Despite being less than three months away from the season opener in Imola, the grid for the 2023 Italian F4 Championship is already shaping up to be one of the most competitive ones since the category debuted back in 2014. Not many drivers have been officially announced to be racing next year; however, post-season testing through the last three months of 2022 gave us a good idea of what next year’s grid could look like.
By Daniele Spadi
Having won an astonishing two-thirds of both the drivers’ and teams’ championships in Italian F4’s history, Prema heads into 2023 as the team to beat – and their line-up looks stellar as always.
Ugo Ugochukwu will most likely be the natural favourite for the drivers’ championship. The American looked mighty quick in post-season testing, and he’s currently the championship leader in F4 UAE.
James Wharton and Arvid Lindblad will likely be his main rivals throughout 2023, as both of them have been confirmed to be racing with the Italian outfit next season and are constantly challenging Ugochukwu in the Middle East.
Finland’s Tuukka Taponen is another name to watch out for. Fresh off his maiden F4 victory in Kuwait, the latest addition to the Ferrari Driver Academy will be looking to make an impact as he enters the world of single-seater racing full time. Fifteen-year-old Nicola Lacorte will also drive for Prema next season as he makes the jump from Iron Lynx, with Rashid Al Dhaheri completing a phenomenal line-up for the Italian team.
The German team founded by F1 race winner Ralf Schumacher has quickly become one of the best in Italian F4, as they comfortably finished in second in the 2022 teams’ standings. Ruiqi Liu is confirmed as a new face on the grid for US Racing, as he repeatedly tested with them after competing with AKM for a couple of races in 2022. Gianmarco Pradel has also been confirmed for his first full season.
Among other possible names, Zachary David and Akshay Bohra looked the quickest for US Racing in post-season testing, as they look to compete in their first full season of Italian F4 next year. Frederik Lund will join the team in the Formula Winter Series and also appears set to race for the Kerpen-based team in Italian F4. Kacper Sztuka would be a huge addition to the team, and probably a serious title contender, but a lack of funding could see him sit out the 2023 season.
After announcing their partnership with Charouz, PHM became the latest team to join both Formula 2 and Formula 3. However, the German outfit is still set to be one of the main competitors in Italian F4, as they plan to enter as many cars as possible for the opening round in Imola.
Although no one has been officially announced to be driving for PHM, Valentin Kluss, who raced with the team in F4 UAE, will likely be the main driver for them and could have a shot at scoring podiums and wins during the season.
After a tough first year in the championship, Victoria Blokhina is also likely to keep working with the team. Other drivers such as Nikita Johnson and Tymoteusz Kucharczyk could make their Italian F4 debuts with the team in 2023 after testing for them during the fall and winter.
Van Amersfoort Racing
VAR come into 2023 after a rather disappointing season in Italian F4 in which they claimed only two podiums and finished fourth in the teams’ championship. Italy’s Brando Badoer is looking to stay at the team for a second season, using the experience he gathered in 2022 to try to step on the podium for the first time. Álvaro Cho and Matheus Ferreira are two very solid options, as they tested with the Dutch team during the winter and did a good job overall. Other names on the table for VAR are Ivan Domingues, Tina Hausmann and Griffin Peebles, but other options could come into play when pre-season testing gets underway in February.
Iron Lynx & Iron Dames
Being one of the fastest-growing teams in the world of motorsport, Iron Lynx – and its all-female division, Iron Dames – will try to improve on last year’s good results. As the winner of the 2022 FIA Girls On Track – Rising Stars programme, Aurelia Nobels will be driving for the Italian outfit. Laura Camps Torras was tipped to be joining her, but since she surprisingly parted ways with Ferrari in January, her participation is now in doubt.
France’s Raphael Narac is the main name for the French team. Having made his single-seater debut with the team in 2022, he seems to be a lock for R-ace GP after various tests during the winter. Alexander Abkhazava is also another driver linked to the team after a couple of tests in Barcelona and Paul Ricard. Both Narac and Abkhazava are competing for R-ace in F4 UAE this year.
The French outfit will definitely be on the hunt for more drivers, though, so pre-season testing through the month of February will be helpful to find out who will be with R-ace come the start of the season in Imola.
After a rather disappointing season last year, the Swiss team is in a tight spot for 2023. A lack of testing during the winter means that Jenzer’s options are less known, though Ethan Ischer has been confirmed to be staying for a second season in Italian F4 with the team. One possibility for another seat is South Korea’s Kim Hwarang, whose experience in the championship could come in handy. Álvaro Cho could feature on the grid as a Jenzer driver too if he can’t finalise a deal with VAR, as he tested with the Swiss team in Vallelunga back in November.
BVM has stuck with one man and one man only for post-season testing – and the partnership looked quite promising too. Alfio Spina was constantly in the top five in Imola and Vallelunga, proving that he could be one of the dark horses for next year. Andrea Bodellini also tested with BVM back in November, so he could be in the race for a seat, but it’s hard to say anything more about their potential driver line-up right now.
Being a popular choice for post-season testing, AKM has a variety of names that could feature on the grid in Imola. Tina Hausmann showed some promising speed in testing and seems at ease with the Sammarinese team, with whom she will also compete in Formula Winter Series. Italians Cristian Bertuca and Edoardo Borelli both took part in the rookie test in Mugello last October and could be called upon for further testing later this month.
Cram is a tough one to predict, as they tested multiple drivers in different test sessions. The main name is Italy’s Flavio Olivieri, who has tested on multiple occasions in Spain. Another option is Seb Murray, who is looking for his big break in the feeder series world after racing with the team in F4 UAE. Jack Beeton has tested the car a couple of times, but he is less likely to race in Italian F4 compared with other drivers.
Mattia Bucci and Michalina Sabaj are two young drivers who could be racing for AS Motorsport. Despite some understandable adaptability issues in his first couple of outings in a single-seater car, Bucci could be a good fit for the Italian team. Sabaj tested the car in Barcelona back in December, and she could be a useful asset if the team choose to enter the championship with two cars. Italian Alvise Rodella is set to line up with the team for Formula Winter Series, but whether that collaboration will continue into Italian F4 is unknown.
Yas Heat Racing Academy
At the moment, two teams are set to make their debut in Italian F4 this season. After a solid debut at the 2022 F4 UAE Trophy Race, Yas Heat Racing Academy is set to enter Italian F4 with Matteo Quintarelli and Keanu Al Azhari, who are currently racing with them in F4 UAE. Yas Heat told Feeder Series in December that they will have a third car on the grid too, but the name of the driver is yet to be announced.
The second new addition to the championship is Airflow Racing. The Tuscany-based team will enter their first ever single-seater championship with Italian youngster Guido Lucchetti behind the wheel.
As for the remaining teams that are included in the potential entry list for 2023 – which include the likes of BWR Motorsports, Maffi Racing and Cars Automobili – it’s more of a guessing game than a prediction. However, there are a couple of drivers who have tested for various teams and have a chance of racing in Italian F4 in 2023.
Elia Sperandio and Francisco Soldavini have tested many times with Maffi Racing, especially through the months of September and October. Giacomo Pedrini first tested an F4 car with AS Motorsport and kept working towards a possible F4 campaign with some private testing in Cremona. Davide Larini, son of former F1 driver Nicola Larini, got his first taste of single-seaters in Vallelunga last November and could have an outside shot at being on the grid.
As teams and drivers keep working on deals and agreements, pre-season is right around the corner. The first private tests are set to take place in Vallelunga and Misano at the end of February, while Round 1 will be at the historic Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola from 21–23 April.
Header photo credit: ACI Sport
Slideshow image credit: ACI Sport (1–11), F4 UAE (12)
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