David dominates as US Racing take teams’ title: 4 takeaways from FWS Round 4

The inaugural season of the Formula Winter Series came to an end in Barcelona after four rounds across Spain’s best tracks. Replacing Kacper Sztuka, who was absent this weekend after being crowned drivers’ champion last week in Navarra, Zachary David took the victory in both races, helping US Racing to clinch the teams’ championship. Feeder Series unpacks the action of the FWS season finale in Barcelona.

By Grégoire Devaux

One month after the series’ first ever race in Jerez, FWS concluded its 2023 season in Barcelona last weekend, where the 11-driver grid had the opportunity to be the first to drive on the new layout, which will be used for the Formula 1 race in less than three months. Once again, this fourth and last round of the season led to a huge grid overhaul.

An expanded grid of 11 drivers

Crowned in Navarra last week, where a reduced grid of only six drivers took part, Sztuka didn’t compete in the last round of the championship. However, US Racing still managed to enter not four, but five cars in Barcelona. As well as their usual line-up of Gianmarco Pradel, Ruiqi Liu and Frederik Lund, the German side competed with David and Akshay Bohra.

The latter, who recently finished 21st in the F4 UAE Championship, will compete with US Racing in Italian F4 and the new Euro4 series. This announcement took place just before the second race in Barcelona, in which he finished second.

Amna Al Qubaisi competed for GRS in the final round of FWS 2023 | Credit Daniel Bürgin – Formula Winter Series

Despite his huge crash in Navarra last week, Ethan Ischer was back in Barcelona for the season finale with Jenzer Motorsport, along with Hwarang Kim and Reno Francot, who only took part in the free practice sessions.

The opportunity to drive on such a famous and challenging track attracted a lot more drivers than the previous round, as Campos returned to the competition and GRS made their debut. Since the Spanish F4 private testing deadline was set on March 1st, both teams couldn’t send their original line-ups, so instead, Campos decided to compete with their F1 Academy duo of Lola Lovinfosse and Maite Cáceres, while GRS sent Emirati driver Amna Al Qubaisi.

David’s clean sweep

After having made his debut in F4 last season competing with US Racing in rounds of Italian F4 and ADAC F4, David was a last-minute call for the German side, as Sztuka’s seat has been freed after his title was secured last week. For the Maltese driver, it was the perfect opportunity to get more experience behind the wheel after having competed in F4 UAE earlier this year, where he managed to clinch a win and a podium to finish eighth in the final standings with R-ace GP.

The least we can say is that he truly impressed in the fourth round of FWS in Barcelona. Despite driving alongside Pradel, Liu and Lund, who all competed since the first round, David managed to take the win in both races, enabling him to finish fifth in the championship despite taking part in only one round. He wasn’t the fastest in the first qualifying session, taking the third spot, but he dominated the second session, taking the pole position by a 0.495-second margin from teammate Bohra.

Zachary David dominated the final round of FWS in Barcelona | Credit: Daniel Bürgin – Formula Winter Series

Despite starting from third, David totally dominated the first race, as he won by more than two seconds in front of Pradel, also taking the extra point awarded for the fastest lap. The performance was even more impressive as he managed to take the lead after ten laps, in a race highlighted by a collision between Al Qubaisi and Cáceres after three laps. The Campos driver was able to get back on track, but the race was over for Al Qubaisi. The same went for Lola Lovinfosse, who was forced to retire two laps later because of a mechanical issue.

The second race saw David run in the first spot from start to finish, take yet another extra point for the fastest lap and never be threatened by his rivals. Unfortunately, the last race of the inaugural FWS season ended prematurely under a red flag provoked by Al Qubaisi, who had contact with Cáceres while zigzagging after Turn 6, which sent the Campos driver into the wall and led to a post-race disqualification of the Emirati driver.

All in all, David’s performance through the weekend was simply stunning, and it almost left us with a bittersweet feeling of the potential battle that could have taken place between the Maltese driver and Sztuka if both had competed in the whole championship.

Francot, revelation of the weekend

Friday’s first free practice session offered us quite a surprise, as Jenzer Motorsport competed with three drivers instead of only two that were announced in the entry grid. Alongside Ischer and Kim, Dutch driver Francot also took part in the session. With the number 28 on the car, the 15-year-old impressed for his first day, respectively taking the seventh and fourth spot in the two free practice sessions.

A little bit of context is needed for Francot, who made his debut in an F4 car last year in the post-season testing with GRS and Jenzer Motorsport. The Dutch driver confirmed to Feeder Series that he received a call from the Swiss side only a few days before the fourth round of the championship, but that he would unfortunately only compete in the four free practice sessions, just as Luca Roth did for AS Motorsport at the first round in Jerez a month ago.

Francot impressed during the free practice sessions this weekend | Credit: Daniel Bürgin – Formula Winter Series

However, contrary to the American driver, Francot has just turned fifteen and could have taken part in the race. Seeing him make his competitive debut on such a challenging track would have been very interesting, as he seems to have mastered the track despite his lack of experience. Following his good results in the Friday free practice sessions, Francot managed to improve on Saturday, taking the third and fourth spots in the last two free practice sessions of the day.

Beyond the final position, the 15-year-old driver impressed with his pace on track, despite being up against much more experienced drivers. During the fourth free practice session, Francot managed to be the fastest driver in the first sector, and in the end, he was almost always in the top three fastest for the first and second sectors across the last three practice sessions. But he struggled more in the last sector, which contained the modified track layout tested for the first time.

After competing in the OK-J category in karting last season, Francot is expected to make the jump to single-seaters in 2023. It remains to be seen where, but the least we can say is that he fully embraced the opportunity that was offered to him in the last round of FWS.

US Racing’s hegemony

Beyond Sztuka’s title, the inaugural season of FWS was a demonstration by US Racing. The German side clinched all the championships they could. With Sztuka and David, US Racing won seven out of the eight races, only being stopped by Matteo De Palo’s win in the first race of the second round in Valencia.

The team, co-founded by Ralf Schumacher, not only took wins but also achieved full US Racing podiums in six of the eight races of the championship. Apart from De Palo’s win with Campos, only Tina Hausmann managed to sneak in for the second race of the first round in Jerez.

With Bohra, Liu, Pradel and David already being confirmed to compete in Italian F4, US Racing could be the team to watch this season, as they will be focusing entirely on this competition following the folding of ADAC F4.

Overall, the inaugural season of the Formula Winter Series (FWS) has been a huge success for Gedlich Racing. The series’ second season has already been confirmed and should take place not only in Spain but also in Portugal for a round.

Header photo credit: Daniel Bürgin – Formula Winter Series

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