Home Featured Victor Martins’ maiden Formula 1 test “a dream” come true

Victor Martins’ maiden Formula 1 test “a dream” come true

by Alejandro Alonso Lopez

Photos: Alpine F1 Team & Victory Lane

Formula Scout speaks to Victor Martins about his first ever F1 test at Monza in the Alpine A521

After Formula 1 first restricted private testing for teams, it heavily rectricted the amount of opportunities that drivers racing in junior single-seaters could get to taste F1 machinery. The official young driver test was introduced in 2009, and ran for many years, before teams started running programmes where they could use older cars to trial new drivers.

Red Bull and Alpine were the pioneers of such programmes, and the likes of Nicholas Latifi, Jack Aitken, Zhou Guanyu, Christian Lundgaard, Max Fewtrell and Oscar Piastri all had their first F1 outing during the latter team’s Renault era. Since the rebrand to Alpine, the team’s juniors Jack Doohan, Olli Caldwell conducted their test debuts in 2022 then reigning FIA Formula 3 champion Victor Martins made his test bow last month.

What was the experience of being behind the wheel of an F1 car for the first time like, and how had he prepared for the test?

“It felt really special. It was one of my dreams to drive an F1 car one day,” Martins said to Formula Scout.

“I had the chance thanks to Alpine. Of course, it was quite natural to do it with them. I’m in the Academy, I think I’m showing great performance in Formula 2 and I think it was actually at the right moment for me to get a taste of the F1 car, and I enjoyed it so much.

“Of course, I took a lot of pleasure in the car and I learned as much as possible to be honest with the support and help from the team. I want more for sure. After having done that, I want to do well in F2 to have more opportunities like that.”

So when did Martins find out about his first test opportunity? “I don’t remember exactly, but it was after the first few rounds,” he replied when Formula Scout asked for the background detaiols. “I knew before also. When I signed for the F2 season, I knew that if I was showing good performance and some good things, I would have get some opportunities.

Photo: Formula Motorsport Ltd

“But there was a moment where we decided to do it on May 8 in Monza.”

Setting the date kicked off the specific preparation. Martins felt he was already in good shape for the physical challenge posed by an F1 car at Monza. However, the A521 is technically on another level compared to his ART Grand Prix-run Dallara F2 2018, and, therefore, he had to visit Alpine’s headquarters to go through the different procedures he may encounter in his F1 test in order to know how to react to each situation.

“We had a good preparation with the team and also myself. In the end, I think I was well prepared on every subject,” he said.

“Like physically, I know that I’m doing everything like I’m giving everything I have already for the F2 season to be fully ready for an opportunity like that. So physically, I think I was already prepared and fully ready.

“Then on the technical side, we did and also on the driving a lot of simulator, we did the seat fit. I have been through some briefings with the team to understand a bit more of the car to actually maximise the track time and get as much laps as possible, for me to feel 100% ready and feel like home also.”

The time spent at the factory in Enstone both with the engineers and completing simulator sessions paid off as Martins felt fully prepared when he sat behind the wheel before going out on track for the first time.

“I had done quite a lot of laps. I mean, quite a lot, a good amount of laps to be fully prepared in the simulator.

“I also did some race report for the team during the grand prix in the simulator. So I have been through all the systems in the car. I knew a bit the steering wheel, of course there is a lot of buttons and stuff to change and to know also,” he explained.

“So I think I was fully ready and also after the first session, I was like ‘I feel good’. The team has been helping me a lot on the right approach I would say and also to be fully open minded to learn as much as possible.

“In the end, I was fully ready to be honest.”

The Alpine junior, who is known in the paddock for being thoroughly analytical, wasn’t overwhelmed by the complexity of the F1 world.

“During the preparation, nothing special surprised me.

“It was just how much things you need to know to prepare to maximise everything. There is a lot of things that could make you faster but also make you feel a bit less comfortable in the car.

“It was the natural preparation, I would say. The same as I’m doing in F2, but now for a F1 car with more subjects to know, and then during the day it was okay,” he said.

Martins explained that the main objective of the test was to familiarise with the many switches of the car and its functions, and also praised the people that had played a role on his rapid acquaintance to Alpine’s 2021 contender.

“It was I think almost 100% for me to get a taste, to get a feeling also in the car, to change some stuff on the set-up to try some things also in live, you know, like in the car on the track to feel what’s happening with an F1 car when you change things.

“And it was for me to get as many laps as possible and cover a good amount of tests to be well-prepared if there is an opportunity coming in the future.

“It felt completely natural because we went through a bit of the program on the simulator before to go out on the track for real. I think I was well guided from the engineers, from the team, from everyone.

“In the end, communication was really good. So in the end it’s just a matter of getting a good communication and listen to it. And also feeling good in the car to do it in time and not be like rushing while driving. But in the end it felt really natural and I got used to it quite quickly.

We did a lot of things. We didn’t do exactly a proper performance run or race run. We went through our program, which was good also for myself,” he replied when asked whether he had the chance to explore the limits of the car.

For the near future, Martins remains focused on his F2 campaign. He sits 15th in the standings after four rounds, having shown strong pace but also paid the price for several highly punishing mistakes.

“I don’t know if there will be a next test. For now, I’m fully focused on the F2 season and maybe in the future there will be. But we have done a good programme.”