There’s an air of satisfaction and anticipation ahead of round one at Invicta Racing after three fruitful days at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Joining the British team this year is Kush Maini and Gabriel Bortoleto, both of whom are F1-affiliated drivers with Alpine and McLaren backing respectively, such is their high potential.

Maini joins from Campos Racing and starred on occasion last year, fighting for pole on multiple weekends and showing impressive performances across the year. He will be hopeful of carrying that into this season with his new team and, on first look, might be set for more strong showings.

The Alpine Academy driver managed to finish top on the second day’s morning session, setting a 1:44.219 to lead the way, but aside from that went about his business without much attention. He was reportedly very happy though with his and the team’s efforts during the three-day test, a very upbeat figure in the pitlane throughout.

On the other side of the garage, Bortoleto steps up to FIA Formula 2 after winning the 2023 F3 Drivers’ Championship and is gelling well according to the team. The Brazilian has been a positive presence in the garage as he learns his new surroundings and was upbeat about their work across the test.

Maini was fastest on the second morning of pre-season testing
Maini was fastest on the second morning of pre-season testing

The McLaren Driver Development talent built his title-winning campaign last year on consistency and achieving that in F2 will be a tough ask. But, across both long runs and qualifying simulations when the times were at their quickest, both Maini and Bortoleto were in the hunt and near the top of the timing pages. It bodes well for their prospects going into Bahrain at the end of the month.

Team Principal Andy Roche was positive in his assessment of the team’s work also, indicating that while it had been less than ideal to lose hours of dry running to torrential rain on the first day, the team had indeed managed to get through much of their run plan untroubled.

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While day one was a near washout, when the track was covered in sunshine and conditions were far more representative, Invicta were in the top 10 in three of the remaining four sessions. With Maini looking at home in the #9 car right away and Bortoleto seemingly adapting very quickly to the new F2 machinery. There is every chance they could carry their strong testing form into the new season.

The pairing looked closely matched on race runs and were competitive with the teams around them when the track was at its most representative as multiple outfits ran race simulations at similar times in the day.

Bortoleto is adapting to F2 and Invicta Racing well ahead of the 2024 campaign starting
Bortoleto is adapting to F2 and Invicta Racing well ahead of the 2024 campaign starting

Of course, testing here carries extra weight with the first round of the upcoming campaign taking place around the same venue. But Maini and Bortoleto look well placed to start off on the right foot in 2024 after their work during the test.

Jack Doohan’s title prospects took a hit as early season results kept him from competing for the 2023 crown. Through perseverance, the team managed to turn their fortunes around and by the end of 2023 Doohan and Invicta were arguably the strongest combination. The Australian took three Feature Race wins in the final half of the year, including a dominant run to the flag around Yas Marina.

Following a tough start to 2023, the team will be hopeful that their hard work during the three days in Sakhir will have put them on much stronger footing to be on the pace and fighting at the front immediately.

Should they carry that late-season form into 2024, it’s an ominous prospect for their rivals, and with Maini and Bortoleto on board this time around, they look to have a very promising lineup that can compete for poles and wins right away.