Written by Sean McKean, Edited by Ishani Aziz
Dino Beganovic, Paul Aron, Franco Colapinto: these are the names that come to mind when considering title contenders. While they certainly are the favourites, there are other potential rivals to these main three. Whether it be a second-year driver having a comeback or an impressive rookie, not many had these drivers on their radar until the conclusion of the opening two rounds.
A Spanish driver in the Spanish outfit Campos Racing seemed like a faultless combination. Sadly this wasn’t the case for second-year driver Pepe Marti. In his first season in Formula 3 in 2022, Marti lingered toward the back end of the field. He only achieved points once, which was in the final round at Monza where he scored two points. That was all the only consolation for the Spaniard however, with the rest of the season riddled with poor results and incidents.
In 2023, Marti announced he would be contesting another season in the FIA Formula 3 Championship, as well as a Formula Regional Middle East Championship campaign. Coming off a two-win season in FRMEC, this translated well for him in Formula 3, where he won the first race of the season in the Bahrain sprint race.
However, after four races, Bahrain wasn’t even Marti’s best drive. In Australia, he crashed out in qualifying, which left him P30 for both the sprint and feature races. Normally, this would ruin any drivers’ weekend, but it wasn’t the case for Marti. He charged through the field in both races to finish P13 in the sprint and P7 in the feature, scoring points on what seemed to be a hopeless weekend.
Marti also seems to be managing to thrive when it comes to his teammates Christian Mansell and Hugh Barter. He has beaten Barter in every race, and Mansell in all but one race so far this season. Barter is not an easy figure to beat either, as he and Tsolov obliterated the competition in Spanish F4 in 2022. Despite Marti’s somewhat bleak beginnings, he is not to be overlooked.
Another driver who has shattered doubt so far is Colombian, Sebastian Montoya. Coming into his rookie FIA Formula 3 season, Montoya didn’t have the most spectacular junior career. While his P4 finish in the 2021 Italian F4 was great, he was overshadowed by other superstars such as Oliver Bearman and Tim Tramnitz. As well as this, being a second-year driver and just scraping into the top five didn’t help his reputation.
Montoya moved to the Formula Regional European Championship for Prema Racing in 2022, but he did not deliver. Given his results from Formula Regional Asia, in which he achieved two wins, the fortune would not be the same for FRECA. In this season, the Colombian finished P13 in the overall standings, convincingly outshined by teammates Dino Beganovic and Paul Aron. To finish out 2022, Montoya took part in two races for Campos Racing to gain experience for a move-up in 2023. He performed very well in his time there, as he would score seven points during a competitive and chaotic Zandvoort weekend.
Montoya made the expected move-up into FIA Formula 3, however, he surprised everyone by not only signing for Hitech Grand Prix (many assumed Campos), but he also signed on as a Red Bull Junior. Given his record prior to this season, expectations weren’t high, but he has shown great pace. The Colombian achieved a podium at Melbourne and has scored points in all but one race so far. He has also held up very well when it comes to pace compared to his teammate Gabriele Mini.
Despite winning the GB3 Championship (F3-level machinery) in 2022, Williams Junior Luke Browning still seems to be living in the shadow of Gabriele Mini and even Sebastian Montoya.
Ever since 2019, Browning has had an excellent junior career. He’s had amazing results in the Formula 4 categories, winning the British F4 championship in 2020 as well as top 3 in ADAC in 2021. When he made the step-up to GB3, people anticipated a slow start; however, it was anything but that. He would go on to win the championship convincingly over Joel Granfors and Tom Lebbon.
Despite his amazing results in GB3, Browning’s name does not appear much in regard to the title fight. He doesn’t let the labels (or lack thereof), as he sits top 10 in the standings with stand-out performances in Melbourne.
The most prevalent case of overshadowing is within the Trident team with Italian Leonardo Fornaroli. Throughout his junior career, Fornaroli has never won a championship, but has shown great pace. In Formula 4, he achieved a top five finish in the standings in 2021, the highest finisher within the Iron Lynx team.
In 2022, Fornaroli made the step-up to higher machinery in FRAC and FRECA, but he did not perform up to expectations. He would finish P8 in the FRECA standings with no podiums to his name.
Given how he did in FRECA, people weren’t expecting Fornaroli to perform to the standard of teammates Gabriel Bortoleto and Oliver Goethe. Despite this, he has been very consistent, outshining his teammates in some races and scoring points in all but one race.
The above drivers are definitely ones to watch throughout this season, despite their challenges.
All images in this article were sourced from the Formula 3 website