The 2023 campaign was a special one for ART Grand Prix as, following a season-long battle with PREMA Racing, the French squad was able to capture their maiden Formula 2 Teams’ Championship.
Along with that, they helped Théo Pourchaire win the Drivers’ title – the third in ART’s F2 history following George Russell and Nyck de Vries triumphing in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
But that means they enter the 2024 season with a target on their back, with all 10 rival teams vying to take their place at the top. This is something that, as they prepare for the year ahead back at their factory in France, they have experienced in Formula 2 yet.
In preparation for this, ART have armed themselves with a line-up featuring 2023’s top rookie Victor Martins, and last year’s runner-up in Formula 3, Zak O’Sullivan. But which qualities do they have to help the team defend their titles?
On one side of the garage ART have Martins, who produced a stellar debut season in Formula 2, with 150 points he accumulated across the year enough to see him finish fifth in the Standings.
The Alpine Academy Driver was extremely competitive throughout the year, tying Pourchaire and Frederik Vesti, who finished second in the Championship, for the most podiums with 10 – which includes his impressive victory in the Silverstone Feature Race.
In addition to that, he tied with fellow newcomer Oliver Bearman for the most pole positions with three and was the leader in the club house when it came to starting on the front row, doing so on seven occasions.
But despite his impressive pace and performances, Martins’ title challenge never quite gathered enough steam as a few unfortunate incidents, especially in the early part of the season, put him on the back foot.
In the opening Feature Race of the year in Bahrain, starting on the front row, he collided with Richard Verschoor on the first lap and retired. The next Sunday event in Jeddah, Martins spun out of the race while battling Vesti for what was the net race lead.
But in a Championship where the field is always tight, these sorts of incidents can happen, and Martins will enter 2024 encouraged by the speed he was able to consistently display across all 13 rounds of racing as a rookie.
He will also know that he has previous for putting together championship winning seasons, having won the Formula 3 title just two years ago. So, he knows that if he can build on the experience gained from last year, paired with his and the team’s pace, a sustained title challenge should be the target.
In the other car next to Martins is O’Sullivan who steps up to F2 after an impressive 2023 season in Formula 3, where, as previously mentioned, he finished second in the Championship.
The Williams Driver Academy prospect’s four wins last year were the most in the field, with his five podiums second only to Champion Gabriel Bortoleto. He also scored one pole position in Budapest, which he converted into a Feature Race victory.
Unfortunately, like Martins, he also could never quite launch an assault on the title as that victory in Budapest was sandwiched in between six events where he did not score points.
This dip in results ultimately meant a late bid for the title was not possible, but O’Sullivan should take plenty of positives from what he was able to achieve last year.
Additionally, he can also draw on his performances in previous categories with the Briton winning the GB3 Championship in 2021, after finishing as the runner-up previously in the Ginetta Junior and British F4 competitions.
He will be hoping to replicate that sort of success in Formula 2. That is something ART’s Team Principal Sébastien Philippe believes could be possible for O’Sullivan, even as a rookie, if he can adapt to the new category swiftly.