one word could describe the feeling of standing on the top step of the Spanish GP podium at Barcelona as a Spaniard.
“Spectacular. I don’t think there’s many other words,” Marti stated. “I don’t think there’s any word that can describe the feeling. I don’t know who it was, I was on the podium and he said ‘say hi to the crowd, they’re waving at you’. That was so surprising, unbelievable. Really happy with how everything turned out.”
Team boss Campos Jr labelled Marti’s victory as “extremely important” both for the driver and the team.
“Pepe is doing an excellent year. I think that if it weren’t because of some occasional mistakes that were avoidable, he could be either leading the championship or very close to Bortoleto right now. He is actually in the fight, but he could be even closer to the leader.
“He has shown great speed. And when there has been a mistake like in qualifying in Melbourne – he had that accident in the outlap, he had to start from 30th place in both races and was still able to score points – that shows our potential. As soon as we had a clean qualifying session without any issues, without red flags that affected us, he claimed pole position with a safe gap.
“This result is incredibly important for the team. We have proved that we are really there, we should be taken into consideration. I believe that we will be one of the main challengers in the next rounds and until the end of the season,” he assured.