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‘There’s no one better to win’: The FIA F3 paddock reacts to Martins’ title

Victor Martins was crowned champion in FIA Formula 3 this season after a controversial season finale in which the results, and therefore the championship standings, were decided by penalties and a red-flagged race ending. We asked several figures in the paddock on Sunday about their reactions to Martins’ championship win.

By Michael McClure

Entering the final race of the season, 6 drivers were eligible for the championship title, with the two favourites Victor Martins and Isack Hadjar at the top of the standings separated by only six points. The other four drivers were Trident’s Zane Maloney and Roman Staněk and Prema’s Ollie Bearman and Arthur Leclerc.

Martins started fourth for that final Feature Race but overtook Maloney for the lead on Lap 5 at the safety car restart. The title looked assured at that point, but Maloney regained the position with the aid of DRS on Lap 9. Martins was passed for second three laps later by Bearman, but the Frenchman still held an eight-point advantage over the Barbadian when the red flag came out at the end of Lap 17 for an accident between Brad Benavides and Kush Maini.

As cars waited in pit lane, race control announced that Martins had received a five-second time penalty for accruing four track-limits violations. Upon the race’s resumption, Martins could have lost the championship lead to Maloney had the penalty demoted him to seventh or lower. 

Moments after Martins was notified of his penalty, a second announcement stated that the race would not be restarting. The final results were taken from the order at the end of Lap 15, two laps before the red flag was displayed.

According to the gaps at that point, Martins would fall from third to fifth, which then became fourth once William Alatalo, who was initially promoted to third in Martins’ place, received a five-second penalty himself for the same track-limits infraction.

Martins thus ended the season with a five-point advantage over Maloney and a seven-point advantage over Bearman, becoming the first champion for ART Grand Prix at the third tier since the late Anthoine Hubert took the driver’s title in the final GP3 Series season in 2018.

Celebrations at ART

Apprehension turned to elation within seconds as the graphic appeared on screen that Martins had won the title. The ART camp was celebrating long into the day in what was also a poignant afternoon, for Martins and Hubert were both members of the Renault Sport Academy prior to the latter’s death in a Formula 2 accident in 2019.

Martins’ last title was the Formula Renault Eurocup championship, also with ART, in 2020. This success prompted him to return to the rebranded Alpine Academy after a one-year absence. The driver who succeeded Martins to the crown after Eurocup merged with the Formula Regional European Championship was Grégoire Saucy, who dominated FRECA with ART before stepping up to F3 with the team in 2022.

He helped me a lot also this year to find some steps and improve myself

Grégoire Saucy

“He did an amazing job all the year and he stayed really constant also here, so I’m really just happy for him and the team,” Saucy said about Martins. “It’s always good when you have a teammate fight for the championship. He helped me a lot also this year to find some steps and improve myself.”

Alongside Saucy and Martins was Juan Manuel Correa, who survived the fatal collision with Hubert despite major injuries. The 2022 campaign alongside Martins was his second at ART after he returned to racing with them in F3 in 2021, and he praised the team’s atmosphere this season.

As a whole, the environment has been amazing in ART this season, so [I’m] very happy for the team

Juan Manuel Correa

“It’s a good mood. [I’m] very, very happy for Victor, for the team. I think there wasn’t any other driver that deserved it more than him. He has done an incredible job all year. and it was really nice to be his teammate this year,” Correa said. “As a whole, the environment has been amazing in ART this season, so [I’m] very happy for the team. The boys are happy. They deserve it and for sure a big party today.”

Joining ART in the celebrations on the pitwall was a very emotional Nicolas Martins, Victor’s older brother and the founder of the VictoryLane sports management agency where the younger Martins is a driver coach. Immediately after the race, Nicolas told F1 Feeder Series about the significance of his brother’s title win.

Our life is all about this, winning championships and going to Formula 1

Nicolas Martins

“It’s a big achievement, to be honest. Our life is all about this, winning championships and going to Formula 1, and Victor becoming world champion, it’s crazy,” he said. “Long, long journey – every year is the same. You need to win to go upstairs. Now we did it, and I’m super happy for him. Let’s go to Formula 2 now!”

It is widely expected that Martins will be continuing with ART Grand Prix in Formula 2 next season.

Martins’ rivals: ‘He deserves it a lot’

One driver who’s gotten to know Martins well over the years is Caio Collet, who has been a member of the Alpine Academy since 2019. Collet was Martins’ chief rival in Eurocup in 2020 and lined up alongside him at MP Motorsport when the pair stepped up to FIA Formula 3 in 2021. Once again Martins got the better of Collet, with a win and five further podiums propelling him to fifth in the standings while Collet ended up ninth with a pair of third places.

To see him win now, it’s pretty nice, and I hope all the best for him for the future

Caio Collet

“We are good friends off of the track. He deserves it a lot. I know how hard he works and I know what kind of a driver he is. He’s a really good driver,” Collet told F1 Feeder Series. “A couple years ago I was able to fight the championship with him in Eurocup, so to see him win now, it’s pretty nice, and I hope all the best for him for the future.”

The six-way battle for the title did not involve Collet, but two of those title contenders who fought Martins to the end spoke to F1 Feeder Series about their rival’s victory. Maloney said that while the ending of the season was ‘not nice’, Martins nonetheless deserved the title on the basis of his consistent performances all season, which included two Feature Race wins in Bahrain and Spain, four second places, and a total of 14 points finishes, tied for the most in the field.

He deserves it fully. Anyone who says he doesn’t is just wrong, so well done to Victor

Zane Maloney

“I was very happy to win the race,” Maloney said. “I knew nothing about any penalties. I thought Victor came P3 and he won the championship, and then, of course, I go to the pitwall and I get told that he has a five-second penalty and maybe I win the championship.

“Then to be shot down to a massive low, of course it’s not nice, but he’s a deserving champion. He’s done a great job all year, and I think there’s no one better to win the championship … He deserves it fully. Anyone who says he doesn’t is just wrong, so well done to Victor.”

Before Maloney surged to win the final three Feature Races of the season and leap to second overall, the top rookie in the standings was Martins’ fellow Frenchman Isack Hadjar, who surged to the top of the standings after taking consecutive wins at Silverstone and Spielberg. The Red Bull junior suffered a disaster weekend in Monza, though, taking only two points after a Qualifying crash forced him to start both races from the eighth row.

Starting the season, we knew Victor was the guy to beat

Isack Hadjar

“Starting the season, we knew Victor was the guy to beat. He was really strong last year, and signing with ART, who is a really good team, we expected him to be up there,” Hadjar said about Martins, the top driver from last season to return to F3. “For a while it was our rival, but he managed better the last weekend. He really deserved the title, so I’m really happy for him.”

Header Photo Credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd


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