New Red Bull junior Sebastian Montoya had a busy past week, racing in Formula Regional Middle East either side of three days of Formula 3 testing.
The Hitech GP driver found the experience of combining the two useful, believing he is now more prepared for the full-time step up to F3 while reflecting on the fact that his FRME campaign did not go to plan.
Montoya came 13th in FRegional Europe as a rookie last year, with two fourth places being his best results, but in FRME he could finish no higher than sixth and – in 21st place in the points table – was below eight part-time drivers in the standings.
“It was a very interesting week to finish the FRegional championship,” Montoya said after wrapping up the campaign at Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday.
“Practice was good, especially having to swap from driving the FIA F3 car at the test and having to adapt quickly.
“Then qualifying, in Q1 I think we did a really good job, maximising what we had. Q2 we tried to find the slipstream of the fast cars but that kind of compromised our warm up and it made it very difficult to drive and I also made a couple of mistakes on the lap so it wasn’t perfect.”
Montoya was 15th in Q1, marking his best qualifying performance of the season. In comparison, his best starting position in FREC was third at Zandvoort and he was seventh in qualifying on his F3 debut at the same circuit.
Incidents hampered Montoya in the first two races of last weekend, while in the third “we had an engine issue from the formation lap and it was very difficult at the beginning but then the car felt really good” until “a couple of laps from the end we had an issue with the engine which forced us to box early and we couldn’t finish the race”.
It meant Montoya only scored twice across the 15-race season, but he still saw the positives of being able to work with the team he will race for in F3 later this year and particularly being able to apply some of his learnings in last week’s pre-season F3 test at Bahrain.
“Overall, it wasn’t the championship that we wanted but for me, it was still a really good learning experience,” he added.
“I was able to work on my driving, work on the mental side, the physical side and just get back into the rhythm again before the F3 season. And it was a really good chance to work with the team and understand what is the theory and how I have to work for the F3 season.”
Montoya was 13th fastest in the F3 test – 0.838 seconds off the ultimate pace – and was able to log 175 laps across the six sessions, which was more than anyone else.