A blue, black and red car turns right ahead of a blur of grandstand and barrier

FWS’ Reno Francot: ‘We weren’t really planning to do F4’ before successful tests

A surprise guest for the last round of the Formula Winter Series, Reno Francot was undoubtedly one of the revelations of the weekend despite not even taking part in the qualifying sessions or the races. Feeder Series talked to the 15-year-old Dutch driver about his debut in an F4 car, his performances over the weekend and his plans for the future.

By Grégoire Devaux

As the inaugural season of the Formula Winter Series came to an end last weekend in Barcelona, US Racing swept the weekend with Zachary David and locked up the teams’ title after winning the drivers’ championship at the previous round. But another driver was the revelation of the final weekend: Reno Francot.

Coming from karting, in which he competed in the OK Junior category and notably took part in the European Karting Championship, Champions of the Future Euro Series and the World Karting Championship, Francot didn’t initially expect to race in single-seaters in 2023.

But towards the end of last year, the 15-year-old driver got his first glimpses of experience in a Formula 4 car through Pro Racing Management’s Top Gun programme before testing with Spanish F4’s GRS and Italian F4’s Jenzer Motorsport. Speaking to Feeder Series, Francot – who is now managed by F1 race winner Giancarlo Fisichella and GT racer Marco Cioci at Pro Racing – reminds himself of how he first felt in the car coming from karting.

“The first impression of the car was that we were going very fast, but now I’m used to it. I really like the speed and the handling. You can really feel what the car is doing, the grip, when you have new tyres, especially when they’re hot. In karting, it’s a bit less.”

A blue, red, and black car turning slightly to the right, shot from the right rear
Reno Francot appeared in practice sessions at the Formula Winter Series finale at Catalunya | Credit: Formula Winter Series

As he recently turned 15, Francot is now eligible to compete in Formula 4. However, his initial plan for the 2023 season was to continue in karting, as he only competed in the OK Junior category, not OK Senior.

In September, Francot took part in a two-day F4 test at the Circuito Guadix arranged by Pro Racing. As soon as the Dutch driver jumped in the F4 car, he showed that he was ready to take the biggest step of his career so far.

“We weren’t really planning to do Formula 4 this season,” he tells Feeder Series. “We wanted to do some karting, but the first test went well, and I was quite quick, so I tested a lot in Formula 4 cars because we could see a progression. We were getting really good, and now, we’re almost at the front.”

The Dutch driver was indeed one of the fastest in Barcelona this weekend. He managed to stay in the top four for the last three free practice sessions, even setting the fastest time in the first sector during the final free practice session. Francot handled the first and second sectors very well throughout the weekend, being almost always in the top three fastest, but struggled more in the last sector, which contains the new layout.

A blue Jenzer Motorsport F4 car photographed from beside the halo
The F4 car cockpit | Credit: @renofrancot on Instagram

As much as he managed to adapt himself well to single-seaters, Francot also admits that some parts of the Formula 4 car are still challenging with a lack of experience.

“The brakes are the most challenging part for me. You need to really feel them. In karting, you have to press. Now, you have to have a new technique on the brakes because otherwise, I would lock up every time.”

Barcelona’s new layout

The last round of FWS attracted an expanded grid of five more drivers than for the third round in Navarra. One of the reasons for teams and drivers to compete in the season finale was undoubtedly to test and gain data on the new layout of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

FWS drivers were the first single-seater racers to compete on the new layout, which avoids the chicane in the last sector – a real test before Formula 1’s Spanish Grand Prix in June.

Francot had tested the circuit once before on a cold November day with GRS. Under the warmer March sun and on the modified layout, he had an even more enjoyable experience.

“I like it, especially now with the new part. For me, in terms of overtaking, it’s much better than before,” he says. “It’s really fast. Last time I drove through the chicane, but now I think overtaking will be much easier with more speed toward the straights. Track limits are challenging. There are fast corners and slow corners. It’s a complete track for me”.

With such impressive results throughout the weekend’s practice sessions, it would have been exciting to see Francot compete in qualifying and the race. As the Dutch driver completes the transition to single-seaters for the 2023 season, he could be one of the surprises of the year wherever he goes.

Header photo credit: Daniel Bürgin – Formula Winter Series

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