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FIA F3 Monza

The five key stages in Bortoleto's 2023 Formula 3 title charge

Across the majority of pre-season predictions, very few had Gabriel Bortoleto as a contender for the 2023 Formula 3 crown. But rather than just a title fighter, the Brazilian romped to the championship and despite hitting turbulence in Spa the Trident driver clinched the title before a racing lap in the Monza finale - albeit in unusual circumstances

Gabriel Bortoleto, Trident

Gabriel Bortoleto has been crowned the 2023 Formula 3 champion, sealing the championship on Friday at Monza. The Trident driver dominated throughout, leading from the first race in Bahrain.

Having finished sixth in the 2022 Formula Regional Championship, Bortoleto might not have been a favourite heading into the season. But like compatriot and good friend Felipe Drugovich’s dominant F2 title charge last year, the F3 rookie was strong from the off.

Part of Fernando Alonso’s A14 Management stable, the 18-year-old won the opening two feature races of the season and went on to take three more second-place finishes on his way to the title, though he was yet to reach the top step after round two.

Though he is yet to join an F1 team’s academy, Bortoleto’s dominant display is sure to capture the attention of the paddock, and a promotion to F2 is almost inevitable.

Here are the five key moments that led to Bortoleto clinching the title:

1. A stunning start winning the first two feature races

Alonso hugs his protege after winning the opening feature race in Bahrain

Alonso hugs his protege after winning the opening feature race in Bahrain

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Kicking off his rookie F3 season with two consecutive feature race wins, Bortoleto immediately built a strong lead at the top of the championship. With 26 points from the first round in Bahrain, his victory next time out in Melbourne put him 20 points ahead of second-placed Gregoire Saucy (ART), with reigning FRECA champion Dino Beganovic (Prema) and Hitech’s Gabriele Mini joint third on 28 points.

Bortoleto credited his strong start to hard work, telling Autosport in Monaco: “There is not a secret, I think [hard work] is just the main thing that I can think of. We are working since last September, as soon as the F3 season finished, we had already a deal with Trident and we did a test in Jerez which went very well, we were P1 as well.”

He also said he knew he had the potential to make a quick impact “because I trust myself,” adding: “I know how much effort I put in. Trident showed the potential last year as well from winning the last three rounds of the championship and being runner-up in the drivers’ standings. So yes, I would say that I expected good results. I would not say that I expected two wins in a row, but for sure some great results.”

2. Emulating Martins by pulling a big lead

After Monaco, Bortoleto's lead dipped to 17 points but he's looked untroubled since

After Monaco, Bortoleto's lead dipped to 17 points but he's looked untroubled since

Photo by: Lionel Ng / Motorsport Images

As 2022 F3 champion Victor Martins proved on his charge to the title, pulling a lead as early as possible can make a huge difference when it comes to winning.

Martins also won the opening feature race and went on to hold the lead for the first five rounds of the season before encountering challenges from Isack Hadjar, Ollie Bearman, Roman Stanek and Zane Maloney.

But Bortoleto’s larger lead meant he has been untroubled by competitors, and though Oliver Goethe was within three points after the opener, only once since has a driver come within 20 points of him in the standings.

Bortoleto’s lead after each round

Round

Points lead at end of round

Driver in second at end of round

Bahrain

3

Goethe

Melbourne

20

Saucy

Monaco

17

Mini

Barcelona

24

Marti

Spielberg

36

Marti

Silverstone

36

Marti

Hungaroring

43

O'Sullivan

Spa

38

Aron

3. Maintaining consistency across the summer rounds

Bortoleto picked up just three podiums and no wins in the Monaco to Hungaroring stretch, but consistent top 10s kept his point tally ticking

Bortoleto picked up just three podiums and no wins in the Monaco to Hungaroring stretch, but consistent top 10s kept his point tally ticking

Photo by: Formula Motorsport Ltd

Having built a 20-point lead after two rounds, it was imperative to Bortoleto’s title chances that he continued to pull a gap to the rest of the field. Though he had a less impressive weekend in Monaco, which saw him struggle to seventh in qualifying and allowed Hitech’s Gabriele Mini to take three points out of his lead, a better outing in Barcelona saw the gap – this time to Campos driver Pepe Marti – boosted to 24 points.

A strong showing where others frontrunners struggled next time out at the Red Bull Ring, including a second-place finish in the feature race, bolstered that lead to 36-points, with second place finishes also coming the following two weekends at Silverstone and the Hungaroring. Despite failing to win a race since Melbourne, Bortoleto has earned three podiums and only finished outside the top 10 once since then.

The importance of that consistency is evident when comparing drivers in second place throughout the season. Seven drivers – Oliver Goethe, Beganovic, Saucy, Mini, Marti, Zak O’Sullivan and Paul Aron – have all occupied the second-place slot throughout the season. Marti had the longest tenure, leaving Barcelona in second before relinquishing the place to O’Sullivan five races later in Hungary.

Though Aron was second heading into the Monza finale on 106 points, Marti, O’Sullivan and Franco Colapinto were all within six points. This too mirrors last year’s championship fight, with Martins clinching the title in the final race just five points ahead of runner-up Maloney and with Bearman just two points behind him in third.

4. Chaotic Spa weekend threatens to derail title charge

Bortoleto's path to the title was hampered by failing to score a point at Spa

Bortoleto's path to the title was hampered by failing to score a point at Spa

Photo by: Formula Motorsport Ltd

Scoring zero points is definitely not what the champion-elect needs on his charge to glory. Sadly for Bortoleto, that’s what happened to him in the penultimate round at Spa, qualifying 15th before retiring from the Saturday sprint race and finishing 11th in Sunday’s feature race.

Title rival Marti snatched pole, while poor timing for the Brazilian’s last run pushed him down to 15th, missing out on reverse-grid pole.

Bortoleto was up to ninth position by lap nine, passing Beganovic heading into Turn 1, but a lock-up for the Swede tagged the Trident driver’s rear left tyre and put a premature end to his race. In a saving grace for his title hopes, Marti also failed to finish after early contact with Mini.

Mixed conditions on Sunday saw a chaotic race, with those who opted for wet tyres surging forwards as the slick-runners floundered. Despite running as low as 20th in the opening stages, Bortoleto was up to 14th by lap 10. He made it up to 11th, but with title rivals Aron and Marti finishing ahead, it meant the title would go down to the final round.

5. A champion crowned – but not in a traditional way

Bortoleto becomes the second consecutive F3 champion crowned in the Monza pitlane

Bortoleto becomes the second consecutive F3 champion crowned in the Monza pitlane

Photo by: Lionel Ng / Motorsport Images

Bortoleto’s glorious championship winning moment was somewhat untraditional, following in the footsteps of 2022 champion Victor Martins, who was also crowned in the pitlane.

A trio of red flags saw qualifying prematurely curtailed due to time constraints, and with both Aron and Marti – finishing third and 16th - missing out on the pole they needed to keep the title fight going which went instead to Bortoleto’s team-mate Oliver Goethe, the championship was sealed.

Sat in his Trident-run car in the pits, Bortoleto seemed initially unaware of his title, before his team burst out the garage with enormous signs emblazoned with 'Gabriel Bortoleto, Driver Champion 2023'.

The young Brazilian’s emotions were visible, palpable excitement paired with a sense of relief to have finally earned the title, though it was almost inevitable heading into the weekend.

An unfancied title contender, Bortoleto now looks destined for F2 in 2024

An unfancied title contender, Bortoleto now looks destined for F2 in 2024

Photo by: Formula Motorsport Ltd

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