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Feeder Series Preview: Monza

Written by Juan Arroyo, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Gabriel Bortoleto has been head and shoulders above the rest in 2023; Credit: James Gasperotti Photography

As we recover from F2’s chaos at Zandvoort, a key weekend for both of our feeder series championships awaits. Let’s recap everything that’s happened—and go over the action we should expect in Monza.

Formula 3 comes to an end

It’s been a long time since we’ve heard of our friends in Formula 3, we’ve missed them without a doubt. But, as quick as we greet them, we’ll be saying our goodbyes, for this is the last we’ll see of them this year (excluding the post-season tests).

As much as we have enjoyed the racing on display this season, no one has enjoyed it more than Trident’s Gabriel Bortoleto. The Brazilian’s incredible consistency has seen him pull a considerable points gap to his rivals, adding two wins and two podiums to his name, along the way. Since his feature race win in Bahrain, no one has come close in the standings.

Bortoleto has been so good in fact, that he’ll enter qualifying on Friday with a chance to secure the title. Even if Bortoleto didn’t score a single point this weekend, Paul Aron or Pepe Martí—the only drivers still mathematically in with a chance—would still have to secure pole position, sprint race + fastest lap, and feature race + fastest lap to win the championship.

Before the Spa-Francorchamps round, the Trident driver revealed his focus on the individual race weekends has oriented him towards the championship: “My main thing is not thinking about winning the Championship. I don’t think about winning the Championship, but I think if I can do a great race, that will probably make me with the Championship. I never put that as the target because things can change very quickly and as soon as you have a bad weekend, everyone is closer together.”

Nevertheless, it’s difficult to picture anyone else holding that prestigious championship trophy at the FIA Prize Giving Ceremony in December. But that shouldn’t diminish any of his rivals’ efforts this season. In fact, the top end of FIA F3 has been so tight, and just 19 points separate second to seventh, heading into the final round.

Bortoleto has been so good in fact, that he’ll enter qualifying on Friday with a chance to secure the title. Credit: James Gasperotti/KTF Sports

Aron has managed to wiggle himself up to second despite only a single win—a sprint race at the Red Bull Ring—to his name. The Mercedes junior had a relatively quiet start to the season, but like Bortoleto, kept it consistent and reaped the rewards.

Martí’s season, by contrast, feels like one of peaks and valleys, even if he and Aron have maintained a similar scoring record throughout. It took some acclimatising in his second year to nail qualifying. When he did for the first time at his home race, it seemed like the title fight was truly on; but it just didn’t click for the Campos Racing driver.

Be that as it may, it would be a mistake to say Martí is anything but ready to jump to F2 next season. Don’t be shocked if he signs for a driver academy in the off-season.

Other drivers to look out for this weekend include Gabriele Minì, who has enjoyed a solid rookie season, and will be racing on home soil; Franco Colapinto, rumoured to be graduating to F2 next year; and Taylor Barnard, coming off the back of a fairytale Spa-Francorchamps victory for Jenzer.

On the teams’ side, Monza is the culmination of a season-long title fight between Prema and Trident. The stage is set on home soil for their final battle, where Prema enter with a 25-point advantage. The red and white team have won three of the four FIA F3 team titles, while Trident claimed the other in 2021. Winning here would be a significant blowback to their northern Italy rivals.

The stage is set on home soil for Prema and Trident’s final battle, where the former enter with a 25-point advantage. Credit: Dino Beganovic/FDA

For Trident, how about summoning up a special performance from their own Leonardo Fornaroli? The Italian driver has not done himself justice this season with his results; and performing well on home soil would be a great way to close the season out. On an unrelated, nevertheless interesting note, Fornaroli becomes a favourite among teammates, wherever he goes.

Formula 2

If you had both championship contenders scoring zero points across the weekend, bingo! No one else would have guessed. If you did, you were unfortunately aided by the cancellation of Saturday’s sprint, for which no points were handed out. It did count for records and statistics though, so at least Isack Hadjar had something to celebrate.

His fellow Red Bull junior Jak Crawford started on pole the next day. And so followed another Red Bull junior in Hauger, Vesti, another Red Bull junior in Maloney (how many are they again?), and Bearman in the top five.

Vesti’s venture in the top five didn’t last long—one corner to be exact—before he spun out. Bearman behind had the misfortune of being tapped by VAR’s Juan Manuel Correa, while ART’s Victor Martins lost positions taking evasive action; Martins’ fellow Alpine junior Jack Doohan didn’t even make it to the finish line on the rolling start, instead spinning out on the banked Turn 14.

Are you keeping up with all this? If your answer is yes, how? Anyway, to the point.

Think of the least likely driver to win a race this season. It’s not Trident’s Clément Novalak now - in fact, a lot of you may share the same alternative answer - but if you’d bet on him before Zandvoort, you’d be a lot richer today. Even more surprising is the fact that only one driver in the top six in the standings scored points this round.

Novalak put up a considerable distance to second-placed Maloney in the Feature race. Credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd

But let’s give credit where credit is due: while everybody else was in trouble losing their tyres (cough cough Vesti) or struggling to stay on track, Novalak put up a considerable distance to Maloney in second. After two difficult years in F2, he has finally claimed his first victory.

Heading into Monza, the pressure is ramping up on Vesti to perform. Time is running out on his side, with just two rounds remaining to catch Théo Pourchaire in the points. It goes without saying that this is Prema’s home race and that, despite there being no swarms of Tifosi under the Monza F2 podiums every year, the Italian team will want to be at their best. Behind by 32 points to ART in the teams’ standings, there is no better time to step up their game.

On Pourchaire’s side, this is his title to lose. It’s all but confirmed that the next two races are his last in Formula 2. A Formula 1 seat isn’t guaranteed for him, regardless, but winning the championship would undoubtedly improve his chances; realistically, a third year in the series is win or bust for anyone with a shot at a place in F1. The next two weekends could well be the most important of his career.

Théo Pourchaire is 12 points ahead of Frederik Vesti going into the penultimate round of Formula 2. Credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd

The circuit

Monza can be best described, in Jeremy Clarkson’s words, as “speed and power”. Bonus points if you read it in his voice. Three main straights make up the majority of the 5.793 km (3,600 mi) circuit, while the majority of the corners comprising the layout are medium to high speed.

The best overtaking spots will be found at the end of the aforementioned straights. Turn one is a hard braking zone - the slowest of the whole track - which transitions into a long right-hander, and into the slow-ish Variante della Roggia chicane. Drivers will be hard-pressed to overtake through the fast Lesmo and Variante Ascari sections, but everywhere else, passing is absolutely possible.

Setup-wise, the low-drag nature of the circuit “increases the reliance on mechanical grip from the tyres,” explained Mario Isola for Formula 2 last year. “The greatest demands around Monza come under braking and traction, although lateral loads are also significant through corners such as Curva Grande and Parabolica. Dealing with these different demands is therefore important to manage the tyres as well as possible during the races.”

Here’s everything you need to know about the weekend, summed up:

  • The iconic Autodromo Nazionale di Monza contains 11 corners, and is 5.793 km (3,600 mi) long.

  • Perhaps the most power-hungry circuit on the calendar, composed mainly of long straights.

  • Overtaking is possible in most, if not all sections of the track, though drivers will be pushing their luck attempting to do so through the Lesmos and Variante Ascari.

  • Drivers will need to preserve their tyres through the excessive loads of the medium and high-speed sections.

  • Jack Doohan claimed F2 Pole Position in 2022, setting a time of 1:31.641s.

  • Alexander Smolyar claimed F3 Pole Position in 2022, setting a time of 1:37.559s.


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