Like every April, the “Coupe de Pâques” (Easter Cup) at Nogaro will launch the 30th season of French F4 (the 12th under this name). In the last five years, Victor Martins, Caio Collet, Théo Pourchaire, Hadrien David, Ayumu Iwasa, Isack Hadjar and many more have begun their racing career there. This year, 24 drivers (the biggest grid of the championship for years) will battle to succeed to Esteban Masson. Here is our guide to the 2022 French F4 season.
By Perceval Wolff
Pagenaud, Duval, Vergne, Vandoorne, Gasly, Hubert, Ye, Fenestraz… the list of drivers that started in French F4 seems to have no end. Last year, the breath-taking battle all season long between Esteban Masson and Macéo Capietto ended in a dramatic way with the two colliding on the final lap of the championship. Capietto was originally crowned the winner, but the race stewards finally decided to give the title (and the 100.000 euro scholarship) to Masson, after judging Capietto responsible for the collision.
A few months later, both have taken the step to FRECA where they will continue their battle. They have already impressed several team managers during testing. And when a French F4 driver gets success in higher categories, it’s a success for the whole championship.
“All the drivers that we tested really impressed us, especially those coming from French F4,” G4 Racing Sporting Director Adrian Muñoz some months ago told F1 Feeder Series. “Even if it is a mono-series and there are no teams, the level is amazing. We tested with Capietto and this guy is a massive talent. Even if he didn’t test for us, Esteban Masson did really amazing too. I’m really impressed with French F4”.
This season, the series organised by French motorsport federation FFSA will change in dimension. From 12 full-time drivers, the championship now goes up to 24. The drivers will drive the Mygale M21-F4, a brand new second-generation-F4 car. All cars will be prepared by the FFSA Academy in the same way. The championship is also becoming more and more international, with nine foreign drivers. Among these are two Red Bull Junior drivers, proof that the championship is getting some recognition by F1 teams.
Let’s have a look at the 24 drivers and what we can expect from them. F1 Feeder Series have been able to analyse the times of the last day of FFSA F4 testing at the Bugatti Circuit in Le Mans. And a hierarchy seems to emerge…
Teams and drivers
Let’s start with the five main favourites for the title. Alessandro Giusti (#10) topped the timing sheets at the pre-season testing. Born in September 2006, the 15-year-old Frenchman is last year’s French F4 Junior Champion. Sixth in the overall standings, Giusti was absolutely on fire at the end of the season, with four podiums in the final four races.
Two drivers will be closely monitored, especially from Red Bull headquarters: Souta Arao (#33) and Yuto Nomura (#15) are the latest winners of the Suzuka Racing School (SRS) scholarship, organized by two-time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato. The two 16-year-old Japanese drivers will be eager to reproduce the same results as Ayumu Iwasa and Ren Sato who finished 1-2 in French F4 two years ago after winning the SRS scholarship. After an intensive testing programme in Japan, they will now face a new environment in France. During testing, Arao was in the top positions, while Nomura struggled a little more in the top 10.
Last year’s runner-up Hugh Barter (#68) is back. After challenging Masson and Capietto with two wins in 2021, the young Australian continues in French F4 and adds Spanish F4 with Campos to his programme. Even though he was one of the fastest in testing, he should not be able to fight for the title. He will drive at Valencia and Spa-Francorchamps for his Spanish F4 campaign several weeks before French F4, and therefore won’t be allowed to score points in these two rounds.
The Fifth title contender is Elliott Vayron (#46). The young Frenchman discovered French F4 at midseason last year, winning three times in four rounds. The FEED Racing finalist is one to watch for sure.
The biggest surprise of testing was clearly Edgar Pierre (#27). The 15-year-old Frenchman was the fastest rookie, and was even the fastest of his group, beating Barter and Vayron. After only two years in karting, with a pole position and a third place at the French Senior Cup, Pierre joined VictoryLane, the management and coaching agency of Victor Martins’ family.
Junior runner-up and eighth in the standings last year, Dario Cabanelas (#7) did some very interesting laps in his last testing run, placing him with the guys in front. Enzo Géraci (#36) (third in Junior and ninth overall last year) should follow him closely, as he looks to have made progress during the winter. The number four in the French Junior FFSA Kart Championship in 2019 behind Masson and Capietto, Louis Pelet (#25) is finally making the step to single-seaters full-time, after one single French F4 meeting in 2021 (best result of 10th).
Two-time German karting champion Max Reis (#28) is one of the most exciting names of the field, as he will be the youngest driver of the championship, being born in January 2007. He was in the top 10 at testing. Winfield driver Romain Andriolo (#8), winner of the National Final in IAME X30 Senior in karting last year, also showed interesting performances.
A bit further behind, son of former F1, WEC, FE and rally driver Stéphane Sarrazin, Pablo Sarrazin (#4) has already raced in one French F4 weekend (best result of eighth). Pierre-Alexandre Provost (#11) will start his second season and was in the midfield at testing.
Then, in no particular order, Belgian hope Lorens Lecertua (#23) finished seventh in the final round of the OK European championship last year in karting. Enzo Richer (#66) did four French F4 weekends in 2021 with a best result of seventh. French-American driver Luciano Morano (#16) will race full-time in French F4 after two rounds last season.
Finishing seventh in the last French Junior Karting Championship, Lény Réveillère (#9) is the son of former international football player Anthony Réveillère. The 2020 French Junior kart champion in front of Elliott Vayron, Enzo Peugeot (#74) has been very discrete at testing and seemed to be at the end of the midfield. Colombian karter Jerónimo Berrío (#69) steps up to single-seaters. Same for Ecuadorian Mateo Villagómez (#72) who has notably won a local endurance race. Berrío and Villagómez are both coached by former French driver Vincent Fraisse.
At the back end of the field, Andorran racer Pol López (#5) will try to progress throughout the year. Same for the proud Panamanian Valentino Mini (#77), who is managed by Giancarlo Minardi. He managed two podiums in some non-championship rounds of F4 NACAM last year. Indian Amir Sayed (#6) has achieved several wins last season in LGB F4, a local Indian single-seaters championship. Finally, Antoine Fernande (#37) was the last driver at testing, several seconds away from the others.
French F4 calendar
- Nogaro 16-18 April FFSA GT
- Pau 6-8 May EF Open
- Magny-Cours 13-15 May GT World Challenge
- Spa-Francorchamps 28-30 July GT World Challenge
- Lédenon 9-11 September FFSA GT
- Valencia 16-18 September GT World Challenge
- Paul-Ricard 14-16 October FFSA GT
Standings and championships
A big revolution in French F4: for the first time in years, there will be one single championship. Unlike last year, no “Junior” driver (less than 15 years old at the start of the season) is allowed to participate. Henceforth, the FFSA (including all drivers’ results) and the FIA (excluding Junior drivers’ results) standings are merged this year into a single championship standings.
Moreover, unlike past seasons, all results will be counted. In 2021, each driver’s lowest scoring meeting was omitted from their final point tally. After a very controversial battle for the title with drivers arguing about this rule, the FFSA decided to simplify all of this and to go to a standard way of counting the results.
French F4 keeps the same weekend format as last year with one single qualifying session and three 20 minutes + 1 lap races, as well as a 30-minutes free practice session on Friday morning, followed by 25 minutes of qualifying in the afternoon. At some events, drivers will be allowed several testing sessions the day before to discover the track.
On Saturday morning, the first race takes place with the grid being set by taking the classification of the qualification. On Saturday afternoon, the top 10 of the opening race is reversed to set the starting grid of race 2. Finally, on Sunday morning, the grid of the 3rd race of the weekend is decided on the basis of the second-best lap time in qualifying.
However, let’s take into account that this timetable could be shifted by one day depending on the meetings. For the opening round at Nogaro, races will be held on Sunday and (Easter) Monday. For the Spa-Francorchamps meeting in July, the races should be on Friday and Saturday, given the fact that the 24 Hours of Spa race starts on Saturday and finishes the day after.
Races 1 and 3 give the same number of points as in F1: 25 for the winner and 1 point for the driver in tenth position. The reverse-grid race 2 gives less points with 15 points for the driver in P1, then 12, 10, etc. then 1 point for the driver in eight. Each pole position gives one point, and each fastest lap also generates one point.
As French F4 is a support series of GT World and FFSA GT, which are both organized by SRO (Stéphane Ratel Organisation), SRO starts the broadcasting on Saturday afternoon. As a result, Race 2 and Race 3 will only be broadcasted on the Facebook page of the FFSA Academy. There are some ongoing discussions to broadcast these races on another platform in parallel, such as YouTube. For the Pau GP meeting, the three races are due to be streamed.
Header photo credit: FFSA
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