After the impressive first round of FRAC at Yas Marina, this weekend saw action move to the Dubai Autodrome for round two of the FIA winter series. The theme of competitive, wheel-to-wheel racing continued as we saw numerous battles. With the championship lead changing hands multiple times over the course of the weekend, here are five points of interest to take away from the results of Round 2.
By Tyler Foster
Hadrien David dominates at Dubai
Frenchman Hadrien David became the first driver of the series to win two races. The 17-year-old came into FRAC off the back of a strong 2021, finishing as runner-up in FRECA. However, the 3Y by R-ace GP driver struggled to convert pace into points in round one, with two retirements and a ninth-place finish being the highlight of his opening weekend.
David started much stronger this time though, managing second quickest in first qualifying and following it up with a pole position in second qualifying. In the first race, David got away well and battled with pole sitter Sebastian Montoya for the lead. After some aggressive defending by the Colombian, Hadrien David won the contest and sailed off into the distance, eventually seeing the chequered flag first under the safety car.
After another strong performance in race two, moving from tenth to fourth, he looked to convert his pole from second qualifying on Friday. Throughout its entirety, the lead was contested between Hadrien David and fellow front-row starter Pepe Martí. The Spaniard took the lead from David at the first corner but lost it later on the first lap. The pair endured a fight that lasted until the last lap and while the pressure was constant from Martí, Hadrien David successfully held on to manage his second victory of the weekend. Despite now being second in the championship, he will not continue in FRAC for the rest of the series as he only planned to race in the first two rounds. Either way, the Frenchman will certainly be at the front of discussions to compete in Formula 3 this year, with his current plans for the rest of 2022 being currently unknown.
Leclerc leads the championship
After two rounds, only one driver has managed to finish in the points in all six races. That is your new championship leader, Arthur Leclerc. Perhaps the most well-known driver competing in FRAC this year, the Prema F3 race-winner was considered the favourite to win the drivers’ championship coming into FRAC with a number of his title rivals not competing in every round.
After two podiums in the first round, he already came to Dubai as one of the main title contenders. However, by his own standards Leclerc didn’t have the best of qualifying sessions: finishing ninth and seventh. He finished where he started in race one and subsequently was on the front row for the reverse grid race two. He took the lead from the start and led the rest of the race to become the fifth different race winner in five races.
Finally, Leclerc once again finished where he started; seventh. Despite not having the best weekend compared to some of his competitors, the Monegasque driver now leads the championship by 9 points going into round three next weekend. He certainly remains the favourite even at this early point in the series.
After six races we have had five different race-winners. Three different teams have got pole position in qualifying. We have already had ten different drivers on the podium. These all point towards us having what is clearly a super-competitive championship this year in FRAC.
From round two though, there have been three drivers that caught our eye and consolidated decent starts from the first weekend: Isack Hadjar, Pepe Martí and Dino Beganovic. All three drivers are in very different situations and are racing for different teams. Hadjar is one of the most accomplished on the grid, Martí is one of the least experienced at only 16-years-old finishing Spanish F4 last year, meanwhile Dino Beganovic is seemingly an underachiever as an FDA member only finishing thirteenth in FRECA last year.
Despite these differences, they all had extremely strong weekends in round two. Hadjar achieved two further podiums to add to the one he managed in round one; he is now third in the Championship and will compete all five rounds. Martí scored two second-placed finishes and now sits fifth in the standings. Beganovic meanwhile is slowly getting into a groove of consistency with two fifth places and a podium to move him up to seventh in the standings. All three drivers may be outsiders for the championship and are certainly worth keeping an eye on. Both Hadjar and Martí will be competing in Formula 3 this year.
Gabriele Mini’s mixed weekend
The driver leading the championship after the first round was Hitech GP’s young Italian Gabriele Mini. However, his second and final weekend in this year’s FRAC has been less eventful and full of contrasting results.
Mini managed eighth in first qualifying but improved to third for the second session. The opening two races of the weekend saw big disappointments with neither being a points’ finish. He retired in race one and had to start from the back in the second race. Even though he had struggled up to then, he was starting third in the final race. This opportunity was not fully capitalised however as he fell to fifth early on. Following an overtake on Jak Crawford, Mini showed superb defensive capabilities in the remaining laps to hold on against the advances of an aggressive Crawford and Beganovic.
He held on to fourth and in doing so saved some face from an otherwise disappointing weekend. Unfortunately, that is the last we will see of the mercurial Italian as he returns to Europe to focus on his main campaign for this year. The 16-year-old will return to FRECA for this year with ART GP and is one of the pre-season contenders for the title.
Teams’ championship heats up
Despite Mumbai Falcons showing their impressive pace all weekend long throughout round one, their early championship lead has been reduced with both Hitech GP and 3Y by R-ace GP being hot on their tail. After round two, the Falcons are only in front by five points However, with Hitech losing Gabriele Mini they will have to focus on Frenchman Isack Hadjar’s talent if they want to win the teams’ championship. Meanwhile 3Y by R-ace GP perhaps have the better chance of upsetting the Indian team. Their driver line-up will now lose Hadrien David who has massively helped them this weekend, but they still have podium-sitter Lorenzo Fluxá and race-winner Gabriel Bortoleto within their midst.
Whichever way the championship turns, the battle for the teams’ championship is going to remain a hot contest with so much talent and firepower on such a large grid. It could be an opportunity for one of the other teams such as Pinnacle Motorsport or Evans GP to capitalise on the battles ahead of them to pick up bigger hauls of points.
Round 3 will start on 5th February, once again from the Dubai Autodrome.
Header photo credit: Formula Regional Asian Championship