Victor Martins took his premier Formula 3 victory on Saturday afternoon after a specular race that saw multiple impressive overtakes at the Zandvoort Circuit.
By Tyler Foster
The French MP Motorsport driver started in P5 for the second sprint race of the weekend. In front of him, Ido Cohen started on pole with fellow Frenchman Clement Novalak alongside on the front row. At the start Novalak jumped Cohen into turn one. Meanwhile Martins started well moving up to P4.
After a short safety car period, Martins began his rise through the field. He took advantage of a battle ahead to pass Frederik Vesti and move to P3. On lap 14, he pulled off a strong overtake into turn one on Cohen to claim P2. Just two laps later, he caught and snatched the race lead from Novalak. A second safety car threatened to ruin his race but Martins controlled the restart and came home to take a maiden win in the category.
“It’s just unbelievable. I was saying that a win is missing from my season and we just got it. We made a big step forward. We worked a lot on the car since the beginning of the season. The race was insane. I got a good start but then I was pushing really hard. I was trying (to overtake) on Cohen and I couldn’t at the beginning. I wanted to keep pushing and not think much about the tyres and in the end, it paid off. Every time I was shown an opportunity I went for it. That’s how you get a win, you just need to put everything together and that’s what we have done today.”
Finally a win
The Frenchman has had a solid season and was P4 in the Championship prior to this race but was the highest-ranked driver yet to win in Formula 3 this season. When asked whether this victory ranked as the best of his career so far, he said, “Clearly yes!”.
“I think I have waited quite a bit of time to get that one. Yesterday I was actually with my engineer, counting how many times I could have won this year if I would have put everything together on a weekend. My engineer told me last year that he wanted at least one win from me this season.”
“This was clearly the weekend to win and I will remember this one for the rest of my life. We have been through some low moments this year; Budapest for example. To come back from Spa on a wet weekend; now on a dry weekend we can show that we are there to fight for pole position and wins. We finally got it but as my team manager is saying we are hungry for more.”
With Novalak finishing alongside his compatriot Martins, in P2, not only is this a great day for French motorsport fans but the victory for Dutch outfit MP Motorsport is their first of the Formula 3 season, in front of their home fans at their home race.
“It is why I wanted so much to win here. They have waited a long time to be back on top. I did this for them, I just wanted to win here for the team. I would like to thank the team because it is with them that we have done this.”
The focus of the race was daring overtaking. While the moves from Martins that allowed him to win the race were impressive, he wasn’t that only one that gained places with on-track manoeuvres. The race saw a number of moves into both turn one and three. Martins was asked what he thought it was that allowed the drivers to suddenly be able to overtake around the tricky Zandvoort circuit.
“We weren’t expecting to have that sort of opportunity to overtake into turn one. We could see that going into the last corner we don’t actually lose that much time when you are close to someone. Today with the wind I think that the DRS was really powerful. At the end we didn’t have that much degradation so we could do mistakes and be on the edge making some moves. If you keep it clean you can have some opportunities that we were not expecting.”
“You can surprise the driver when you go on the inside (of turn three), you just need to send it. I did it a lot in race one at the start so I wanted to try it again and its paid off. I tried many times round the outside of turn one but when you are side-by-side it is not possible if the other driver doesn’t give up. We were not expecting to see that many overtakes in the race on a track like this.”
After the second safety car period, Martins had two laps to control the field and bring home the victory. He was asked how he dealt with the pressure of the restart.
“To be honest I was in a really good rhythm from when I overtook Clement until the safety car. Its experience; I have been through that situation many times. When you are in the lead there are always things going against you so you just need to keep calm, keep on doing the job, knowing that what you have done during the race is good. When the safety car came out I was calm, cool and collected. You don’t want these situations to disturb you and I think I managed it quite well.”
This victory means that Martins jumps Danish driver Frederik Vesti, who was the third driver on the podium, for P3 in the Championship and is still in contention for the title despite being 50 points behind the leader Dennis Hauger. There is one race left this weekend and one final round in Sochi (24th – 26th September).
“It is satisfying but I don’t want to focus on that. I have goals but I want to improve myself in the car and keep working with the team to improve the car and my driving. I don’t want to think about it. I didn’t think for the whole season so I don’t want to now. I don’t want to think about the possibility to finish P2 or P3 in the Championship. I just want to make the most out of the moment I’m in right now. I think it will pay off at the end.”
“We need to stay focused because there is a race three tomorrow. I think we have the pace for a lot more again.”
Victor Martins will start P3 for the Feature Race tomorrow, with Championship leader Dennis Hauger on Pole and title rival Jack Doohan in P4.
Race 3 will be at 09:45 BST (10:45 CEST) on Sunday morning.