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Formula 3 completed the first qualifying session of 2023 with Gabriele Mini, Gabriel Bortoleto and Gregoire Saucy topping the time sheets.
2023 marks a record-breaking season for the FIA Formula 3 Championship. The feeder series will consist of 10 races this year with two new circuits added to the calendar: Melbourne and Monaco.
As well as having new races, there are 17 rookies joining the championship with 13 returning drivers, including Sophia Floersch who previously raced in F3 in 2020.
Yesterday, all 30 drivers took to the circuit for the free practice session before completing the first qualifying session of 2023. Throughout Qualifying, we saw lots of drivers suffer from lap times being deleted due to track limits, particularly at turn four.
However, we also saw the top 18 drivers be separated by half a second. The session saw a Formula 3 rookie take pole position in Hitech Pulse Eight’s Gabriele Mini. In P2 was Trident’s Gabriel Bortoleto and experienced-F3 racer Gregoire Saucy rounded out the top three for ART Grand Prix.
After the Qualifying session, FormulaNerds spoke to the three drivers about the challenges of the weekend. One particular challenge being the tyre management as the Bahrain International Circuit can be quite abrasive.
Ahead of the weekend, Mario Isola of Pirelli Motorsport, spoke about the F3 tyres. Isola said that the P Zero White hard tyre is the “ideal choice”. He explained saying this compound is best for handling “the circuit’s abrasive nature.”
Isola continued mentioning that the drivers will “need to take care to manage their tyres.” He noted the “rear tyres” as they will be “worked hardest” by the demands of the circuit.
The top three qualifiers expressed their agreement with Isola in the post-qualifying press conference.
“It’s really tricky”
Formula 3’s debut pole sitter, Gabriele Mini said that in qualifying “you can already feel the degradation towards the end of the lap.” He said:
“That’s why I think in the last sector I was struggling a bit because at the end of the second push the tyres were struggling… I think it’ll be a key thing, especially in the races. We will see drops of two or three seconds and it depends partially on the setup of the car and the drivers can do a huge difference on that.”
GABRIELE MINI TAKES POLE!!!! 💪
A mega effort by the @AlpineF1Team Academy driver, snatching pole in his first-ever F3 qualifying session! 👏#BahrainGP #F3 @MiniGabriele pic.twitter.com/UzY81Ok0Kq
— Formula 3 (@FIAFormula3) March 3, 2023
Bortoleto, another rookie this season, agreed that “the race will be key” to managing the tyres. He said the aim will be to “do a good job by not forcing too much” at the start of the race; however, Bortoleto is aware that he can’t use previous experience of F3 given it’s his “first race in this category.”
But for Saucy, he has the experience of Sakhir 2022 to learn from. In Qualifying in 2022, Saucy finished fourth, just shy of the top three. This year, however, he managed to improve. But the Frenchman does remain vigilant about tyre management.
Saucy told FormulaNerds:
“It’s really tricky for tyre management. Also, in one push we can the deg[radation] of the lap. If we push really hard from the first few corners and we do a mistake, we can see that at the end of the push.
“It’ll be really important for the race to manage the tyres from the start. We need to attack but at the end still manage the tyres, so it’s a nice track but difficult for tyre management.”
The Sprint Race and Feature Race for Formula 3 are during the day in Bahrain with higher temperatures. The grid had close times in Qualifying, so tyre management could determine the result tomorrow.
As well as commenting on the challenge of tyre management, Saucy spoke to FormulaNerds about the championship’s competitiveness. He said:
“I think it’s a really competitive championship this year, last year also. It’s really tight. Every point is important so we need to take every point, but I think the championship is quite competitive.”
Three of the returning Formula 3 drivers have remained with their teams from last year. Saucy has stayed with ART whilst Rafael Villagomez and Josep Maria Marti have stayed with Van Amersfoort Racing and Campos Racing, respectively.
With a mixture of rookies and experience on the grid, the championship battle is tight. Mini scored two points today for achieving pole position, but today is the first proper point-scoring on-track session.
Who will win the Sprint Race?
Headline Feature Image: GettyImages