Victor Martins rebounded from limited Practice to achieve P7 in Qualifying, keeping himself in contention for both the Sprint and Feature Races in Barcelona.

A spin during the opening session of the weekend before he could build up any confidence with push laps meant the ART Grand Prix driver headed into Qualifying on the back foot.

Remaining within touching distance of the podium in the Sprint and Feature Races then is hardly a bad result, but there was time left on the table. Without the prior knowledge from Practice, extracting the maximum was a difficult task.

“I would say it was not an easy session because of Free Practice, I did a mistake on my first push and then I stalled so I couldn't restart the car to continue Practice and getting some data along with some good feeling for myself, some confidence for Qualifying.

“Track time is the most important thing in Formula 2, so having not done any laps in Practice, even though I know the track having done testing a month ago, it's not the same coming from Monaco to Barcelona. There are things on the car and in yourself that you need to change. So I started Qualifying with a different approach and a different mindset, which was not a good one for pole but instead to be up there in the in the classification. When I completed my first run, I was almost last, with a big gap on the timing to gain on the second run.

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“I had a good talk with my engineer, then I did a big step forward compared to where I was before, but then some were on a different strategy and in the end, it's P7, only three or four-tenths from pole. I was 1.7s off in the first round, so coming down to that and P7 - I think I need to be satisfied with that after what happened during the day, not happy but satisfied. I think that's a good starting point to improve during the weekend, let's go from there. We can score some good points for the whole weekend.”

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Reflecting on the session, Martins believes that the missed track time in Free Practice cost him across the entirety of the lap rather than any specific areas.

Along with his lack of track time, the changing conditions also presented an entirely different prospect in Qualifying to the one Martins had experienced in Practice and particularly in-season testing, the only other time he has sampled the changed layout in the final sector.

“I think I had to improve everywhere. When you're that far in terms of the gap from the best lap, I think it's everywhere. It's confidence, firstly in the car, and experience. Honestly, I think I didn't do these last two corners for more than a month. Formula 1 drove on the track, so the track was much cleaner and much faster, and you have done zero laps. The gain you need to do is everywhere, braking points, the speed in the corners and the confidence. That is 100% the key when you are in that fast of a car, I think.”

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Looking ahead to his chances in the Sprint and Feature Races, Martins will be going from P4 on the grid on Saturday, well within range of the lead. While victory would certainly be nice, the Frenchman is approaching things in a more pragmatic fashion, hoping to gain as much information for the Feature as possible.

What might help his cause is previous experience around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Martins took the lead of the Formula 3 Feature Race in the run down to Turn 1 in 2022, sweeping into the lead after the long run down to the first corner. Replicating that start might not be much of an issue for him, with race starts a strength of his this season.

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“I think I’ve done good starts from the beginning of the season. Only the launch off the line in Monaco wasn't ideal. But honestly the average overall in this season has been quite good. So I'm confident that we can do a good one and get some opportunities into Turn 1, but let's see. We all know that it's difficult to overtake here, but the first thing is to bring the car home, get some good data from Lap 1 to the end for the Feature Race and understand what the improvement to do for Sunday will be.

“So on my side and also on the on the car setup, I will say I am really focused to do a mega start for sure and get some opportunities if I if I have some. Then I think it will be difficult to overtake but maybe managing better tyres tires will bring some opportunities in the end.

“From now on, I think we will have some good points in the end but starting tomorrow, it will be a good opportunity to score points and then P7 for the Feature, we will have good strategy, good driving throughout and maybe we can do something from there, but no expectations, just fully committed and with a lot of work, I think we’ll be there.”