Gabriel Bortoleto had no issues getting up to speed on Day 2 of post-season testing at Yas Marina Circuit, finishing as the fastest driver of the afternoon session.
After climbing out of the #14 Invicta Virtuosi Racing F2 car, the Brazilian was more than satisfied with his efforts. Despite a strong day, he kept a lid on any overexcitement at what he says is a very early stage of preparations for 2024.
“It was a positive day. We were competitive yesterday also, but we always had one less set than the others because we were saving tyres for today. Also, for myself, I was just building up my confidence in the car.
“In the afternoon, I did my long run and then performance runs with one medium and one soft. I ended up half a second faster, but I was also on the soft set whereas others were on the medium. When I was on the mediums, I was doing the same times as Oliver Bearman and guys like that who were running at the front this season and have won races. That was very strong.
“I don’t really care if we’re P1, P2 or whatever, because this is just testing. At the end of the day, I was saying the same things last year in Jerez. We never know who is driving what, who’s heavy with fuel, who’s driving with extra ballast.
“I know the position of my team and I’m happy with today, with the car we have and under the conditions we did it well. There are a lot of good drivers here, and it will be a very competitive season. I’m sure it will be very, very tight.”
Having recently visited the team’s Norfolk headquarters for a seat fit and to meet his new team, the reigning Formula 3 Champion has been exploring every avenue to ensure he is up to speed as quickly as possible ahead of his rookie F2 campaign.
Now part of the McLaren Driver Development Programme, Bortoleto has been hard at work since the F3 finale around Monza, eager to use all of the tools at his disposal to make a smooth transition from F3 Champion to F2 debutant.
“I feel like I’ve been making some big steps in my driving. Having to adapt to this car - it’s very different from F3.
“The F3 car is much lighter, much easier to drive in terms of long runs. Physically, you get much less tired than you do in F2. The F2 car is a much heavier car, so every snap you have in the car, you struggle to get it back.
“That’s why people say when you get a snap, sometimes you’re just left spinning. Driving-wise, it’s more powerful, it’s a turbo car so there’s some differences. But it’s still a car with four wheels, one steering wheel and one driver in the middle trying to make it go as fast as possible.”
The 18-inch Pirelli tyres will also present a challenge for all rookies next year, along with a brand-new car to learn as the Championship introduces the F2 2024.
Having sampled the tyres for two days around Yas Marina, Bortoleto was pleased with the grip he had at his disposal, adding that the third and final day will be interesting with almost all the teams roughly matched on available sets.
“F3 is very different in the races. I don’t know why exactly, maybe it’s something Pirelli have done with the medium compound tyres in F3, but the degradation was big in F3 and it’s not such a big level of deg in F2. You can really push which I think is really nice.
“Every driver always wants to be pushing on every lap and not have to save too much, F3 was much tougher in that respect. But it’s a totally different philosophy because they’re 18-inch tyres. In F3, you have one shot to go out and do the lap.
“In F2, you can do the laptime even on the third or fourth push, so you have time to build up in this car, which I think is cool.
“Tomorrow we might be on a similar programme to everyone else, maybe we have one set of medium tyres extra but apart from that, everyone has the same number of tyres now.”