A profile shot of a driver staring to the left while putting his right earbud in

Sztuka: lower-cost FWS ‘a good option for drivers like me who can’t go to the UAE’

Formula Winter Series’ inaugural season came to an end in Barcelona after four rounds across Spain’s best tracks. Dominating all but one race he competed in, Kacper Sztuka clinched the first championship of his single-seater career one round prior to the season finale in Barcelona, a real demonstration of his hegemony. The Polish driver, who was confirmed Friday to compete with US Racing in Italian F4, looks back on his experience in Spain in a conversation with Feeder Series.

By Grégoire Devaux

Six races, five wins, four pole positions. The least we can say is that Kacper Sztuka was in his own world during Formula Winter Series’ inaugural season. Competing with US Racing alongside Gianmarco Pradel, Frederik Lund and Ruiqi Liu, the 17-year-old driver even left the championship before the last round in Barcelona having secured his title one week prior in Navarra.

“That’s really nice to win a championship,” Sztuka relates. “We had up to 15 cars, and there were some really good drivers. I think my teammates – Gianmarco Pradel, Frederik Lund and Ruiqi Liu – will be very strong this year. I’m just happy to win and especially happy with the job we did. It was very good.

“I think we were professionals, me and the team, the engineers, mechanics… It was a really good winter break in terms of warming up before the actual season. The Formula Winter Series was a gift for us and from [series promoters] Gedlich Racing because we knew we weren’t going to [F4] UAE for sure but we wanted to do some warm-up to catch up a bit with the guys from UAE.”

The series was also the perfect preparation for Sztuka ahead of the start of the Italian F4 season in April. Off the back of two wins and a sixth-place finish in 2022, the Polish driver was the fastest of 67 cars on both days of the official pre-season test at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, first in dry and then in wet conditions, proving that he could be one of the main challengers for the upcoming season.

Why the Formula Winter Series

FWS had a tough time attracting drivers relative to the well-established F4 UAE and Formula Regional Middle East Championships that took place in January. However, despite significant turnover in the grid between each round, series organisers Gedlich Racing managed to attract a number of drivers and teams who proved to be assets to the nascent series.

“I think the Formula Winter Series is a great idea because it’s a good option for drivers like me who can’t go to the UAE because of low budgets,” Sztuka says. “We race in Europe on Pirelli tyres, which are used in British F4, Italian F4, and so on. That’s good because in UAE they use Giti tyres, and I’ve heard it’s quite different than Pirelli. Then, of course, another advantage is competing on Spanish tracks. There are some good tracks like Jerez, Valencia and Barcelona, which is a good preparation for the future.”

A black car crosses the line with mechanics, hands raised and facing the camera and the circuit, cheering the winning driver
Kacper Sztuka led a US Racing 1-2-3-4-5 in the drivers’ standings | Credit: Daniel Bürgin

With the title already secured, Sztuka didn’t compete in the last round of the championship, which took place in Barcelona. FWS drivers were the first to compete on the new layout, which avoids the chicane in the last sector. Reno Francot told Feeder Series earlier this year that ‘in terms of overtaking, it’s much better than before’. However, Barcelona was not the only challenging track in FWS’ inaugural season.

“I think Jerez was the most tricky one because there was some graining on the left front for everyone. It was very difficult to manage the tires,” Sztuka explains. “In the race, I was close to my teammates because I couldn’t go to my full potential. I had to keep an eye on my tyres. That’s why we all had to manage the pace. Also, it’s really technical. You don’t have a lot of straights; you have to be focused.

“It was the same in Valencia – probably one of the most demanding races, mentally speaking, for me. I had to keep focus and push 100% for thirty minutes.

“In Navarra, there was some straights, so there was a bit of time to take a breath and just keep going. It was mainly mid-speed corners there. It was pretty fun, but there were actually quite a lot of bumps, which was a new experience. The car was a bit unpredictable.

“I liked all three tracks, and I’ll be very happy to come back and race there one more time.”

A driver stands on the third step of the podium looking to the left, with two other drivers in the background
Matteo De Palo was Kacper Sztuka’s fiercest rival in the 2023 Formula Winter Series | Credit: Daniel Bürgin

Across the three rounds he took part in, Sztuka was opposed by sixteen drivers, but one of them was particularly challenging for the 17-year-old Polish driver: Matteo De Palo.

The Italian driver only took part in the second round of the championship at Valencia’s Circuit Ricardo Tormo with Campos to prepare for his Spanish F4 season. However, despite competing in only one round, De Palo was undoubtedly Sztuka’s fiercest rival, taking pole for both races and being the only other driver to win a race across the first three rounds.

“It was the only race in which I finished second, and in both qualifying I finished second too. It was a really nice experience to race in Valencia [against] Campos,” Sztuka says. “They dominated last season in Spanish F4. In my opinion, Matteo is a really fast driver. It was a big challenge for us to make our car fast in only four sessions. It was tricky, but we made massive improvements from the first free practice session to qualifying.

“In qualifying we ended up being close to Matteo, and in Race [1] we were both 13 seconds ahead of the driver in third position. We were driving much faster than them. It was a big push from both of us. We spoke after the race, and we said that it was really tiring for both of us. We had to push all race long.”

The benefits of series between F4 and F3

Tymek Kucharczyk is stepping up to the GB3 Championship after being one of the sensations of the last Spanish F4 season. Piotr Wiśnicki competed in FRECA last season before his move to FIA Formula 3 for 2023. Young Polish drivers are moving further up the feeder series ladder, but Sztuka is staying in Italian F4 for a third season, competing with US Racing.

Sztuka affirms that the championships between F4 and F3 – including the new Eurocup-3 based in Spain – appeal to drivers seeking experience but can deter those lacking budget.

“I think it’s generally going into more budget in every series, at least in Europe, because in the USA it might be easier sometimes. For sure, if you have more series to choose from, it’s easier, but every single one is really expensive. I think it’s a good idea to do series like Eurocup-3. The series is very nice. It’s not as expensive as FRECA, but still.

“[That] there’s no low price in any series on a high level, that’s not true. For sure, at some point you have to go to FIA F3 and FIA F2 if you want to go to Formula 1, so I think that going to series like FRECA or GB3 is the good situation when you don’t have enough experience in car racing yet. You need one more season before going to a really good car like FIA F3, or you don’t have enough budget – in [those cases] it’s good.

“But I think that you should go as fast as you can to FIA championships because it’s cheaper overall when you go from F4 to FIA F3 and then FIA F2 because you just spend less years on being on feeder series.”

Sztuka keenly understands the impact of a lack of budget – the main factor preventing him from going wherever he wants. Last year, he told Feeder Series after the first round of Italian F4 that despite being a race winner, he didn’t have the budget for the full season. It’s a recurring problem for Polish drivers, with Kucharczyk being in the same situation despite an impressive season in Spanish Formula 4.

Sztuka feels more is needed back home to promote feeder series and help young drivers like him.

“It’s pretty tricky, as you can see. My situation and Tymek’s are very similar. I think it’s the role of us, television and Polish journalists to make this sport popular and just use the interest that is now in Formula 1 because of Drive to Survive and stuff like that to attract people into feeder series so that we can go to sponsors and show them that we have interests, followers,” he tells Feeder Series. “Drivers need to work on and off tracks to make it popular.”

A driver stands on a black car with his fists raised
Kacper Sztuka won the FWS title with one round to spare | Credit: Daniel Bürgin

Outside of sponsors, another opportunity to find more funding could be from companies working in motorsport. For the past decade, Pirelli has supported the winner of the Formula 3 Championship and GP3 Series via a scholarship to put towards a seat in F2 or GP2, with 2022 F3 champion Victor Martins receiving €300,000. Sztuka says that Pirelli and other companies involved in motorsport could be a huge asset for drivers lacking money.

“I think it would be really nice if Pirelli could see that there are really good drivers who can promote the company. Every money counts. I don’t really care about what I have on the car. I just want to race. In my opinion, every source of money is good and helpful, and we should have as many as we can,” he said.

“For companies who works in motorsport, it would be good to see drivers with them. For both sides, it could be a really good idea.”

Header photo credit: Daniel Bürgin – Formula Winter Series

Donate like Mahaveer Raghunathan

We run on donations, so thank you for your contribution!


Donate like Arthur Leclerc

We run on donations, so thank you for your contribution!


Donate like Dennis Hauger

We run on donations, so thank you for your contribution!


Donate like Théo Pourchaire

We run on donations, so thank you for your contribution!


Donate like Andrea Kimi Antonelli

We run on donations, so thank you for your contribution!


Wish to donate a different amount? You can donate any amount directly to our PayPal page here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s