Home Featured Why one of Alpine’s top students has already become a teacher

Why one of Alpine’s top students has already become a teacher

by Ida Wood

Photo: Jason Vian / Victory Lane

FIA F3 title contender Victor Martins is a protege of the Alpine F1 team, but he’s also got a junior team of his own in single-seaters and karts, and he explained why to Formula Scout

Getting signed, dropped and then signed again by the same Formula 1 team is quite a journey for a young driver, and the fact that Victor Martins is still in FIA Formula 3 makes it all the more of a roller coaster.

Martins was signed by Renault after coming second in the French Formula 4 championship, and did two Formula Renault Eurocup seasons with the manufacturer’s support (claiming eight wins on the way) before he was dropped and then proceeded to utterly dominate the Eurocup in 2020 with seven wins in a single season.

At the same time, Martins and his older brother Nicolas (who were 18 and 22 at the time) had a new project: Victory Lane.

Nicolas had supported Victor’s career in various capacities through the years, particularly in this break between his stints with Renault/Alpine, and now they were going to combine their learnings to support other drivers.

Renault, soon becoming Alpine, said that the Eurocup crown would not guarantee Martins a place back on its books despite the usual procedure of champions being rewarded with F1 junior status, but in the end Martins did enough to be signed to the new-look Alpine Academy along with Eurocup runner-up Caio Collet and they stepped up to FIA F3 with MP Motorsport.

Victory Lane built its team up, calling upon the Goethe family’s karting manager Florent Jimenez to provide his athlete development skills, and former VDK Racing man Aurelien Fath to move across the karting paddock to be technical director of a karting squad they were launching.

Unsurprisingly, Victor’s role in the company has been as a driver coach and Formula Scout caught up with him while in the French F4 paddock where he was supporting single-seater rookie Edgar Pierre.

Victory Lane athletes

Driver 2022 CV
Victor Martins Currently 2nd in FIA F3 (2 W, 1 FL) 2020 FR Eurocup champion, 2nd in 2019 Eurocup, 2nd in 2017 French F4
Vlad Lomko Currently 3rd in Euroformula (1 W, 1 P, 1 FL) 6th in 2021 ADAC F4
Sami Meguetounif Currently 15th in FREC 11th in ’21 ADAC F4, 4th in ’20 French F4
Edgar Pierre Currently 14th in French F4 27th in ’21 IAME Int. Games – X30 Senior
Sami Dhahri Currently 32nd in MitJet 2L France Trophy 20th in ’20 French Karting Championship – Junior, 39th in ’20 NSK – Nationale
Lev Lomko Currently 9th in French Karting Championship – KZ2 11th in ’20 French F4

“I’m more about the driving side to help the young drivers, to give them some experience and advice,” Martins explains.

“And then my brother to be the boss I would say. We have two people who are working on the marketing and social media stuff with the communication and so on, and we have the team manager for our karting team, then someone who is managing everything like logistics, all the difficult things to organise.”

“The karting team is doing the IAME Euro Series. We are doing European championship, world championship. It’s everywhere.”

Victory Lane has primarily raced in X30 karts in France, Belgium and Europe, but also managed drivers in OK-based competition too.

“[Drivers] come to us to be in the team and to get all this advice from us. But we also try to find good drivers for us to win championships, to win races, to show that we are good with this project, so both. But we select, I would say. We don’t just sign when a driver comes to us, if we don’t agree, he will not race for us. He can test, and then we decide if we take him or not.”

The scale of Martins’ input depends on what level a driver is racing at. The karters need more attention and guidance on race weekend than Edgar in F4, who in turns needs more than Euroformula racer Vlad Lomko.

“It depends, because for example I’m here this weekend especially for the F4 driver. Over in karting, there is someone [specific too] who is taking care of him. I will look after [Vlad], but some easy and simple things. I would say for him it’s more my brother who is taking care of him, managing his career where to put him. To have a good development for him, to maybe step up to F3 or something else.

“But I don’t do much with him, because first I don’t have much time, and my main goal is to be in F1, not a driver coach. I would say when I’m free I do some, like today and this weekend, but only with [F4].”

Photo: Ida Wood

Martins also explains why his and his brother’s ambitions, with a desire to be at the top of motorsport, has resulted in them setting up a driver management firm lower down the ladder.

“I think it’s just because I started my career with Nicolas, in karting he was my mechanic, then he kept following me in the single-seaters as my guy who was with me on the track. So he met some important people in this world, and he decided to build his own career but in not the same area. Like a manager, having his own team. And we wanted to create this together, because we, for sure I have my experience, I have my career, but I still want to help him because I arrived up to here [in F3] with him, and I think if he was not here I wouldn’t have managed to be there and have that kind of success. So we created this together to have a long-term project and life in motorsport.”

Martins says his second F3 season with ART Grand Prix had an “average” start despite being points leader early on, and that he was top of the championship “only with 60% of our capacity”.

Now he’s level on points at the top with fellow Frenchman Isack Hadjar, and thinks “when everything will go right I think I will be there and will score the maximum points”.

Getting “everything out of the tyres” is a side of his own driving that Martins is focusing on right now, particularly in qualifying as he is yet to take a pole in 13 attempts although is very close to having the best qualifying average in 2022.

“It’s quite difficult, you know you need to from practice to be right there, right in the pace to then build the confidence for the drivers to go in quali with a clear mindset and a clear mind. So just from practice to the end, to be focused 100% and I would say just to do everything at the right time.”

Being able to accurately analyse improvements in his own driving helps Martins do the same with the drivers he works with, and Formula Scout asked how impressed he was with Edgar’s development through the year.

Photo: Ida Wood

“We did some really good testing in the winter. All these drivers, they want to test as much as possible to be ready for the championship and pretend that they didn’t drive at all in the winter, just to impress people. But [by] now, they have all driven a lot before the season. We have done also [testing], I have worked a lot with him and I have seen a big improvement from the first time he was in the car to now where we just need to – something the same as me, just get everything right from practice to the end.

“Have a good mindset, be confident about yourself, and do the same – do the right things at the right moment. I think he has a good capacity to be in the top five of the championship, it’s just [applying] now, with everything – to find the stability on yourself, on what you are doing in the car also to be consistent, still this he needs to manage. Sometimes he does too much, sometimes not enough, so I think it’s quite hard for a young driver to put yourself [the whole package together].”

One example of learning from mistakes for Martins is the 2019 FR Eurocup finale at Yas Marina Circuit, where he claimed pole for both races. However in race one he made a mistake with his launch, lost the lead to Oscar Piastri and could not find a way back past. He learned from his error to nail the start in race two and race away to victory, but the title went to his rival.

Had he not made that startline error and finished ahead of Piastri, Martins would have been champion and moved up to FIA F3 for 2020. By now he would likely be in Formula 2. “Maybe F1!” Martins chimes in. Had he progressed to FIA F3 a year earlier, and with the power of hindsight and the skills he’s applying in driver coaching, does he think he had the ability back then to plot a path to F2 and maybe F1 like Piastri has now?

“I think I have made a lot of mistakes for sure, that maybe compromised my career, but this I don’t know,” he speculates.

“And I want to tell to myself that I will never know what would have happened if I would have won the Eurocup in my second year. Maybe I would have gone to F3 with ART GP this moment, maybe I would have done what Theo Pourchaire has done. So maybe I would have been in F2 this year.

Photo: Renault Sport Series

“I don’t want to focus myself on that because in the end it’s nothing, it’s not my life because it doesn’t exist. So I just want to make the most out of what I am experiencing right now, what I have learned from the past, what I could have done better, because for sure I did some mistakes and it’s why I didn’t win the [’19] Eurocup. There are a lot of things where I think I have gained a lot of experience, and I’m a lot, I would say, stronger as a person and as a driver in the car. And I can manage it.”