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The star-studded graduates of Italy's junior series powerhouse

With four decades of success behind it, 2023 marked an important anniversary for Prema Racing. Founded by Angelo Rosin in Vicenza, Italy, in 1983, it began with a foray into prototype racing before swiftly switching to single-seaters the following year. It was in 1990 when it would first taste title success, with Roberto Colciago’s Italian Formula 3 coronation proving the first of many championships to come.

Insight: The mindset that keeps a prolific F1 talent factory winning titles

With 39 drivers’ titles and 25 teams championships under its belt, Prema is undeniably one of junior series’ most successful outfits - and a byword for prestige in the paddock among drivers and teams alike. Having now competed in 13 series - a number which continued to grow last year with its F1 Academy entry – dozens of prominent names have raced for the team, including 1997 F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, Alpine driver Esteban Ocon and Toyota World Endurance Championship star Kamui Kobayashi.

Eight current F1 drivers competed with Prema at some point in their careers, many going on to win titles, and all point to its close-knit feel as a reason for its success, including Ferrari star Charles Leclerc - who sent a video message that was played at a star-studded gala in Venice last month mark the occasion.

Here's what some of those notable names had to say about their time with the team.

Jacques Villeneuve

Villeneuve credits his time at Prema as being a time of learning (Photo by: Sutton Images)

Prema years: 1989-1991
Series: Italian Formula 3

“My Prema journey started in 1988. I’d just got into racing and we just started testing for the first season in 1989 in Formula 3. These were my first experiences in motor racing. It was an amazing time, because I was 18 years old, learning Italian and discovering a whole new world. At the time, Angelo was also engineering the team. He was like a father figure to me and I learned a lot. My team-mates had experience, they were older than me as well, so it was really good life school. I saw Rene as a really small kid, and now he’s definitely a different person, running the team. So yes, over time we’ve always kept in touch.”

Roberto Colciago

Colciago has only positive memories of winning Prema's first title (Photo by: Prema Powerteam)

Prema year: 1990
Accolades: 1990 Italian Formula 3 champion

“My Prema story is wonderful, because I won the Italian title in 1990, so a long, long time ago. We had really a great year and in the end we won the championship. It was a fantastic team of fantastic people, I really enjoyed that year and learned a lot about the car. It’s a great thing to be the first champion for Prema, but I can see them really grow up in the years. Many, many drivers, a lot going into Formula 1. It’s a fantastic team with fantastic people.”

Ryan Briscoe

Briscoe remembers A1-Ring double was crucial in arresting a mini-slump on the way to winning 2003 Euro Series F3 title (Photo by: Andre Irlmeier / Motorsport Images)

Prema years: 2000-2003
Accolades: 2001 Italian Formula Renault champion; 2003 Formula 3 Euro Series champion

“It was the beginning of my racing career out of go-karts, as for so many drivers that come up through the ranks. End of 2000, I had my first races with Prema in Formula Renault. We did the Winter Series and I was part of the Toyota Drivers’ Academy. So a huge step for me in my career, never thought I could make it to race cars and Angelo and Grazia [Troncon, Angelo’s wife] were a huge part in teaching me so much.

“We won a lot of races together, so many great memories, and for a time that expanded to three, almost four years. I didn’t know I was the first double champion for Prema, but it’s great. So many great races that we had and we won two championships together, so unbelievable. So many great memories, so much good food. I remember Giorgio the cook.

“I remember so many unbelievable races as well. I think there was a pivotal point which I give Angelo so much credit for – in 2003 in the Euro Series, we started the year really strong and then a third of the way through the year we had a really difficult round at the Nurburgring and didn’t have a good result. I remember we spent two days at the race shop and Angelo was just grilling me, the engineers, everyone that we had to fix the problem.

“We changed everything on the race car, the geometry on the suspension, just poring over data. We went to the next round at the A1 Ring and dominated and won both races. It really came down to Angelo’s will to win and do whatever it takes and I’ve carried that my whole career.”

Kamui Kobayashi

A Toyota junior like Briscoe, Kobayashi put his name on the map with 2005 FR2.0 Eurocup title (Photo by: Sutton Images)

Prema years: 2004-2005
Accolades: 2005 Formula Renault Eurocup champion

“It was 20 years ago when my Prema story began. I was 16 or 17 when I first came to Italy, I’m currently 37. I worked with Prema for two years and I won the Formula Renault championship with them. At the time, the championship was really competitive, the team did a great job and I think our achievements made something change in the team’s history. I’m very proud to be a part of this team. Prema is still such a big team and such a good team and I’m really happy.”

Edoardo Mortara

Mortara got his start in single-seaters with Prema, and is now working with the squad again on Lamborghini's LMDh effort (Photo by: Edd Hartley)

Prema year: 2006
Series: Eurocup and Italian Formula Renault

“I started in formula racing with Prema in 2006. I remember switching to single-seaters after a long career in karting, and I had the chance to work with this team. We ended up [later] having a lot of fights against each other, but I will always remember my first season and they taught me so much. Seventeen years later, we are back working together on another project [the Lamborghini LMdh programme] and it feels pretty special. It’s a big pleasure for me to be here but also to say a big thank you to the entire Prema family. It’s been a pleasure to be a part of this team.”

Esteban Ocon

Ocon beat stiff opposition to win the 2014 F3 European title, including Verstappen, with Prema (Photo by: Motorsport Images)

Prema years: 2013-2014
Accolades: 2014 Formula 3 European champion

“My time with Prema started at the end of 2013, really, when I made the switch to Formula 3. I think that’s exactly the moment when my career switched to second gear. That’s when I met fantastic people, a fantastic family, people who I still see now and then and keep in contact with.

“Prema is a fantastic team, a team which will forever remain in my heart and they changed my career. Winning that Formula 3 title against Max [Verstappen], against Tom Blomqvist, against all these guys made a big difference. It was great at the time. I was 17. I remember eating a lot of pizza, doing some bad cooking on my side as well.

“It was the beginning of just being alone out there and trying to live the racing life and it taught me a lot of things working with these people, being close to the factory, being every day with the engineers. It was mega, because we succeeded in what we wanted to do. I have so many good memories, from winning the title in Imola to celebrating my birthday Prema-style is always special.”

Antonio Fuoco

Ferrari Hypercar ace Fuoco enjoyed three years with Prema, each in different categories, and relished its family atmosphere (Photo by: Motorsport Images)

Prema years: 2013-2014, 2017
Accolades: 2013 Formula Renault ALPS champion

“I started my career with Prema in Formula Renault in 2013, we won the first championship together and then I moved into Formula 3 with them. I think Prema is more than a team, it’s like a family. We stayed in contact and I have met in the paddock with Rene, Grazia, Angelo, Angelina [Rene’s wife]. It’s quite a special team and it’s nice to see so many people here tonight, so many drivers, so it’s super-good. Winning the championship back in 2013 was a fantastic experience and then even moving up to Formula 2 was good and I made it with Prema. I’m happy to be here tonight to share all these old moments with all of them – I’ve seen so many people, mechanics, engineers.”

Nick Cassidy

Opportunities in winning cars gives Cassidy fond memories of his time at Prema (Photo by: Motorsport Images)

Prema years: 2015-2016
Series: Formula 3 European Championship

“My Prema story is quite a nice one, unfortunately short – I was here a year and a half from 2015 to 2016 in Formula 3. I just had an amazing time and I was very, very fortunate. Looking around now, you see the history and what they’ve done since, it’s pretty incredible. I was pretty lucky with Prema that we were always in a competitive car. Every weekend, there was a chance to win. A lot of opportunity. So I always look back at it as something which made it possible for me to have a professional career in motorsport and for that I’m pretty grateful.”

Callum Ilott

Ilott believes his results in 2017 were underwhelming by Prema boss Rosin's high standards (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

Prema year: 2017
Series: Formula 3 European Championship

“I think it started on the plane on the way to an Abu Dhabi test in 2016. I was sat next to the big boss, Rene, and I think he was saying how stressed he was – bless him – and that’s how it began. I then competed in the Formula 3 European Championship and finished fourth, which I think was underwhelming for Rene, but that’s life! It was good, they brought me into the family, they treated me well, and it’s amazing to see the success that they’ve had and the growth they continue to have. You get treated as family once you’ve been a driver, it’s all part of the fun. I think sometimes Rene likes being beaten – it’s a bit of a statement when you do beat them!”

Robert Shwartzman

Shwartzman conquered FIA F3 title and welcomed the team's support during a difficult spell in his life (Photo by: Joe Portlock - Formula 1)

Prema years: 2018-2021
Accolades: 2019 FIA Formula 3 champion; 2021 FIA Formula 2 runner-up

“My Prema story started at the end of 2017. The first time I did anything with Prema was a Formula 3 test at Magny-Cours. It was a weird feeling, I knew Prema was one of the biggest teams and when you enter in a good team you know you need to show a good performance and do well, so there was quite a bit of pressure that day. From then on, we started working together from 2018 in F3.

“At the beginning, it was a bit of a struggle for me to get used to, but from the second half I found the balance and it was an amazing journey with Prema. I enjoyed it a lot, we did a very nice season in 2018, then we won in F3 in 2019. Both seasons in F2 were challenging, with COVID and for me personally as my father passed away, but Prema helped me a lot get back in shape and still perform.

“It was a lovely journey and I miss those days, it was a lot of fun. I always said the team is a family to me and even now, I’m not a Prema driver anymore but I’m very good friends with Rene and Angelina and the rest of the team. I have a very good relationship with them and seeing them is always lovely.”

Frederik Vesti

Vesti finished runner-up in F2 last season after spending two seasons at ART (Photo by: Formula Motorsport Ltd)

Prema years: 2019-2020, 2023
Accolades: 2019 Formula Regional European champion; 2023 FIA Formula 2 runner-up

“It started back in 2019 when I joined Prema in Formula Regional. It was kind of a year for me to prepare and start learning with the team to hopefully receive the Formula 3 seat the following year. I became the champion with 13 wins in my first season with Prema, which is just crazy memories for me.

“Then stepping up to F3 with Logan Sargeant and Oscar Piastri in 2020 is just a year I will never forget. I got three wins, I finished fourth in the championship and had a really strong year. Then obviously returning 2023, coming back to fight for the F2 championship with my engineer from FRegional and F3, Pedro [Matos]. So it’s been a really cool year, we didn’t win the championship but we came very close.

“When I left, I knew what I was leaving behind and it wasn’t easy for me to step into a new team, because Prema is just a different team. It’s the all-round really strong people helping me out, where in other teams I think that’s their biggest challenge. But that made it even better coming back to Prema, because I knew everything, I knew how it worked and what I needed to do. So coming back to Prema was very easy for me and felt like home within one day.”

Andrea Kimi Antonelli

Mercedes prodigy Antonelli has skipped F3 and makes the giant leap to F2 this season with Prema (Photo by: Dutch Photo Agency)

Prema years: 2021-present
Accolades: 2022 German/Italian Formula 4 champion; 2023 European/Middle East Formula Regional champion

“I joined Prema in 2021 for the last four races of the Italian Formula 4 championship, to get a taste of the car as I did one of the big steps, moving from go-karts to F4. I did those races to get a taste of how the races worked and then in 2022 I did my first full F4 season, I did the German and Italian championships and some of the UAE championship. We did some great results by winning both championships and I was really grateful for my first full year in cars.

“Then I did a step the year after, moving to Formula Regional – always with Prema. This year was a bit more difficult because I had an injury at the end of last year and missed winter testing, so I went to Formula Regional UAE without really testing the car. I was able to learn the car in the UAE championship, which I won, so I could arrive prepared for the European championship, and then I won that championship as well. Obviously another great year, really pleased with the result and with the work done with Prema.

“Next year is going to be a big step to F2 and I’m really looking forward to that. Again, being able to work with Prema is a great opportunity and I’m really glad for that. I have built a really good relationship with the team and I think it’s important as a driver to keep going with the same team. Knowing how strong they are in the category, I will have a good chance to do well, but I don’t want to set any expectations – I just want to enjoy the experience and try to do my best.”

Marta Garcia

Garcia won the inaugural F1 Academy title for Prema, continuing its illustrious history of success (Photo by: Prema Powerteam)

Prema years: 2023-present
Accolades: 2023 F1 Academy champion

“My Prema story started this year around February or March. I got a call from Rene asking me to come over, and I knew it was going to be exciting racing F1 Academy with them. It’s great to win first of all the F1 Academy championship, but also to do it with Prema, because it’s such a memorable team with a lot of history. It just feels great. At the end of the day, it’s the results which count, and Prema obviously have really good results in every junior single-seater category, so really happy to win the first F1 Academy championship with them.”

Prema's star-studded gala underlined the esteem the team is held in by its alumni (Photo by: Prema Powerteam)
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