Casting his mind back to the best race of his career so far, Victor Martins not only had to outperform six of his closest title rivals but also his fiercest competitor – himself, in order to be crowned the 2022 Formula 3 Champion.
Entering the final race of the season in Monza, the ART Grand Prix driver knew what he had to do to bring it home, but his path to glory was far from plain sailing. Only six points ahead of his nearest rival, the Frenchman details how his learning from his struggles two rounds before and his steadfast grit and determination won him the ultimate prize.
“I remember almost everything that happened, even though when you are fighting for something big like the title in the final race you try to be in the moment and do things naturally. During the race, I had to control my emotions, control where I was and where the others were also. During the Safety Car and the Red Flag, I had a clear view of what happened and what my thoughts were at that moment. I also remember quite a lot of what I did for my preparation, how I was feeling and what was going through my mind.
“I’d learned a lot from Spa-Francorchamps. That was a weekend where I did not a lot of mistakes, but clearly one or two mistakes which cost me a lot in terms of points. Alpine and ART really pointed out the problem – what it was and where it was coming from, and I knew I just had to not think, just go for it and do things like I did normally in the car to drive the car fast without thinking and drive it naturally.
“I tried to bring that into Zandvoort first and then into Monza, and I felt that I had kind of an advantage to have faced that big problem in Spa earlier in the season so I could understand where I needed to be, which kind of mindset I needed to be in and the way I needed to approach the weekend. For sure, it was a good moment for me. It was bad in that moment, but it was good for the end of the season.
“Before the weekend, I just said to myself that there were seven of us fighting for the title, but in the end, I knew I was up against myself. I really tried to get this approach and if I did everything right, I was going to win the title. If not, I wasn’t going to take the title. It was not a matter of the others doing better than me, it was more me doing better than myself. So, I really tried to take this approach of going everything correctly and in the moment without thinking, and I knew if I was doing that, I was going to take the title. For sure, it’s a great experience to have been through that and it will bring positive things for the future and for this season.
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“There were a lot of stressful moments in the race, particularly at the start because you never know what the others will do and how they will manage the situation. When I remember how I felt, it was just in the moment, I wasn’t thinking. I’d prepared in the race the day before, I knew where I needed to go, what kind of attacks to make, where to do them in which corner, how I needed to approach Turn 1 on the first lap, so I knew everything I needed to do.
“In the moment, I was just not thinking, just doing things unconsciously and it paid off. I wanted to take it lap by lap without thinking, just being in control in the moment and that’s what I did. Of course, during the race I had some thoughts like ‘I’m good, I’m going to win that title’, but whenever I was thinking like that, I tried to put it to the side and stay focused. It was difficult, I was taking it lap after lap and I saw myself getting closer and closer to the title. I was P3 and I had a big gap behind, so I was just waiting and watching Maloney and Bearman fighting.
“Then the Safety Car came out and of course, I was like ‘oh that’s not a present for me, I will need to deal with another situation again’. But in the end, I said ‘in anyway, I will win the title. There is no way I’m going to lose it; I will give everything I have’. I was in the mindset that I couldn’t lose the title in that race, so everything that I had to face, I was going to face it 100%. I thought about the past and how I’d lost some other Championships, but this was positive, I think. I was just for me to stay focused and know what I had to change compared to the past.
“Then came the Red Flag, but that was out of the car, so it felt different. When I was in the car, I was in control of my emotions, my mindset and how I wanted to deal with the situation, but when I was out of the car with the Red Flag, I felt like I wasn’t in control anymore and I could lose everything by a decision from the Stewards. So, I started to be really, really angry and upset about everyone – about myself, the others and about everything.
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“I was just stressed because I felt that I had done the best race of my career in terms of controlling my emotions, the situation and how I managed the race. Actually, it was the best of my career and to feel that there was a possibility to lose the title with a race like that, it was impossible for me. I was going through everything, but for sure I was not controlling my emotions.
“I remember everyone was saying ‘Victor, you will win that one. Don’t worry, you did a perfect race’. It’s true, but in the end, it came down to a decision from the Stewards, so it was a difficult one but a good one for the future to get more experience.
“It was really, really special to win it like that. Of course, in the moment you don’t want to go through that kind of moment to take a title, but when I look at it now, I think it’s been good for me. It’s also been good for my experience, going through a difficult situation to deal with straightforward moments. Also, I remember some really nice and positive things that I’d done in that race.
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“I still believe that it was the best race of my career, but at the same time, it was the most difficult one. So, it gives me quite a bit of confidence because I managed to do it, I managed to take the title through that kind of moment. For sure, it’s a special one and a really important one for the future, for myself and everyone.
“If I had to do the race in Monza again, I would do exactly the same because I feel I couldn’t do anything differently in that moment because it was a matter of track limits and all those things. I will keep that approach for the future and would do everything the same because I think it was the right mindset and approach that I had to manage to take the title in the final race.”