Rookies or sophomores, some drivers are expected to fight for the FRECA title because of their achievements from their previous season. However, hidden in the shade of their more rated teammate, some drivers could well start shining this year after a last couple of years that have not been up to their own expectations.
By Perceval Wolff
Andrea Kimi Antonelli at Prema, Tim Tramnitz at R-ace, Kas Haverkort at Van Amersfoort… it is quite easy to draw the main favourites of this new FRECA season that is starting this weekend at Imola. With 32 drivers engaged for the round, most of them will be keen to change the established hierarchy.
Rafael Câmara (Prema)
Despite joining the Ferrari Driver Academy at the end of 2021, with impressive results in F4 last year and in FRMEC this winter, Rafael Câmara has always lived in the shade of his prestigious teammate Andrea Kimi Antonelli.
As both started their single-seaters career in the same time, Câmara was often compared to Antonelli but we should not underrate the achievements the 17-year-old boy from Recife. After finishing 3rd of his maiden Italian and ADAC F4 seasons last year, he took six podiums en route to P3 in FRMEC and has often beaten much more experienced drivers.
This year, Câmara has impressed during the official FRECA pre-season testing, being the fastest driver of the whole field in Paul Ricard and Monza, even ahead of Antonelli. Given the confidence he has with the car, it would be very presumptuous to directly exclude the Brazilian from the title fight. Antonelli may be the favourite for the title, but his biggest rival may well be his own teammate.
Martinius Stenshorne (R-ace)
Coming from Italian F4, Norwegian Martinius Stenshorne will be one of the favourites for the rookie title and will hope to follow the footsteps of several rookies that met success with R-ace, such as Isack Hadjar.
Even though Stenshorne ‘only’ finished seventh of Italian F4 last year, it is important to note he was the lead driver of Van Amersfoort Racing and was the only member of the Dutch squad to give a fight to Prema, US Racing and PHM. After an intensive testing program with R-ace during the winter, the protégé of Nicolas Todt seems more than ready for his move to FRECA. Now joining a top team, he will hope to fight at the front.
During pre-season testing, he was quite easily ahead of his teammate Matias Zagazeta, and seemed to be slowly closing the gap to team leader Tim Tramnitz. Often present in the top ten, it will be exciting to see if the Norwegian can challenge for not only the rookie title, but also for overall wins.
Marcus Amand (ART)
Born three days after Stenshorne, French-Finnish driver Marcus Amand has definitely had a bumpy trajectory before joining ART in FRECA. As the 2019 European OK-Junior karting champion, he may have jumped to single-seaters too early, as he was not physically ready.
His sophomore F4 season was much better with US Racing, eventually finishing ninth in the Italian championship with a couple of podiums. Behind his teammates Alex Dunne and Kacper Sztuka, it was a very important year for the French driver who absolutely needed some results to put his career back on track.
For the 2023 season, he has received the precious support of the Sauber Academy who definitely trust the redemption of this former karting prodigy. And pre-season testing has been promising for Amand, who has beaten his teammate Charlie Wurz (fourth of Italian F4, FROC champion) at all sessions, and even his other returning teammate Laurens Van Hoepen in some sessions.
Stenshorne is the favourite for the rookie title, but he will have to count on Amand to give him a proper fight.
Santiago Ramos (RPM)
If you try to list all the drivers that will constantly be fighting for points during the whole season, Santiago Ramos may not be on your list. However, the 19-year-old has shown a lot of promise during pre-season testing with RPM.
After racing with DR Formula, Jenzer and KIC in F4 and FRECA since 2019, the Mexican has always been with underdog teams. With three partial F4 seasons, his overall standings are surely not impressive, but he still has managed a podium in Spanish F4 in his only three races, plus three top five finishes with Jenzer in Italy.
After a first year of discovery in FRECA with KIC, a team that tallied zero points last season, he will be joining RPM, a team that appeared on the podium a few times in 2022. For the first time in his career, Ramos will be in a team capable of fighting with top teams. And even though he was a little behind his teammate Macéo Capietto, he has spent Barcelona, Paul Ricard and Monza testing always in the top nine.
Tom Lebbon (Arden)
2020 Ginetta Junior champion and 3rd in GB3 in 2022, Tom Lebbon is the typical driver of British feeder series. But unlike some of his fellow countrymen like Zak O’Sullivan, he is not stepping up to FIA F3 directly but will discover Europe with FRECA by joining Arden.
Not very known at the other side of the Channel, he will be keen to do even better than Roman Bilinski, who was another GB3 driver that raced to FRECA last year. The main challenge for Lebbon will be about how quickly he adapts to the FRECA car and to the European tracks, as he will have to learn all the circuits on the calendar, unlike other rookies who have already raced on them in Formula 4.
During pre-season testing, he directly matched the pace of his teammates Levente Révész and Joshua Dürksen, who have much more experience with European tracks and with this car.
Header photo credit: Diederik van der Laan / Dutch Photo Agency
Make a one-time donation
Make a monthly donation
Make a yearly donation
Choose an amount
Or enter a custom amount
Your contribution is appreciated.
Your contribution is appreciated.
Your contribution is appreciated.DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly