Alpine Academy driver Victor Martins got his first taste of Formula 1 machinery on Monday 9 May in his debut Young Drivers Test with BWT Alpine F1 Team. We caught up with him last week as he prepared for his drive in the race winning A521 at the iconic Autodromo Nazionale Monza.
How are you feeling in the lead-up to your first F1 test?
I’m excited, for sure. Formula 1 has always been the dream I had but now it is more like a goal. This will be the first time I will get to drive a Formula 1 car and feel what it is like and getting to do it with Alpine is really special. I have been working with the team for six years and I’ve also been waiting for the chance to test an F1 car, so I am going to enjoy every second. Right now, I’m enjoying the preparation – having my seat fit and doing some simulator work ahead of the test to maximise the time I will get on track – I’m loving all of it.
Have you done any specific physical training to prepare for your test?
I’m confident that I am fully prepared. I always said to myself that I needed to be ready so that if one day Alpine came to me and said “You’re driving an F1 car” I would be ready – and I am. I already do a lot on the physical side to be ready if one day the opportunity came so I haven’t changed anything, to be honest. I just followed the process and did the work that I have done for years to prepare myself.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge for you?
To enjoy it as much as possible. When it is your first time there is a lot of pressure, you want to show the team that you are good enough, but you also need to put that aside and enjoy the moment a little. I will say the biggest challenge is to just be in the moment and enjoy my first time in an f1 car. Working with so many people will also be different from what I am used to, but everything comes down to just taking pleasure in doing what I know how to do and implementing everything that I have learned in the lower categories.
What will your main focus be as a driver throughout the day?
To maximise the track time and get a good feeling in the car. Get as many laps in as possible and learn as much as possible about how the team is working. Sometimes you can be quick but not comfortable, so the focus and aim on my side is to feel good in the car. I know that if I am comfortable the speed and results will be there. Then, as I said, to enjoy the moment and work as much as possible to reflect on the test and know that I maximised the day I had and learned everything I could.
What are you doing to prepare yourself mentally to ensure you are ready?
It is a bit like the physical side. I have been working on that for more than five or six years, almost since I was in karting. Mentally I would say that I am prepared for the challenge. It’s kind of a challenge – it’s not an assessment but in the end, Alpine is giving me the chance to show that I’m good enough. I know that, and for sure mentally it will be a big thing to manage, but it will not be more difficult than grabbing the title in Formula 3. Although the pressure is not the same, I’m fully ready.
What has the support from Alpine been like in the process of preparing for the test?
It has been great. I have already done a lot of work in the sim in general, so I know it well enough to be able to maximise the prep for the test, I have had some engineering classes with the team and I have seen the engineers a lot to help prepare. We have gone through the whole system and the buttons I need to know to change the car and all the different things that can give you better feedback or a better fitting for the team. Alpine has been supporting me on both the mental and physical side through my place in the Academy. They have helped me manage the season in Formula 3 and Formula 2, so I am feeling ready, and I have all the support that I was expecting.
Walk us through how the seat fit went…
The seat fit went pretty smoothly. There is a lot of people taking care of you and they have a lot of experience, so they know how to put you in and guide you through what is key for a good seat fit. It was smooth and I felt pretty good in the seat straight away. You adjust a few details like the belts and where you want the steering to be but obviously the seat fit is stationary, you’re not driving so for sure when I drive for the first time, I will discover a few changes we need to make. Now I am just excited to actually jump in the car for the first time.
How did you find your simulator prep this afternoon?
It was good preparation. It is the kind of prep that is fully needed when you have one day in a Formula 1 car that you aren’t familiar with. To be able to maximise the track time and get the maximum experience and learning, it is always good to be fully prepared. We went through all the procedures, the run plan, and the things that I need to know about the steering wheel and how the team works. We went over how to manage a run with the system in the car, the things I need to change, and all the buttons which are the same in the simulator as in the actual car. It is really important to go through it before actually driving on the track for real. On the driving side, it is really nice for me to be prepared. Even though I have experience driving in the simulator with the Formula 1 spec, when I prepared this time ahead of Monza we analysed where I could do better, and where I could change the approach in certain corners because I am not used to a Formula 1 car so on the driving side there will be a few changes compared to Formula 2. I feel more comfortable in the A521 after the prep than if I hadn’t done it, so it is essential to help me maximise the test day on Monday.
Having completed his test this week, Victor now looks ahead to the start of a European triple header with Round 5 of FIA Formula 2 in Imola (May 18-20).