How a WhatsApp message from Alonso put Bortoleto on course for the F3 title

Formula 3

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The latest FIA Formula 3 champion may not have a formal affiliation with a Formula 1 team, but Gabriel Bortoleto is a protege of a top grand prix star.

Bortoleto is part of the A14 Management stable run by Fernando Alonso. It has links with several F1 teams and manages drivers in Formula E and Formula 2. Therefore it would not be a surprise to see the 18-year-old Bortoleto testing in either F1 or FE within the next 12 months.

He claimed the F3 crown in his rookie season, emulating Oscar Piastri by doing so. “For sure I don’t realise how big this is yet,” Bortoleto admitted after clinching the title. “I think I will not realise for something like a week. But it’s a dream come true for me, especially in a rookie season, it’s very special.”

Remarkably, this was Bortoleto’s first championship title in racing cars. Previously he won the single-event Brazilian Open at two levels of karting in 2012 and 2014. His runner-up finish in the 2018 WSK Super Master Series for OK-Junior karts was his previous best showing over a whole season prior to this weekend.

Bortoleto clinched the F3 title in qualifying yesterday
Having come into the Monza season finale with a lead of 38 points and only 39 available, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Bortoleto would wrap up the F3 title. He clinched it on Friday, after Paul Aron and Pepe Marti both failed to win the two bonus points for pole position.

“Before this season I had some good results, but never a championship,” Bortoleto continued. “So for Trident to trust in myself and give me the seat this season and push to make me a champion, it was very impressive and something that I will always take with me for the rest of my life.

“I never thought in my mind that we would have won the championship in Monza. It’s amazing, a lot of adrenaline and I’m still recovering.”

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Despite the big advantage Bortoleto took into Monza, it was a season of consistency rather than dominance for the Brazilian. He did win the first two feature races of the year at Bahrain and in Melbourne, from second and first on the grid respectively, but did not take another victory in the six rounds that followed.

He began the season in style with victory in Bahrain
He went five races without a podium finish after his Melbourne win, ending his drought by finishing second in the Red Bull Ring feature race from third on the grid. In the next round at Silverstone he qualified fifth, which put him eighth on the reversed grid for the sprint race. Despite his lowly starting spot he finished second – the second time in 2023 he had gained six positions in a race – and grew his championship lead to a huge 44 points.

Another runner-up finish followed in the Hungaroring sprint race and he took his second fastest lap of the year on the way, to take his lead up to its biggest margin of 46 points. Although Bortoleto scored just six points across the next three races his margin at the top of the standings was only cut by eight as others failed to capitalise.

Keeping cool during that stint off the podium is something Bortoleto credits to his world champion manager. “Fernando is a Formula 1 legend,” he said. “He is not just my manager, but also an idol. Now having him as my manager and giving me some tips, especially before Bahrain and Melbourne, even Monaco, it was something very special to me.

“For sure he has a big part of what I’ve done this season because there was moments that I [was] leading the championship after Melbourne, I think, I won my second feature race in a row, I remember he sent me a voice message of almost 10 minutes on WhatsApp and he told me a lot of great stuff.

“But he kept in my mind that I couldn’t win all the races of the year. In the moment that I’d started to struggle – because at some point probably I would struggle in the season or not be winning – I needed to accept that and get the points that I needed.

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“That was my mindset the whole season because it came directly from him, and when a guy like Fernando tells you something I think you better listen. So, it was very special.”

This was Bortoleto’s fourth year in single-seater racing, having debuted in Formula 4 back in 2020. His karting career that included third places in the European and world championships for OK-Junior karts in 2018. His rivals in those competitions were the same drivers he fought against for the title in F3 this year.

Bortoleto won once in his single season in Italian F4 with Prema, then he stepped up to the Formula Regional European Championship with Alonso’s FA Racing team, run at that time by MP Motorsport. He scored once in his first 12 races, but took a second place and five other points finishes in the remaining eight races to climb to 15th in the standings.

He switched to the reigning champion team R-ace GP for 2022, and began the year by doing two Formula Regional Asian Championship rounds. A victory on his second start meant he came 14th in the championship despite missing more than half of the season.

On his return to FREC he took two wins, three other podiums and two poles to end up in a distant sixth in the points table as the season was dominated by his fellow sophomores. With six of his rivals stepping up to F3 alongside him for 2023, the expectations were that Bortoleto would be matching them but certainly not leaving them all in his wake as a rookie at the next level.

Having upped his game upon his arrival to the F1 support paddock, the key question for Bortoleto’s future will be whether he can repeat the feat if he steps up to Formula 2 for 2024.

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Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...
Ed Hardy
In 2019, Ed started working on Formula 1 writing articles during race weekends. Alongside that, he also built up experience in football working on...

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2 comments on “How a WhatsApp message from Alonso put Bortoleto on course for the F3 title”

  1. Sounds like he has the right approach, and at 18 he’s getting here quite quick too. Will be interesting to see how he continues from here, as it’d be nice to have another South-American in F1.

    Alonso’s point is a good one, and one that’s been made by many; minimizing the lows is crucial to a title campaign. There are numerous good examples of this, but Will Power’s 2022 Indycar title is a nice recent one. He won just one race all year, but strung together a lot of 3rd and 4th places along the way. Räikkönen’s 2003 F1 season is another one, only one race win but more podium places than anyone; and he missed out on the title by just three points in the end.

  2. Can’t think of a better guy to learn all the tricks of the trade from race prep to race craft from than Alonso. Alonso and Rosberg, who is one of the most intelligent drivers ever from a technical/engineering standpoint, would make an amazing manager pairing.

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