The Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine (FRECA) has established itself as the most competitive feeder series below F2 and FIA F3. FRECA will once again welcome some of the most exciting talents from last year’s F4 championships, including Prema stars Andrea Kimi Antonelli and Rafael Câmara. But there are plenty of other talents to watch closely this year, and you can learn about them in our guide to the 2023 FRECA season.
By Perceval Wolff
In the past two years, FRECA has welcomed the likes of Zane Maloney, Isack Hadjar, Franco Colapinto, Dino Beganovic, Gabriele Minì, Paul Aron and current FIA F3 leader Gabriel Bortoleto.
Thanks to the achievements of their former drivers in higher categories, FRECA has gained an excellent reputation for aiding drivers’ progress. While F4 cars are usually driven on instinct, the FRECA’s Tatuus F3-T318 chassis requires more physical strength to handle and FRECA itself more race intelligence. The 2022 introduction of push-to-pass, a special device that delivers a boost of power to the engine to help overtaking, was a success, enabling drivers and fans to enjoy spectacular races and on-track battles.
- Round 1: Imola (22–23 April, alongside the TCR Italy Touring Car Championship)
- Round 2: Barcelona (20–21 May, alongside F1 Academy)
- Round 3: Hungaroring (17–18 June, alongside the International GT Open and the Euroformula Open Championship)
- Round 4: Spa-Francorchamps (30 June–1 July, alongside the 24 Hours of Spa)
- Round 5: Mugello (8–9 July, alongside the Italian GT Championship)
- Round 6: Paul-Ricard (22–23 July, alongside the International GT Open and the Euroformula Open Championship
- Round 7: Red Bull Ring (9–10 September, alongside the International GT Open and the Euroformula Open Championship)
- Round 8: Monza (16–17 September, alongside the Italian GT Championship)
- Round 9: Zandvoort (14–15 October, alongside the GT World Challenge Sprint Cup and the GB3 Championship)
- Round 10: Hockenheim (21–22 October, alongside the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters)
In contrast to last year, FRECA will not be supporting any F1 grands prix, with Monaco leaving the calendar. However, the FRECA drivers will discover another historic track with the Hockenheimring, which was last raced at this level in 2020 by FRECA predecessor series Formula Renault Eurocup.
All races and qualifying sessions will be broadcast on the championship’s official YouTube channel. Commentary will once again be delivered by Chris McCarthy, host of Feeder Series’ Transfer Weekly show.
The weekend often starts on Friday with two 50-minute free practice sessions. The real racing action takes place on Saturday and Sunday, with a qualifying session in the morning and a race in the afternoon on each day.
The two qualifying sessions set the grid for the two races, so there is no reversed grid. Each qualifying session is divided into two groups. Group A includes the drivers in first, third, fifth, and so on in the championship, while Group B comprises those in second, fourth, et cetera to form balanced groups. For the first round, groups will be made according to the race numbers of the drivers.
The fastest driver from among the two groups will start from pole position for each race. All the drivers in the group containing the fastest overall driver will then line up on the odd-numbered spots on the grid in P3, P5, P7, while those in other group will start from second and down through the rest of the even-numbered spots. It is therefore possible for a driver who starts third to have set a quicker lap time than the driver starting second.
Standings and titles
Three titles will be awarded at the end of this 20-race season: the drivers’ title, the rookies’ one and the teams’ title. All drivers are eligible to participate in the drivers’ championship, but wild-card or guest drivers will not score any points. If they win a race, for example, the 25 points for finishing first would go to the driver finishing second, and the remaining points would be distributed accordingly until 10 drivers have been awarded points.
Thirty-three drivers have been announced by the 12 FRECA teams, and 17 drivers will make their FRECA debuts at Imola this weekend. However, only ten of them will be eligible to compete in the rookie category as drivers must have driven in no more than three rounds of a Formula Regional series, including FRMEC or FROC. That is why drivers like Antonelli, Câmara and Charlie Wurz are not considered rookies.
Concerning the teams’ championship, only the two best-finishing cars of each team are eligible to score points.
Teams and drivers
Like last year with Beganovic, Aron and Sebastián Montoya, reigning champions Prema Racing once again have perhaps the best line-up of the grid even though the Italian squad will be lining up two rookies in their FRECA team for the first time in their history.
Both Andrea Kimi Antonelli (#12) and Rafael Câmara (#8) already carry the expectation of being title favourites thanks to their FRMEC achievements this winter. But Montoya showed last year how different FRMEC and FRECA were, clinching wins and pole positions in the former but finishing 13th in the latter.
Mercedes junior Antonelli is probably the brightest star the feeder series have seen for years. After crushing Italian and ADAC F4 last year, the Italian driver took the FRMEC title this winter with aplomb against much more experienced drivers. It’s important to note that because of the wrist injury he sustained at the FIA Motorsport Games in October, he missed some precious days of testing at the end of 2022.
Third in Italian and ADAC F4 and also third in FRMEC as a rookie, Ferrari junior Câmara will be keen to close the historical gap to his Italian teammate. He’s already shown signs of doing just that with his performances in the final pre-season testing sessions at Monza, of which he topped three.
Entering his third season in the category, Spaniard Lorenzo Fluxá (#7) was 12th last year in FRECA, and he finished fourth in his FRMEC campaign this winter behind his two rookie teammates. He knows how important experience can be in FRECA and will hope to use that to his advantage against his younger teammates.
R-ace GP, the second-placed team from last year, will be lining up a balanced trio led by Tim Tramnitz (#77). The runner-up of ADAC and Italian F4 in 2021, he spent his rookie FRECA season with Trident, earning a best race result of fourth en route to 15th in the standings despite spending the season recovering from a back injury he sustained during testing the previous winter. Now that this injury is behind him, the German driver should be a threat for the title as he spent many testing days in the top three.
Matías Zagazeta (#88) was the runner-up of British F4 in 2021 but struggled in FRECA last year with G4 Racing, not scoring any points. However, the Peruvian now seems to be much more comfortable with his new team.
A two-time podium finisher in Italian F4, Martinius Stenshorne (#34) from Norway is the only rookie fielded by the French squad and is already one of the main favourites for the rookie title.
ART Grand Prix
After a learning year, Laurens Van Hoepen (#18) is due to be ART Grand Prix’s natural leader given his experience in the category within the team. He showed significant progress in pre-season testing from last season, when he eventually finished 21st in the standings.
Alongside him will be two rookies with big ambitions. With the same livery as PHM’s Brad Benavides in F2 thanks to AIX Investment Group, reigning FROC champion Charlie Wurz (#9) spent his winter winning in New Zealand. Even though he won’t be fighting in the rookie category because of that, he can hope to fight in front, perhaps with his former Prema F4 teammates Antonelli and Câmara.
French-Finnish driver Marcus Amand (#25) was one of the biggest surprises of pre-season testing, often going as fast or even faster than his more experienced teammates. Moreover, Amand knows there will be a lot of eyes watching him, as he has recently joined the Sauber Academy and will be running the livery of the Alfa Romeo C43, as Théo Pourchaire and Léna Bühler do in F2 and in F1 Academy respectively.
Van Amersfoort Racing
As he was last year, the lead driver of the team will be Kas Haverkort (#27). The Dutchman would have easily deserved a seat in FIA F3 in 2023 after finishing fifth in FRECA last season. Entering his third season, Haverkort is the highest-placed driver from 2022 return and will have to do even better than last year to attract more sponsors and progress on the feeder series ladder.
He will be joined by 2022 teammate Joshua Dufek (#13) who is the second-best returning driver after being the most impressive driver of the end of the FRECA season with three podiums in the last six races. Having finished ninth overall and second in the rookie category, he will now want to fight for the main championship despite some very discrete pre-season tests.
Finally, Niels Koolen (#68) completes VAR’s line-up after competing in several rounds of Italian and Spanish F4 last year.
After entering FRECA with three rookie drivers last year, Trident will hope to continue their impressive progression as a team and clinch their maiden win in the category with two sophomore drivers and one rookie. Having already raced with the Italian squad last year, Roman Biliński (#4) was their only driver to step on the podium in 2022. After spending his whole racing career in England, his adaptation to Europe was quite successful and he will hope to continue this progression.
Owen Tangavelou (#43) was one of the revelations of last year’s FRECA grid, following some impressive performances and points finishes with RPM. This year could be the year that the Frenchman confirms his talent.
After finishing 13th in his rookie Italian F4 season last year and taking ninth place and a victory in FRMEC this winter, Nikhil Bohra (#47) is joining Trident for what is set to be a two-year plan. In testing, he already seemed to have the pace of his more experienced teammates.
2023 will be a year of stability for MP with three sophomore drivers. Two of them were already with MP in 2022, and the third one was racing with FA Racing, which was the B-team of the Dutch squad. The three drivers are at the same point of their career. Each driver has taken multiple F4 wins and shown glimpses of brilliance in their sole visits to the podium, but all of them have also lacked consistency.
Finishing 16th last year, Sami Meguetounif (#15) enjoyed a successful winter in FRMEC with two pole positions and one race win in Kuwait where he led home eventual champion Antonelli.
Victor Bernier (#26) was 17th in FRECA last season with FA Racing and finished his season on a high with a podium in the final round at Mugello. He may have been the fastest MP driver in testing, but the gaps were quite close.
Dilano van’t Hoff (#17) eventually finished 19th last year despite the injury he sustained at the start of last year. The 2021 Spanish F4 champion will be eager to make a comeback after a very difficult 2022 on a physical and mental level.
Finishing 14th last year, Joshua Dürksen (#10) from Paraguay will hope to lead the British squad to podiums again after a difficult 2022 for Arden during which the team lost several places in the teams’ championship. However, Dürksen was the most impressive driver of the team, being one of the fiercest drivers in the midfield with many points finishes at the end of the year.
After a successful career in his native England, Tom Lebbon (#5) will discover European tracks after finishing third in the GB3 Championship last season with four race wins.
Hungarian Levente Révész (#11) had a best race finish of 14th last year in his rookie season with VAR and will be targeting his maiden points as he switches teams.
The Irish-Italian squad led by Keith Donegan was the biggest surprise of last year’s FRECA grid. They proved their steady progression with Pierre-Louis Chovet’s two podiums and Owen Tangavelou’s rookie win.
They will once again trust a French driver with Macéo Capietto (#85) coming from Monolite after several impressive points finishes last year. The technical feedback of the 17-year-old racer and engineering student could help the team to progress in the right direction, as the Frenchman has led some testing sessions during winter.
Santiago Ramos (#65) had joined RPM for the final round of the 2022 season and looks to be much more comfortable with his new team compared to his nine rounds last year with KIC. The Mexican could be a surprise capable of scoring regular points.
Donegan wanted an Irish driver in one of his cars, and he managed to do so by signing rookie Adam Fitzgerald (#75) from British F4. Fitzgerald was a bit off the pace compared to his two sophomore teammates, but he should be able to close the gap by gaining more experience.
After lining up three drivers last year, Monolite has only confirmed two drivers so far even though a third driver has been tested. After one year out of racing, Enzo Scionti (#29) will become the first full-time FRECA driver to race under the American flag. He had a best race finish of seventh in Euroformula Open.
Giovanni Maschio (#99) was far from the points in Italian F4 but got much closer to them during his FRMEC campaign in the winter, with a best finish of 11th.
Having finished third in Italian F4 in 2021 and fourth in Spanish F4 in 2022, Kirill Smal has been recently testing with Monolite, putting his car into the top five on several occasions. However, the Russian driver has been struggling with budget since the loss of his main sponsor SMP Racing after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Finnish squad will be the only team engaging a female driver, with inaugural FIA Girls on Track winner and Ferrari Driver Academy member Maya Weug (#64). Regularly in the points in Italian F4 for her sophomore season, she will hope to score some points even if KIC was not able to do so last year.
Her two teammates have very little experience, with Shannon Lugassy (#55) coming from the amateur Ultimate Cup Series and Ukrainian Alex Partyshev (#23) coming from Italian F4, in which he took a best finish of 14th last year with Jenzer.
After winning in their maiden season in the category, the Swiss-Spanish team endured a terrible 2022 season with zero points at the end of the year. Reigning French F4 champion Alessandro Giusti (#3), the first driver announced, finished in the top 10 several times in testing. Former French F4 rival Pierre-Alexandre Provost could be joining the team at the second half of the season, though he is currently focusing on his studies.
Michael Belov (#30) was a last-minute announcement by G4 Racing. Despite missing all pre-season testing sessions, the 21-year-old from Moscow is coming back to the team after a season together in 2021, when he collected two wins en route to eighth in the championship. He finished 7th in FRECA last year despite only contesting the first half of the season with MP Motorsport.
Last year, FRECA welcomed Trident and RPM, both of which quickly met success. This year, French GT team Saintéloc Racing will make their FRECA debut after discovering Spanish F4 last year.
Emerson Fittipaldi Jr (#73) will be the youngest driver on the grid as he was born in March 2007. Though he tested for Charouz in FIA F3, the Italian F4 point scorer and Danish F4 race winner will first step up to FRECA with Saintéloc.
They will be taking over FA Racing but keeping one of their drivers in Nicolás Baptiste (#35) who finished all but one race last year and ended the year on a high by qualifying seventh and fighting for points in Race 1 at Mugello. He will hope to keep this momentum entering in this new season.
Replacing his countryman Nicolás Baptiste, who was originally set to take the seat, Colombia’s Lucas Medina (#6) was a last-minute announcement as Belov was. But unlike the Russian, Medina tested with Monolite and Saintéloc in the FRECA pre-season tests. This will be his first season racing in Europe with single-seaters after two partial seasons in NACAM F4, in which he clinched two wins during the non-championship 2021 season.
Editor’s note: This article was updated 19 April 2023 to reflect that Michael Belov and Lucas Medina had been confirmed on the grid.
Header photo credit: Diederik van der Laan / Dutch Photo Agency
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