Three out of a possible four podium finishes in Barcelona is a healthy return for ART Grand Prix. While neither Théo Pourchaire nor teammate Victor Martins stood atop the podium, the French duo collected vital points across the entirety of the weekend.

For Pourchaire, his Sprint Race podium was his fifth of the season already, two better than at the same stage last year. For Martins, back-to-back third-place finishes arrested a patch of rough form, as he delivered mature drives to the podium in both the Sprint and Feature Races.

It means ART Grand Prix has kept PREMA Racing in their sights in the Teams’ Standings, chasing down the Italian outfit from second on 144 points. For Team Principal Sébastien Philippe, it was a positive weekend.

“The beginning of the weekend was a bit tricky because Victor couldn't do a single lap in Free Practice. This meant that we had only one car to collect the info in FP, so it was a bit tricky for us.

“Qualifying was quite close between all the cars. It wasn’t a huge gap to pole, but it was a gap big enough to not be able to qualify better than P5 and P7, so this was not great, but we were still happy to have Victor in P7 after not being able to do a lap in FP. We were really happy about the Sprint Race results considering our starting P4 and P9. Considering the conditions, the drivers did a very good job putting both cars on the podium.

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“Today, we did both strategies with Théo starting on options and Victor on primes. I think both strategies were going well, and it was a nice result for Victor. Unfortunately for Théo, it was a bit messy with the traffic in the middle point of the race. I think we could have done P3 and P4. Unfortunately, it didn't work for Théo, but I think the performance of the top eight was quite close to each other, so it was very important to put everything together. We struggled a bit but overall, it was a good weekend for us, quite consistent with both cars in the points in each race.”

2023 has been an up and down season for ART. Undoubtedly one of the quickest so far this season, the results haven’t always reflected the true pace of either driver.

READ MORE: FEATURE RACE: Bearman in control in Barcelona for third win of 2023

Martins’ double podium has moved him into the top 10 of the Drivers’ Championship, while Pourchaire keeps Frederik Vesti in close proximity, now 11 points behind the Dane in the fight for first place.

Philippe says Barcelona represented a tough challenge for the team as a whole but that made scoring points all the more satisfying with how some races have gone earlier in the year.

“There have been points lost because of team mistakes, drivers mistakes, by mistakes sometimes from other drivers, so it was it was cool this weekend to be able to put it all together. For sure we have learned from the beginning of the season about mistakes. So we’ll try to continue on this way but with more performance next time hopefully.

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“I think Victor has been very impressive in terms of performance. I think he has been always really very good, but he’s been making too many mistakes, probably because he wanted to push a bit too much.

“Sometimes we’ve had very small mistakes, but the price has been huge. For Victor, it has always been always been a bigger cost each time, so I think he’s learned from it, but I'm really impressed about his performance and the feeling he has in the car. It's just a matter of finishing races and I hope it’s the first Round of many where we’re ending in a good way.”

Focusing in on Pourchaire and his Championship fight with Vesti, the ART team boss has noticed a raising of performance levels from his driver versus 2022.

HIGHLIGHTS: Bearman makes it three in a row for PREMA with Barcelona Feature win

Barcelona marked just the second time all season in which Pourchaire hasn’t appeared on the Feature Race podium as he looks to make consistency the hallmark of his season. It’s an approach that Philippe says reverberates through the team as they look to fight for a Championship that has so far remained just outside of their grasp.

“Everybody's improving, always. Théo has more maturity this year. We’ve been working together for a long time now. I think he just improved in all aspects. The relationship with us is getting stronger and stronger because we are used to working together. So I think it's not just one thing that he’s improved as you need to improve everything, in the driving, efficiency on the strategy and the feeling in the car. He’s just getting better everywhere.”

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Turning his attentions to the Championship fight and Round 8 of the campaign, Philippe says that ART will be fighting to reel PREMA in. For ART, maximising their true performance will go a long way in helping the French team strike back in the Teams’ Standings as they target their first F2 Teams’ title.

“First of all, there are still seven Rounds to go, so we are quite far from the end. I think the performance is there, we have been losing a lot of points since the beginning of the season so I’m glad that this weekend, even if we probably didn’t have the best performance, we left with decent points for the team.

“I think we have everything to fight them. It will be a tough battle for sure, but as I said, there is still seven Rounds remaining and a lot of points. It's very important to score in each race and I'm sure we are capable of doing that, but it will be close.

“We all know that FP is only 45 minutes, Qualifying is only one or two push laps, it's just a matter of putting all together, but I think we have a package which is good. We need to focus on putting it all together and if we do, there is no reason why we shouldn't be up there.”