It's the one that often means the most and Calan Williams certainly hasn’t forgotten his maiden trip to the podium last season.
Casting his mind back to the first race of Formula 3’s trip to Le Castellet, the Trident driver recalled the key moments and feeling behind his first piece of silverware in the Championship.
“It was the second round of the year, and I had a subpar round in Barcelona, so I knew what I was capable of but I just wasn’t able to show it at the previous round. Coming into the weekend, everything was the same, but I really just wanted to show what I could do after the first round not going so well. So, I had that bit of extra motivation as well.
“Before the actual race when I knew I was starting on reverse grid pole, I was a little bit nervous, but actually nothing more than usual which was a surprise for me. Overall, my feeling going into the race was that I knew I had a great chance of scoring a really good result. I wasn’t putting a huge amount of pressure on myself either.
“The start off the line was very good because starting on pole there is a bit tricky because you have the inside line for Turn 1. However, the grid spot is not exactly on the racing line because the racing line goes from left to right on the straight. I think once you get to the front of the grid, it’s actually more on the right-hand side.
“Overall, the actual start was fine, so maybe the track was a bit cleaner than usual. I got off the line quite well and was leading for the first seven or eight laps before I lost the position. Even then, for the whole race I was fighting at the front, and it was going really well.
“To be honest, I think it was actually one of the best races of last year from a spectator point of view because it wasn’t one of those races where you just start at the front and finish at the front. It was a really intense race, you can see – I think the guys who were first and second ahead of me started sixth and 10th. It was a real battle of a race, and it must have been one of the races where it was less advantageous to start on pole because of how much overtaking there was.
“When you’re in for a good result, you just want the race to finish as soon as possible. I think if you ask any driver who’s leading a race, they’ll all say the same thing – they just want the race to end. Towards the end of the race, I knew that if I kept it clean and didn’t make any mistakes, then I’d have a great chance to finish where I was on the podium. My goal was just to keep it clean and finish the race well, which in the end is exactly what I did.
“It was really good to get the podium, especially after such a tough round before in Barcelona because we were very quick all throughout pre-season testing. In Barcelona, I had very good race pace, but I didn’t qualify well, so I think in the first two races I managed to fight from like 21st to 11th. I knew the potential was there, I just hadn’t had the opportunity to show it, so to get a podium at the first race of the next round was really special. It was a confirmation almost of the hard work we’d been putting in.
“I gained a bit of confidence from it because it’s one thing to be very fast in testing, but then to actually get the result on track is another thing. When I reviewed the race with the team, there were definitely some opportunities where I could have defended better and got an even better result, I could have won the race or finished second.
“One thing I would do differently is to adapt my racecraft a bit and I think that’s something that’s come a long way in the past year. If I redid that race now, I think I would be in contention to win, purely due to my development since then. It’s just something that’s continued to improve as I’ve gained experience.”