Home Featured Bortoleto explains why his FIA F3 title charge is not all about winning

Bortoleto explains why his FIA F3 title charge is not all about winning

by Alejandro Alonso Lopez

Photos: Formula Motorsport Ltd

Gabriel Bortoleto is enjoying a dream start to life in F3, leading the points as he mesmerises with his driving

The Trident driver won the first two feature races of the 2023 FIA Formula 3 season at Bahrain and in Melbourne, and when he wasn’t winning, he maximised his package to score a valuable haul of points. Furthermore, the Brazilian has featured in the top seven of every qualifying session, including taking pole down under.

Those results have granted the Fernando Alonso protege a 24-point advantage at the top of the standings over fellow A14 Management driver Pepe Marti heading into the season’s halfway point. In 2022, Bortoleto finished sixth in the Formula Regional European Championship driving for R-ace GP, with two race wins and two pole positions to his name.

The 18-year-old shows an unusual level of maturity for his age. On track, he is yet to put a wheel wrong this year and off the track he speaks like a driver that has been racing for decades.

Formula Scout caught up with Bortoleto in the FIA F3 paddock at Barcelona, where he explained what is needed to extend his current form to become champion at the end of the year.

“It’s been very good, this start of season,” he said. “We have done four rounds, two wins, one pole and we are always constantly in the top five, top six. Every race we are fighting for pole or being always in the front. So I’m quite happy with it.

“For a rookie season, it has been an amazing start. We have for now an okay advantage in the championship and I plan to keep going like that, doing more and more points every round, doing as much as I can with the car that I have. And for sure, also the most important thing is to keep improving my driving.”

Bortoleto drove for Trident for the first time in the post-season FIA F3 test at Jerez in September 2022. One week later, he was the first driver confirmed for the 2023 season. Securing the seat so early gave both driver and the team time to prepare for the campaign and the work done over the winter is now paying off, with results that exceed their own expectations.

“I was expecting to be fighting for, I don’t know, a top five or something like that, but not straight away like doing poles or winning,” confessed Bortoleto. “Because it’s difficult also to expect [accurately] even if you are in your third year or whatever, because it doesn’t depend only on your side. You need to know how the team is going, how the car is performing and everything.

“I would say I was expecting to be doing well, but it was quite impressive for me to already go in the first two rounds and feel very comfortable with the car and the team and do what I did.”

Bortoleto is very clear in his mind what he needs to stay on top of the standings, and has therefore set two complementary targets for the remainder of the season. Firstly, he is not getting carried away and is well aware that there is still more to learn. Secondly, the focus is on securing as many points as possible, which might mean being conservative at some stages.

“I think my main target now is to keep pushing and improving the driving and the car and my knowledge about racing overall.

“But for sure, when you are leading the championship, your approach is different, your mentality is different because you are focused on other things. For sure about the championship, but focusing on making the points, building the gap, building everything that you can with the team and driving, and to improve.

“I think that’s my approach. But the championship, it’s very early in the season. This is just the fourth round. We still have five of them.”

The cancellation of May’s Imola round reduced the season to 18 races, and with 10 to go a 24-point lead — less than a feature race win — is really a small margin in such a competitive championship, where the tables turn at the snap of a finger. That is the reason why the Brazilian emphasises the importance of each point scored.

“I think that’s what makes you a title contender. It’s being there every round competitive and doing all the points,” Bortoleto said about his consistency in the first half of the year.

The Trident driver only failed to score in the opening race of the season at Bahrain, where he made contact with Van Amersfoort Racing’s Rafael Villagomez on lap two and went on to finish in 19th place. Since then, he has always taken the chequered flag within the top six.

The results from Monaco and Barcelona back his approach to the title fight. There, Bortoleto didn’t feel as comfortable in the car as in the first two rounds, but still managed to score big points from finishing sixth, fifth and then twice in fourth.

“I think the sport is not about winning everything because at the end of the day, we have more losses than wins. That’s the reality. I would say that we need to keep our foot on the floor, not just focus on winning, winning, winning. Because that’s what we all want. It’s not just one driver that wants to win. So you need to do the best you can and deliver the result that you can at the weekend.

“Sometimes you don’t feel good with the car or you don’t feel good with the track, you’re not driving well or whatever [but] you need to do what you can. And I think this is what makes you a title contender at the end of the year.”