The second round of the 2023 Italian F4 season was dominated by championship leader Arvid Lindblad. The Briton claimed two wins and finished second in the opening race at the Misano World Circuit, extending his lead in the drivers’ standings. Prema managed to take home every race win of the weekend, as Tuukka Taponen took his first win in the series in Race 1, but the Italian outfit’s success isn’t the only story worth telling. Reporting trackside in Misano, Feeder Series tells you what we’ve learned from the second round of the season.
By Daniele Spadi
Six races down, fifteen to go, and the 2023 Italian F4 Championship is starting to take shape. In such a close field fans are beginning to find out who will be among the title contenders come the end of the season. With 33 drivers ready to race in Misano for the second round of the series, there would only be more headlines to dissect come the weekend’s end.
For Misano, the championship went back to its usual three-race format. After a very intense first race weekend in Imola, things were looking good for championship leader Arvid Lindblad, and he continued to impress with a phenomenal performance in Misano. However, anything can happen in a series like Italian F4, and a lot can change from one weekend to another.
A constant presence on the Italian F4 calendar since 2015, Misano once again proved to be an entertaining track for the series. Despite maybe not outdoing Imola when it comes to the on-track action, the second round of the championship still managed to keep spectators on the edge of their seats throughout the weekend. As usual, some drivers improved on their previous outings, while others fell down the order as they couldn’t replicate the performances they had delivered before. Here’s what Feeder Series learned from the paddock while in Misano for the second round of the 2023 Italian F4 Championship.
A force to be reckoned with
After a great debut in Imola, it was hard for Arvid Lindblad to improve on an already brilliant performance, but the Briton did just that thanks to a spectacular weekend. Lindblad finished the first race of the weekend in P2 right behind teammate Tuukka Taponen before dominating the rest of the action, taking home first place in the following two races. The Red Bull Junior driver looked the quickest right from qualifying, where he took the pole twice and therefore established himself as one of the drivers to beat during the weekend. In the races, the Briton looked in total control of the situation, opening a gap in the early stages and managing his tyres really well in the process.
By virtue of his fantastic weekend, Lindblad extended his championship lead, leaving Misano with a 48-point advantage over his main rival Ugo Ugochukwu, who claimed two podiums and a sixth place throughout the weekend. After a shaky start in F4 UAE earlier this winter, where Lindblad scored less than half of teammate and championship winner James Wharton’s points, the Red Bull Junior driver has now demonstrated why he should be considered as one of the main title contenders this season. Right now he is the driver to beat.
Back to the top
The first weekend of the season was very tough for the two drivers who fought for the 2023 F4 UAE drivers’ title, and both Tuukka Taponen and James Wharton needed to step up their game and make a big step forward in Misano. Taponen was on pace right from the start, taking pole position for race 1 and looking like a different driver compared to Imola. The Finn was finally able to find the pace he had first shown this winter in the United Arab Emirates, and he controlled the field in the opening race of the weekend on his way to a maiden Italian F4 win. Taponen followed such a great result with two impressive drives in the remaining two races, finishing in the top five on both occasions and taking home 47 points that propelled him to fifth in the drivers’ standings after the second round of the season.
On the other hand, James Wharton needed a much stronger second race weekend of the season compared to his Imola efforts. Despite taking home fifth in the final qualifying race of the opening weekend, a retirement in Race 1 and a lack of pace that left him outside of the top ten in the grand final was simply not good enough for the only Prema driver that raced full-time in the 2022 Italian F4 season.
After having trouble in qualifying in Imola, Wharton was back to his usual self in Misano, putting his car in the top five on every occasion. The Australian then took home his first two podium finishes of the season, crossing the line in third in Race 1 and finishing in second in the following one. Unfortunately, a technical issue in race 3 prevented him from fighting for the podium, running in fourth in the early stages of the race when disaster struck and his car eventually ground to a halt. Despite such an unfortunate ending to his weekend, Wharton proved that the first round of the season was just an anomaly, and the reigning F4 UAE champion is ready to take the fight to the rest of the grid in what is a make-or-break season for him.
Does Prema have an unbeatable package?
At the start of the season, questions were asked about who could take the fight to reigning team champions Prema. US Racing and Van Amersfoort Racing were the two obvious choices, with both of them having talented drivers and a great team of mechanics and engineers behind them. However, only one of the nine podium finishers was not a Prema driver, a worrying stat for the other teams, and perhaps a sign that the main title contenders are to be found on the Italian side of the paddock.
That one driver who managed to finish in the top three in Misano was Zachary David, who is currently the best non-Prema driver in the standings after the first two rounds of the season. The Maltese driver finished third in the final race of the weekend and crossed the line in sixth in race 2 as the lead US Racing car. However, his weekend was far from perfect, as he retired in the very early stages of the opening race, losing precious points in the championship in the process.
After an unlucky first weekend of the season, his teammate Kacper Sztuka was hoping for a better outcome in Misano. The Pole was able to pick up two fourth-place finishes in races 1 and 3, but after stalling on the grid in the second race he wasn’t able to gain the points he had lost in Imola after two mechanical failures.
It was a difficult weekend for Brando Badoer, too. The lead VAR driver looked to be among the quickest in Imola and perhaps had the best raw pace of the entire grid. Things changed in Misano, however, as the Italian was unable to keep up with the Prema drivers and struggled to stay in the fight for the top positions. After taking home fifth in the opening race, Badoer stalled on the grid when the lights went out for the final race of the weekend, a costly mistake that saw the Italian fall to seventh in the drivers’ standings. Both Badoer and the two US Racing boys will have to minimize mistakes and show signs of improvement in both racecraft and overall pace if they want to take the fight to Prema in Spa.
A wake-up call for others
Though VAR and US Racing were not on the same level as Prema in Misano, they both proved to be a long way ahead of the other teams that are competing in Italian F4 this season. In fact, only two drivers that do not race for the top three teams managed to score points in any of the races held in Misano. BVM’s Alfio Spina was one of them. The Italian, who had a fantastic first weekend of the season in Imola where he took his maiden podium finish in the series, was not that far away from the leaders pace-wise but ultimately lacked the speed to stay within touching distance from them. Spina only managed to take home four points thanks to two ninth-place finishes, and he dropped to tenth in the drivers’ standings because of that.
Valentin Kluss was the other driver who managed to enter the top ten in one of the three races. The German had a terrific display of consistency in Imola, crossing the line in sixth place on every occasion. In contrast to Imola, Misano saw the PHM driver could only take home one point, finishing in tenth in the opening race of the weekend. His teammate James Egozi also looked capable of scoring points, but he ultimately failed to do so, finishing in the top twelve in every race but narrowly missing out on points in every outing. The fact that only two drivers outside of the top three teams were capable of finishing in the points-paying positions in Misano is an alarming stat that many teams will try to change come the third race weekend of the season in Spa, but things don’t seem as bright as they did after Imola for any of them.
Header photo credit: ACI Sport
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