New Italian F3 champion Mirko Bortolotti started the year not knowing whether his deal to race in the series would come to fruition, but ended it by impressing none other than F1 constructors' champion Ferrari after landing a test drive as reward for taking the crown.

The Lucidi Motors driver admitted that he had tried hard not to even think about the possibility of sampling F1 power until the title was in the bag, so uncertain was he of chasing down the early pacesetters in the F3 standings, but now he is considering his options for 2009 after breaking the lap record at Fiorano at the wheel of one of the Scuderia's F2008 machines.

"This year, my season seemed destined not to start until a few days before the first race, but fortunately we managed to find sponsors at the very last minute," he revealed, "The gap to [Edoardo] Piscopo was wide at the beginning but, thanks to the hard work done with the team, in a few weeks we closed it. I was always confident of my potential and of being able to fight for the title, but I never took it for granted due to the level of my opponents.

"After the victory, and the announcement of the tests with Ferrari, I started to think only about getting ready for that in the best possible way. That is why I was pretty confident I could have done something good at Fiorano - even if I would have never thought about the track record. I still have not defined my programmes for 2009, but my objective is to exploit a new series with all the experience I have gained during the last two years in Italian F3."

Bortolotti timed his title triumph just right, building on a tough 2007 campaign to succeed just as the F1 opportunity was announced for the top three finishers in the standings, and he admitted that a step up in opposition and the responsibility of leading an already-successful team only served to spur him on.

"The Italian championship is a very competitive one and winning is not easy," he pointed out, "In 2007, I had some chances to get the title, but I was not lucky at that time. This year, the technical level got higher and the championship allowed me to improve from that point of view.

"Responsibility is heavy and you feel the pressure, but this is something that did not concern me - indeed, it gave me further motivation instead. The team never favoured anyone, they always gave the three drivers same materials with the obvious exception of specific set-up adjustments. My objective, victory, fitted with that of the team and this made all the work easier."

While he explores opportunities at a higher level for 2009, Bortolotti also expects Italian F3 to take another step forward, with the Ferrari prize drive likely to make the series a more viable option to those who may not be able to attain places in the European or British series.

"During the last two years, the growth has been sensible and Italian F3 is nowadays one of the most valid and demanding series out there," he stressed, "New teams and drivers will increase the level of the competition further, and whoever emerges [as champion] will presumably have what it takes to do well in higher series too."

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