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July 13, 2024
The Alonso protege emulating his mentor by stunning F3

Gabriel Bortoleto was yet to turn one year old when his mentor Fernando Alonso won his first world championship with Renault in 2005. But the Brazilian teenager has learned a lot from the Spaniard, having been taken under his wing as part of A14 Management last September.

Moving to Europe aged 11 to compete in karting, Bortoleto made his car racing debut in 2020, finishing fifth in Italian F4 with junior series stalwart Prema and scoring his maiden win at Mugello. He impressed enough to graduate to Formula Regional European Championship with Alonso’s eponymous team before moving to R-ace GP for 2022, finishing sixth with two wins.

Bortoleto is now driving for Trident in Formula 3 and has quickly made an impact. He leads the standings after winning the first two feature races of the season in Bahrain and Melbourne, despite never having driven at either circuit before. Gabriele Mini’s start procedure infringement which resulted in a time penalty lifted Bortoleto to the top spot in Bahrain, but he needed no assistance in Australia as he fended off race-long pressure from Gregoire Saucy to convert pole position.

The 18-year-old admits he was “a bit surprised” by the instant good results, but says hard work is the key to his success.

“Hard work, I would say is the main thing, there is not a secret,” he tells Autosport. “This is just the main thing that I can think of. We have been working since last September, as soon as the F3 season finished. We had already a deal with Trident and we did a test in Jerez which went very well, we were P1 as well.

“From that moment, I think my worst position in practice or testing was today [in free practice] in Monaco to be fair. I think all of this is hard work and a lot of preparation.

“I knew that we had the potential because I trust myself, and I know how much effort I put in. Trident showed the potential last year as well from winning the last three rounds of the championship and being runner-up in the drivers’ standings.

Bortoleto scored feature race wins at the opening two weekends of the F3 season, putting him in a commanding position in the championship

Photo by: Formula Motorsport Ltd

“So yes, I would say that I expected good results. I would not say that I expected two wins in a row but for sure some great results.”

Although Bortoleto had already signed his deal with Trident before Zane Maloney took three consecutive feature race wins at the end of last year, propelling him to finish second in the standings, he says it still gave him a “confidence boost” ahead of joining the Italian outfit.

He has settled in well, driving this year alongside Italian driver Leonardo Fornaroli and 2022 Euroformula Open champion Oliver Goethe, with Trident currently second in the teams’ standings behind Prema. Bortoleto says he feels “up to speed, every round that we are going into, every test, we are always competitive, so I feel that I’m very confident with the car already”.

“I’m in bed and not sure if I should go to the gym today, and then you remember that this guy doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone, and he’s still going every day to do that” Gabriel Bortoleto

“The way we work is something for me [that is] unbelievable because I’ve never seen an atmosphere inside the team like this – between the team-mates, between the engineers, everyone,” he adds. “Even in difficult moments, we are strong, and we keep pushing to solve every problem. I would say things are going very, very well.”

Bortoleto credits some of his success to his good friend and compatriot Felipe Drugovich, the 2022 F2 champion and now Aston Martin development driver. He says Drugovich has issued some helpful advice in his rookie season, including during a difficult Monaco weekend with mixed conditions.

Naming Drugovich as “one of my best friends,” Bortoleto says he thinks it’s “something great, to have friends that are good, and that have the experience to teach you something and he’s one of my friends that taught me the most in this sport”.

“As my biggest inspiration today, I would say Fernando because I work very close to him nowadays, Bortoleto continues. “We do a lot of things together in the simulator, or even in the race weekend, we’re always getting the contact and talking to each other.”

Bortoleto highlights Drugovich as a helpful source of advice, and has also benefitted from collaboration with Alonso

Bortoleto highlights Drugovich as a helpful source of advice, and has also benefitted from collaboration with Alonso

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Of course, given his nationality, Bortoleto cites Ayrton Senna as an inspiration, but the biggest impact has come from Alonso himself.

“Before I didn’t work with him, I knew that he was a legend of Formula 1 because he was always very good. But I didn’t know how much effort he puts into that,” he says. “At the end of the day, he’s already 41. It’s not easy to keep in this sport this long, and with this physical shape, and also in this performance that he is keeping on track.

“These F1 cars are amazingly fast so you need to also have the reflexes, and to have all this you need to keep practising. Fernando I think is one of the most dedicated drivers I’ve ever seen in my life, and that’s what also keeps me motivated and pushing every day when I wake up.

“I’m in bed and not sure if I should go to the gym today, and then you remember that this guy doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone, and he’s still going every day to do that. So you say look, I need to one day become one per cent of what this guy is, so I need to push, I need to do my best.”

With five rounds remaining, Bortoleto leads the championship by 24-points from fellow Alonso protege Pepe Marti (Campos), and says his success this year has “made me feel alive again because I think this was my best result for a while, even if I won races last season and the season before”.

He continues: “Winning in your F3 debut and also in the second race in a row, I think this shows to yourself that everything that you are doing, it’s paying off, and everything that you pass through during the years, even if it was not easy to not be first in the championship and stuff. It’s paying off now, all this effort.”

Bortoleto is already looking to the future and hopes success this season will bring an F2 promotion for 2024. Beyond that, does he believe he will be the next Brazilian F1 driver?  “I hope so. That’s my plan.”

Bortoleto takes inspiration from Alonso's dedication and hopes it will help propel him to the top of the motorsport pyramid

Bortoleto takes inspiration from Alonso’s dedication and hopes it will help propel him to the top of the motorsport pyramid

Photo by: Formula Motorsport Ltd

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