Victor Martins (ART Grand Prix) secured a ninth podium in the penultimate round of FIA Formula 2 across a weekend of mixed results for the Alpine Academy at Autodromo Nazionale Monza.
Starting the weekend off strong, Victor topped the timings in Free Practice by 0.279secs, once again extracting maximum pace from his car. Marred by heavy traffic in the afternoon’s Qualifying session, he finished fifth to secure himself a top ten start in both races. Saturday’s Sprint Race saw Victor fight his way from sixth to second, claiming a ninth podium in his rookie F2 season and taking the extra point for Fastest Lap. In Sunday’s Feature Race, the Frenchman made a series of overtakes in the opening lap to reach third place by the second chicane, but due to an issue with his DRS Victor was forced to retire early from the race.
Suffering from limited straight-line speed across the weekend, Jack Doohan (Invicta Virtuosi) started both races on the backfoot having finished Free Practice and Qualifying in 14th place. Lining up for Saturday’s Sprint Race, Jack battled with those around him at the second Safety Car restart, making his way through the pack to finish just outside of point scoring positions in ninth overall. Sunday’s Feature Race saw the alternative strategy pay off for Jack, with the Australian driver capitalising on a late Safety Car and making his mandatory pit stop on lap 24 for the super soft tyre compound. Coming out in 11th Jack carved his way through the order to ultimately finish the race in sixth.
Gabriele Minì (Hitech GP) suffered a weekend of mixed fortunes in Monza in the final round of his rookie FIA Formula 3 season. Starting strong Gabriele finished out Friday’s Free Practice in third and the afternoon’s Qualifying in sixth. However, due to a breach of Parc Ferme conditions after it was announced the session would not resume with 10 minutes left on the clock, all three Hitech Pulse-Eight cars were disqualified and had their Qualifying lap times deleted. Heading into both races Gabriele started 26th on the grid and faced the challenge of climbing through the order. In Saturday’s Sprint Race the Italian driver fought his way into the point scoring positions, coming away with a sixth-place finish. Once again making up a series of places in Sunday’s Feature Race, Gabriele crossed the chequered flag in 13th but receive two-time penalties which dropped him to 19th in the final classification.
Nikola Tsolov (ART) picked up points for the second time this season in Saturday’s Sprint Race, as well as securing his third consecutive top ten Qualifying finish with ninth in Friday’s afternoon session. Setting himself up for a second-row grid start in Saturday’s reverse grid Sprint Race, the Bulgarian driver fought in the top ten for much of the session, ultimately finishing ninth overall and claiming a second points scoring finish to close out his rookie FIA Formula 3 season. Unfortunately, in Sunday’s Feature Race Nikola was shuffled out of the points having been pushed wide into the gravel at the third Safety Car restart, suffering a front left puncture he was forced to pit and change to fresh tyres, eventually coming away with a 12th place finish.
Sophia Floersch (PHM Racing) suffered a weekend of misfortune in Monza, finishing Friday’s Free Practice in 23rd and the afternoon’s Qualifying in 18th. Starting Saturday’s Sprint Race strong, the German driver moved up to 12th place on the opening lap but was caught out by contact with Nikita Bedrin at the Safety Car restart. Shuffled down the order she finished the race in 16th. In Sunday’s Safety Car stricken Feature Race, Sophia struggled to make up positions on track with little green flag running. Crossing the chequered flag in 17th she capitalised on a series of penalties to finish 13th overall.
Jack Doohan, Invicta Virtuosi: “It was a difficult weekend in Monza. On a balance and driving side we were doing everything right and I felt super comfortable in the car but unfortunately, we had an issue that was out of our control which made us lose a lot of time and performance. It was difficult to manage but there wasn’t much we could do so I just had to keep my focus and take opportunities where I could. All in all, to get sixth in Sunday’s Feature Race it was a major damage limitation, and I was happy we were able to do that with what we were fighting with. Now we have a long break ahead of Abu Dhabi so I will be spending some time with the F1 team as we head into the stint of fly away races.”
Victor Martins, ART Grand Prix: “Monza was great in regard to the pace of the car, which was incredible over the whole weekend. Starting from Free Practice we had full confidence that we were going to have a great weekend, but we missed an opportunity in Qualifying. We were at the top of the field, but we all knew it would be tricky with traffic and everyone trying to get a slipstream, so it was important to try and get a solid time on the board quite early. Unfortunately, I made a few mistakes, and although I felt we could have done better with the pace we had, we only took fifth place. We were still able to start sixth and fifth in the two races respectively and had a good opportunity to score points. In the Sprint Race we tried to focus on the job at hand. I knew it would be a race where I would need to stay calm and take opportunities where possible, and I managed to get up to second thanks to the strong pace of the car. We went into the Feature Race with great hopes, and I had a good start to move up to third by the second chicane. The car felt great, and I was confident, but I was unlucky to have an issue with my DRS which took me out of the race. For sure we missed a big opportunity to come back in the championship and fight for second in Abu Dhabi, but that is how it played out. We need to analyse, stay strong and go again after the break.”
Gabriele Minì, Hitech GP: “The Formula 3 season is done. The weekend in Monza wasn’t an easy one. We started in Free Practice with a lot of potential, the pace was very good and there were just a few things to fix. From there we went into Qualifying where we were only able to set one solid lap time, we managed to do a good job and reach sixth which would have set us up well for the races. However, we were disqualified, and we had to start at the back of the grid for both races. In the Sprint Race I still finished in sixth, gaining twenty positions, which was great. In the Feature Race it was a tricky race, it was messy in the back with lots of overtakes and a few crashes which is not ideal but that is what can happen when you start at the back of the grid. Much like the start of the season, our potential was really high, but we couldn’t convert it into representative points.”
Nikola Tsolov, ART Grand Prix: “In some respects it was a good weekend in Monza. It was my first time at the circuit and despite only putting in three flying laps in Free Practice I managed to get into the top 10 in Qualifying for the third time in a row. I also showed that I can fight in the front which was a confidence boost for both myself and the team. The little mileage we had run made the first race difficult as I was still finding my references in the opening laps, but I still managed to bring home a 9th place finish and collect some points. I would say that the Feature Race on Sunday was my strongest of the year. I had a great start, strong pace and good Safety Car restarts saw me fighting for a place in the top five. Unfortunately, I was pushed off the track with five laps to go whilst running in seventh which gave me a front left puncture and forced me to pit to change tyres. Overall, it wasn’t a great weekend in terms of results, but it showed the improvement we have made over the season and showed the strong form of both the car and our team.”
Sophia Floersch, PHM Racing: “The 2023 season is over! The weekend in Italy has been mixed, we had shining moments and then we had laps and sessions where it just didn’t go our way. We finished 16th and 13th in the two races with some good fights, but there’s also elements I know need improvement. All in all, it has been a season with ups and downs. I am super proud to have finished in the points twice and to have consistently outperformed my teammate, however, overall it is not where I want to be. Thank you to everyone for all the support over the season, it has been a great year as part of the Alpine Academy!”