Sztuka dominates, Hausmann impresses: 4 takeaways from FWS Round 1

While most of the winter championships take place in Asia and Australasia, the brand-new Formula Winter Series (FWS) started last weekend in Jerez. Kacper Sztuka was expected to be one of the favourites of the championship and he did not disappoint as he won both races of the opening weekend. Feeder Series unpacks the first ever round of FWS.

By Grégoire Devaux

The first round of the brand-new Formula Winter Series took place last weekend in Spain, at the Circuito de Jerez. Nine drivers from four different teams competed in the two races of Round 1, with five more drivers set to complete the grid for Round 2 in Valencia next week. It was a successful opening weekend for both the drivers and the organizers, as an action-packed weekend showed a lot of promise for the three remaining rounds of the championship.

Sztuka leads the pack

Kacper Stuka dominated the first weekend of FWS by topping both qualifying sessions and winning both races. | Credit: Formula Winter Series

As only nine drivers took part in the first round of FWS, four of whom were making their competitive single-seater debuts, Sztuka was expected to be one of the favourites for the win. The Polish driver stepped up to the expectations and dominated the whole weekend, topping half of the six free practices in addition to both qualifying sessions and both races.

With a full season of Italian F4 and ADAC F4 with US Racing behind his wheel, Sztuka is by far the most experienced driver of this FWS opening season. In the first race, however, he had to deal with fierce competition from US Racing’s teammate Frederik Lund, who overtook him early in the race. However, Sztuka regained his lead near the end to win the first ever FWS race.

In Race 2, Sztuka seemed unstoppable as he flew ahead from the first turn to the finish line, alone against the rest of the field. His teammate, Ruiqi Liu, never seemed to be able to put pressure on him or have the resources and pace to catch up with Sztuka.

After the first round, Sztuka is ahead of the drivers’ standings with a 21-point gap over his teammate Lund. AKM driver Tina Hausmann and Liu are level in third place in the championship, with both drivers just four points adrift of the Danish driver.

US Racing is the team to beat

US Racing was the team to beat in the opening round of the championship. The runner-up in the 2022 F4 Italy teams’ standings joined FWS with a competitive line-up of Sztuka, Lund, Liu and Gianmarco Pradel.

The German side did not shy away from competition, as the team clinched the top four spots in both qualifying sessions. The running order was the same, as Sztuka topped both sessions ahead of Liu, Lund and Pradel.

Unfortunately, Liu suffered a technical problem at the start of race one as his car stalled on the starting grid. The Chinese driver still managed to get the fastest lap and overtake AKM’s Carl Bennett during the race to finish in sixth position.

Liu wasn’t the only driver to have an issue at the start of the first race as Alvise Rodella stalled too. Rodella was the only AS Motorsport driver on the grid, as Luca Roth did not have the licence to compete in the race and could therefore only take part in free practice sessions. Despite the initial setback, Rodella managed to finish ahead of last-placed Maximiliano Restrepo, who spun during the race.

US Racing locked out the podium despite Liu’s sixth-place finish, as Frederik Lund crossed the finish line second ahead of Pradel in third. Liu did get his revenge during the second race of the day, as he finished second behind the unstoppable Sztuka. Tina Hausmann, arguably the revelation of the weekend, broke the US Racing hegemony by grabbing third place.

Tina Hausmann is the revelation of the weekend

Tina Hausmann proved to be the biggest surprise of the weekend, taking a fourth and third place finish in her single-seater racing debut. | Credit: Formula Winter Series

The Swiss driver was arguably the biggest surprise of the weekend. Having tested in F4 at the end of last year, she was announced with AKM Motorsport alongside Carl Bennett to make her competitive debut in single-seaters during FWS.

In a team that suffered last season in F4 Italy, finishing with zero points, Haussmann managed to get three podiums in two races. How? By getting on the rookie podium twice as the second-placed rookie in both races, as well as taking third place on the overall podium in the second race.

After qualifying seventh and fifth, Hausmann gained three places in race one — overtaking her teammate Carl Bennett and Drivex driver Juan Cota to finish only 0.125 seconds behind third-placed Gianmarco Pradel.

Hausmann showed some great pace as she stepped up during the second race, in which she started from the fifth spot. The AKM Motorsport driver delivered one of the greatest performances of the weekend as she took her first ever F4 podium. She crossed the line in third after another massive race in which she overtook US Racing drivers Gianmarco Pradel and Frederik Lund.

With these results, Hausmann tops the rookie drivers’ standings after the first round. Although she is level on points with fellow rookie Liu, Hausmann is ahead in the championship thanks to better results in both races. Pradel completes the rookie championship podium with 25 points. There is no doubt that Hausmann will be a driver to keep an eye on for the rest of the championship.

Lots of overtaking and a successful first round

With only nine drivers on the grid and no driver announcement a week prior to the start of the championship, the opening season of FWS seemed to have some attractiveness issues at first. However, the first round in Jerez was a huge success. Gedlich Racing, the organizers, proved to have a lot of experience with the already-well established GT Winter Series, which runs at the same time as FWS.

This opening weekend was entertaining for both drivers and fans. With six free practice sessions, it presented a big opportunity for drivers to become accustomed to the car. This is even more welcome when almost half of the grid is making their competitive single-seater debut. Both races offered us thrilling duels; the first between teammate Lund and Sztuka for the win, and the second between Bennett and Restrepo for eighth.

The inexperienced grid could have led to some clumsy on-track actions or some fringe races lacking in overtaking. However, this proved not to be the case. The races were entertaining, the drivers were clean and professional and the free entry attracted a lot of fans.

From the second round in Valencia onward, the FWS races will be live-streamed with commentary. Campos and Phinsys by Argenti will join the championship with three drivers each to expand the grid to a total of 15 drivers. Nerea Marti, Matteo de Palo and Maite Caceres will drive for Campos, whilst Patrick Heuzenroeder, Jaden Pariat and Isaac Barashi will drive for Phinsys by Argenti.

One thing is for certain — you won’t have any excuses anymore for not tuning in to the other three rounds of the championship.

Header photo credit: Daniel Bürgin – Formula Winter Series


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