Alpine Academy F3 Focus: Collet and Martins in; no room for David

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With Oscar Piastri, Christian Lundgaard and newly crowned F3 Asia champion Guanyu Zhou competing in F2, the time was ripe for the Alpine Academy to support a fresh crop of talent.  With a pair of French F4 champions in the form of Caio Collet and Victor Martins on the books, talent appears to be the operative word.  We take a brief look at Caio Collet and Victor Martins ahead of 2021. As well as assessing Alpine’s choice to drop 2020 Renault Driver Academy member, Hadrien David.

Alpine Academy F3: Caio Collet

Brazil has always been a fertile breeding ground for racing drivers. Caio Collet is the latest to ply his trade in Europe.  Beginning his kart racing career in 2009 aged 7, Collet would ultimately move to Europe following plenty of success at home.  Signing to Birel ART in 2016, he was also taken on by Nicolas Todt’s management scheme.

Collet began his single-seater career at the tail end of 2017, competing in two rounds of the winter F4 UAE series.  With six podiums from seven starts, it was a strong introduction.  2018 saw the now 16-year-old move into French F4.  He took the championship in fine form with a dominant drive in the final race.  The title also saw him snapped up by Renault who signed him to their Driver Academy.

Caio Collet Alpine Academy
Image: Groupe Renault

Signing to R-ace GP, Collet would spend the next two seasons honing his skills in the Formula Renault Eurocup and the winter Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand.  Collet finished 5th in 2019 and 2nd in 2020 in those Eurocup campaigns.  Following a post-season test at Jerez for Prema, MP Motorsport announced that Collet would race for them in 2021 in FIA F3.

Alpine Academy F3: Victor Martins

Joining Collet at MP Motorsport in FIA F3 this year will be fellow Alpine driver Victor Martins.  The French 19-year-old only started karting in 2014. Yet he won the CIK-FIA World Championship just two years later. Quite an astonishing feat.  No wonder then that Motorsport.com ranked him 2nd on their ones to watch list behind Logan Sargeant that year.

Following guest appearances in 2016, Martins would make his full-time debut in French F4 in 2017.  After a highly successful campaign, Martins was crowned junior champion and series vice-champion finishing just 4 points behind Arthur Rougier.  Martins and Rougier would both sign for Renault’s Driver Academy and both would move to Formula Renault Eurocup for 2018.

Victor Martins Alpine Academy
Image: Groupe Renault

Martins competed in both Formula Renault NEC and the Eurocup for 2018.  He won races in both championships and finished 5th in Eurocup with R-ace GP.  For 2019, Martins moved to MP Motorsport and finished 2nd in the championship.  A disagreement with Renault over moving to F3 for the next season led to the Academy dropping him.  ART Grand Prix subsequently signed Martins for the 2020 season and won the championship with 7 victories.

February 2021 saw Martins unveiled as an Alpine Academy driver and FIA F3 driver.

Formula Regional: Hadrien David

Two years younger than Collet, but on a very similar career path, is Frenchman Hadrien David.  David first tried karting aged 8 and was in official competitions from 2013 onwards.  After a typically glittering (for the drivers we feature on this site) karting career, Collet made the step up into cars in 2019, first competing in the winter F4 South East Asia series.  He would win 6 of the 8 races he contested and came 2nd in another.  Impressive even by our high standards.

David would go on to deliver an astonishing rookie campaign in French F4 winning his first race and another 6 to take the title.  At the time of writing, he is the youngest F4 champion in history, winning at the age of 15.  As with Collet, the Renault Driver Academy signed David as a reward for his championship victory.

Hadrien David Renault Academy
Image: Groupe Renault

In the post-season Formula Renault Eurocup test, David tested with both R-ace GP and MP Motorsport. MP signed him and he fought the 2020 season with them, claiming a podium at Imola on his way to a disappointing 10th place overall.

In February 2021, it was announced that David would be racing in the Formula Regional European Championship with R-ace GP.  Surprisingly though, with Renault unveiling their new-look Alpine Academy, Hadrien David did not feature.  If that was purely on the back of his relatively lacklustre Eurocup campaign then it could be that Alpine have acted in too much haste.

GP Grandstand Predictions:

All three of the drivers have shown plenty of talent and plenty of promise.  In our view, Martins should have been given the opportunity to race F3 in 2020 instead of three seasons in Eurocup.  Now he finally is in the category though, he must perform to show that Renault made the right choice in welcoming him back to the Alpine Academy.

Alpine Academy

Hadrien David is the curious one among the three for me.  He won the French F4 championship with aplomb on his debut year in single-seater racing but his subsequent Eurocup campaign was nothing like as special.  There’s no doubt that the F1 scouts (and GP Grandstand) will be following his season closely.  Sadly we cannot offer him an F1 seat should he does well though!

It’s doubtful that all three of these drivers will make it to F1. There just aren’t enough seats to go around.  If I were to rank them in order likelihood, it’s Collet, Martins, and then David.  However, if David has a 2019 style season and a team picks him up, it would be worth a cheeky punt on him making it first.

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