It has been a tough opening trio of Formula 2 rounds for Victor Martins as obvious speed haven’t produced the corresponding results. The Frenchman has qualified inside the top three in every round so far, including a scorching pole in Jeddah, but lies 12th in the Drivers’ Championship on 17 points.

Following Qualifying in Baku, the ART Grand Prix driver will line up in eighth for the Feature Race but has another top three start, this time for the Sprint. Though his third-place grid position for Saturday’s race brings with it great opportunities, it was a step backward for Martins. He reflected afterwards that he was never quite able to replicate the same speed from the previous three weekends in Qualifying.

“It was a messy session for sure. It was the first Qualifying for me in Baku, so I was discovering everything for the first time. Starting with my first push, I had to abort it because of the chaos in front in Turn 1, so obviously compared to the others, I couldn't actually push in sector one and two, to feel a bit where the car was, how the feedback matched up to the data.

READ MORE: Théo Pourchaire handed post-Qualifying penalty

“I started a bit on the backfoot and that set off some alarms, to say that maybe this Quali is not going to be that easy like Jeddah, where I was just building up with every lap I did in terms of confidence, and then do pole by seven-tenths. This Quali was more recovery mode - try to accept and manage that I would not be P1.

“I did some push laps, it was okay, I did a few mistakes and then I had I had a few issues on the second run, which was not ideal for sure because I was about to do a really good lap with a time around the top three. The mindset and the confidence would have been a lot different if I got that lap, but then because I couldn't finish it off, I was 16th with no lap.

default image

“In the end, you go into the last push with I wouldn't say pressure, but kind of a mindset where you just want to recover and manage and get into the top 10. I was frustrated and disappointed but thinking on it overnight, I'm happy with P8.”

Though the Frenchman wasn’t able to fight for pole, he was in a positive mood, nonetheless. With a nights sleep and a chance to regroup for the Sprint, Martins believes that being in the hunt is more important at this stage of the season than leading the field away at lights out.

“I can say that all of the weekends from the beginning of the season, I was really strong in Qualifying and then I was becoming worse and worse in the races. Maybe it's the other way around this weekend. Maybe I will be stronger and stronger throughout this weekend, and that's how I see it. We will see at the end of the weekend.

READ MORE: Dorsman: MP Motorsport betting on caution ahead of inevitable Baku curveballs

“It wasn’t like in Bahrain, Jeddah or Melbourne, but it was, on the performance side every time from the first push was good, I was feeling good with the track. Maybe here it's more - it doesn't forgive you as much as Melbourne and Jeddah. There are some parts of the track where if you lock-up, you're in the wall or you lose the car. So there is less space and less room for mistakes here. So I maybe put a bit less in than I could in Jeddah or Melbourne or Bahrain, but in the end I got a good feeling straight away and the race for sure will different.

“It will be hard, difficult to overtake, to defend because the mistakes come. Watching the previous year's races, it's messy and entertaining here. So we need to keep calm and to be patient.”

default image

Acknowledging that the start of 2023 has been a mixed affair, Martins was focused on maximising the chances as they arrive. The unforgiving Baku City Circuit punish mistakes and open the door for those that keep out of trouble. The ART driver says patience and calmness will prove key for the remainder of the weekend.

It’s a key point for the moment and for the whole season, obviously, but for now especially. And it's also why I'm happy with P8. It means I can focus on something else. Before, maybe I was too focused on the speed and on the performance side and less on the races and how to approach them, which mindset I need to be in and how calm and patient I need to be. Maybe with P8, it can remove a bit of expectation now because it doesn't mean I can win every race because the speed was in the end not there the pole.

“So I’ll just go quite relaxed in the races with a mindset of trying to be in the moment, in communication with the team and trying to be calm and get the opportunities that come ahead of me. I will be patient, I want to get the points first because starting P3 today is a good opportunity to score points and then tomorrow, P8 in Baku is another big chance because I can recover. I have no pressure and we'll just be in a moment and enjoy the rest.”