Rafaela Ferreira and Cecília Rabelo make Brazilian F4 debut
After Aurelia Nobels in 2022, the second season in the history of Brazilian F4 got underway at Interlagos with two new female talents: Rafaela Ferreira and Cecília Rabelo. Here's the recap of the opening weekend.
The second season of the Brazilian F4 started its on track activities last Thursday, April 20th, and just like in the debut season of the category in 2022, the female presence is guaranteed by two young drivers – Rafaela Ferreira, who turned 18 years old last week, and Cecília Rabelo, 16. Both drivers have been involved in motorsport since childhood, where they stood out in several national karting competitions.
Now, both are ready to tackle a new phase in their careers by making their debut in their first season of formula cars. As preparation for her F4 debut, Rafaela participated in a round of Formula Inter US, and finished the two races held at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 4th place.
The Interlagos Circuit, in São Paulo, hosted the first of the 6 rounds scheduled on the 2023 calendar and on Thursday three free practice sessions were held. Although the grid is made up of young drivers, the performance shown by them in lap times brought the expectation that the 2023 season will certainly bring good battles and a good progression.
The first sessions were dominated by Vinícius Tessaro – one of Cecília Rabelo's teammates in the Cavaleiro Sport team – who recorded the best times in each session, the best of which was 1:36.856. Rafaela Ferreira - who competes for the TMG Racing team, showed a good performance, remaining between 7th and 9th, and had a positive evolution in lap times, reaching 1:37.931 in the EP3. Cecilia Rabelo finished the three sessions in P11, however, she also showed an improvement, reducing the gaps and then clocking a 1:39.432 in her best effort.
Both drivers continued to make progress in the free practice sessions on Friday. Later in the afternoon, the qualifying sessions for races 1 and 3 were also held - and for race 2 a reverse grid system is adopted, considering the result of race 1. Vinícius Tessaro and Álvaro Cho were the two fastest in the two sessions, with Tessaro scoring pole position for race 1 and Cho topping the times for race 3. The very similar results in the times of their best laps determined that both Rafaela Ferreira and Cecília Rabelo would start the two races in the same positions - Ferreira in 10th and Rabelo in 12th.
"We're evolving with each outing, adapting to the car and trying to improve the pace. Due to a problem in qualifying, we only did half of it, which resulted in a double P10. I know my ability and we're going to fight to go forward, because that's where I belong."- said Rafaela Ferreira after qualifying.
The first race of the season for the Brazilian F4 didn't make life easy for the two female drivers on the grid. In the first two corners of the Interlagos Circuit - the famous "S do Senna", Rafaela Ferreira made contact with Mateus Callejas #16's car, and the front of her #18 car was damaged. Coming right behind them, Cecília Rabelo ended up having damage in her #98 machine after hitting the front wing of Ferreira's Tatuus.
The two ended up dropping to the back of the grid and in the following laps they pitted. As if the incident was not enough, Rafaela Ferreira also received a drive-through penalty, for speeding during the previous pit-stop.
Pole-sitter Vinícius Tessaro led the race from start to finish, but battles between drivers in the middle of the pack were intense. On the last laps, Lucca Zucchini hit the back of Nelson Neto's car and picked up damaged to his front wing, but managed to continue. Rafaela Ferreira's teammate - João Tesser, also had problems and retired. Eventually, Cecília Rabelo completed the race in 10th and Rafaela in 11th.
The result of the previous race placed Alexandre Machado on pole-position for the last contest of the day on Saturday. Cecília Rabelo started in 10th and Rafaela Ferreira right behind, in 11th position. When the action got underway, Nelson Neto made a good attack and took the lead from Machado, who dropped to 8th place. In turn 3, Arthur Pavie spun and left the track, but managed to rejoin.
On lap 2, Cecília Rabelo was already in 7th place and Rafaela Ferreira was in 10th place, when one of her teammates - Luan Lopes, was involved in a big accident where he was tagged and flipped around, but luckily the TMG Racing driver was pulled out from his #99 car in safe conditions. The safety car was then deployed for the first time in the season and the action was neutralized for almost 6 minutes. With just over 9 minutes to go, the race restarted.
Álvaro Cho still tried to take the lead from Neto, but was unsuccessful. Cecília Rabelo was in her best position throughout the competition, but receiving a touch from Arthur Pavie: the two spun, and Rabelo fell from 7th to 11th position. Before the end of the race, Vinícius Tessaro was still punished by the stewards, receiving a drive-through - due to an incident with Pavie on the first lap. He dropped to 10th place and so Rafaela Ferreira gained one more position and crossed the finish line in 6th.
Despite the difficulties faced on Saturday, Rafaela Ferreira was confident for the continuation of the round the next day: "It was a good day, we completed both races. In the first one we had some problems, I lost the nose of the car and we had to to go to the pits, but in the 2nd we came for a recovery race, we conquered 5 positions, finishing in P6 and added points for the championship." – she said. "We managed to maintain a good rhythm equal to that of the leaders. I am sure that tomorrow we will come from behind the grid again, due to problems in qualify, but I will fight for the top 5."
On the afternoon of Sunday, April 23, the driver took to the track for the last time of the weekend. Just like in race 1, Rafaela Ferreira lined up in P10, and Cecília Rabelo in P12.
The first row also had the same drivers, but this time Álvaro Cho was in pole position and Vinícius Tessaro was in 2nd place.
In the first laps there weren't many changes in the order, until on lap 3, when Rafaela Ferreira completed a beautiful pass on Matheus Callejas, taking 9th place. Rabelo followed in 12th. A little further ahead, in the fight for 7th position, the winner of race 2 - Nelson Neto, also overtook Lucca Zucchini. On lap 5, Tessaro was able to pass Cho and take the lead to secure his second win of the season.
During most of the race, the most intense battle was between Nelson Neto, Rafaela Ferreira and Matheus Callejas for 8th position. The drivers were very close to each other and any mistake could become an opportunity for the opponents. Ferreira tried to attack Neto while defending herself from Callejas, but the trio remained in the same positions until the checkered flag.
Nelson Neto finished in 8th, Rafaela Ferreira in 9th and Matheus Callejas in 10th. Right behind them, Cecília Rabelo completed the race in 11th place, after Alexandre Machado – who was ahead of her – went to the pits in the last laps with a puncture in the left front tire of his car.
"It was a week of hard work, evolution and learning", explained Rabelo. "It wasn't the results we expected, but I'm sure this will help us get stronger for the next one. Unfortunately I had severe pain during the week that greatly hindered my performance. Now let's focus on the next round on July 9th!"
Rafaela Ferreira also spoke about the weekend: "After some problems we had in qualify and a break of the car's front wing in race 1, we got good points for the championship, P6 being our best position! Now it's time to focus on training to be stronger in the next round!"
After the 3 races of the debut round, the drivers standings of the Brazillian F4 see Vinícius Tessaro at the top with 52 points. Rafaela Ferreira is in 10th place with 6 points and Cecília Rabelo in 12th place with 1 point. Among the 6 rookies, Ferreira is 4th with 33 points, Rabelo 5th - with 26. The leader is Matheus Comparatto with 65 points. On 8th and 9th of July, the drivers will return to Interlagos for the second round of the championship.