Making your debut in single-seater motorsport whilst being a teenager presents itself as perhaps the most challenging step in any driver’s career. Whereas most drivers require at least one season to get used to cars, a select few can show their adaptability and impress instantly. Here is our list of the best Formula 4 rookies of 2022.
By Alexander Studenkov
Any driver who either made their single-seater debut this year or was classed as a rookie in a championship in which they competed is eligible for a place in our list. Drivers are ordered at random.
Rafael Câmara – Italian F4, ADAC F4 (P3, P3)
Going into the season with a title challenge in F4 UAE already on his résumé, the Ferrari junior became known for his proficiency in battling to the front as well as his general pace. Though he took just three wins over the course of a double ADAC F4 and Italian F4 campaign owing to Kimi Antonelli’s dominance, Câmara still showed himself to be the best ‘true rookie’ in each series, which culminated in a rookie championship in Germany.
The Brazilian’s qualifying pace is perhaps his biggest asset, which he will look to use in next year’s Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine (FRECA) as he continues with Prema.
Nikola Tsolov – Spanish F4 (P1)
As the protégé of Fernando Alonso, Tsolov has followed in the footsteps of his mentor by winning a Spanish-based championship in his first year of car racing. In his domination of Spanish F4 with Campos Racing, Tsolov, an Alpine affiliate, demonstrated speed and consistency, with 13 wins, including three weekend hat-tricks, and just three finishes outside the podium places.
His rapid ascent to being one of the top Formula 4 drivers has meant a quick promotion to the FIA F3 series, where Tsolov will look to bring success to ART Grand Prix next year after Victor Martins brought them the 2022 drivers’ championship.
Gerrard Xie – Chinese F4 (P1)
Chinese F4 rarely finds a place in fans’ consciousness given the limited number of drivers that make the jump into higher feeder series categories. This year, however, Gerrard Xie demonstrated perhaps the most dominant showing in any junior series around the globe, winning 12 of 14 races. Regularly gapping his rivals by more than 20 seconds during the races, Xie won the title by a gap of 164 points to runner-up Lü Jingxi, the largest winning margin of any Chinese F4 season to date.
He also proved capable around the legendary Guia Circuit during the Macau Grand Prix weekend, beating out his competitors – which included a pair of former European F3 drivers in Andy Chang and Charles Leong – in the first race before coming second in the grand prix itself.
Souta Arao – French F4 (P3)
As one of two new Japanese additions to the Red Bull Junior Team stable having won the Suzuka Racing School scholarship alongside Yuto Nomura, Arao seemed far more comfortable in French F4 than his older counterpart. An early confidence-booster came at Pau, where Arao not only won his first race in the category but also took pole on one of the most challenging circuits for any driver.
More podiums, including a win in the season finale, meant a third-place finish in the standings. As a reward for his strong first year in Europe, Arao earned a place with Hitech Grand Prix for the 2023 GB3 Championship season.
Andrea Kimi Antonelli – Italian F4 and ADAC F4 (P1, P1)
Another 2023 newcomer to FRECA with Prema, Antonelli controlled both the Italian and German F4 series from beginning to end, winning the former by 104 points and the latter by 47 points despite missing the penultimate weekend. Having set numerous records throughout his first full-time car racing campaign, the Mercedes junior also took a gold medal in the FIA Motorsport Games, dominating proceedings despite racing with a broken wrist.
Martinius Stenshorne – Italian F4 (P7)
Stenshorne went under the radar at the start of his 2022 Italian F4 campaign but really made an impression by the end, and seventh place does not depict the full story of his season. With his team Van Amersfoort Racing on the back foot owing to the late delivery of their cars, which forced the team to forego the ADAC F4 season opener, Stenshorne had to stay content with regular points finishes, which single-handedly kept the team and its all-rookie line-up in contention each weekend.
The Norwegian impressed more and more as the campaign went on, eventually taking podiums at Monza and Mugello. Those results enabled Stenshorne to end up comfortably ahead of many competitive second-year drivers.
Pedro Clerot – F4 Brazil (P1)
No stranger to single-seaters after finishing second in the Formula Delta series in 2021, Clerot became F4 Brazil’s inaugural champion this year whilst also proving his worth in two cameo appearances at the start of the Italian F4 season.
His performances at the start of the season were particularly notable. As everyone else was still trying to figure out the car, Clerot had already pulled a 77-point gap over his nearest rival, Lucas Staico, by the midway point of the season and went on to win by 63. Whether he is a major talent in the making could be shown next season, when he will compete in Spanish F4 for MP Motorsport.
Ugo Ugochukwu – British F4 (P3)
The only member of McLaren’s Young Driver Programme, Ugochukwu stunned onlookers on his debut, becoming the youngest-ever polesitter in British F4. Though his season was inconsistent, a classic feature of a typical rookie year, the American was able to win the Rookie Cup for Carlin, having won races outright at Brands Hatch and Knockhill.
More impressive performances arguably came in Italian F4, where four podiums in just six races propelled Ugochukwu to 10th in the standings, which in both 2020 and 2021 was the rookie-year placing of the next year’s champion. It’s a good omen for the American, who will compete in the series full time for Prema next year.
Louis Sharp – British F4 (P4)
Sharp, who came into the British series at the second round because he was too young to compete at the season opener, experienced a similar season to his teammate Ugochukwu, taking a pair of victories and finishing just 18 points behind the American. What Sharp lacked in speed he made up for with greater consistency and superior racecraft, which he had honed in the New Zealand Formula Ford series.
Another year with Carlin could bring a title to the young Kiwi, who now has the experience to make this a realistic goal.
Tymoteusz Kucharczyk – Spanish F4 (P3)
Fighting against the Campos dominance, Kucharczyk made the most of the opportunities he and his MP squad received, becoming a consistent presence on the Spanish F4 podium throughout the year. He also showed great resilience during the races, exemplified by his lone win at Jerez, where the Pole held off Nikola Tsolov in the closing laps.
Given his difficult financial situation, one hopes that Kucharczyk can continue showing his speed and maturity next year.
Header photo credit: ADAC F4, Spanish F4, Italian F4; Collage by Feeder Series
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