Cáceres and Aust kick-off 2022 F4 US season at NOLA
Maite Cáceres made history as she became the first Uruguayan woman to race internationally in F4, making her debut in the US championship and showing good improvements throughout the weekend. She was joined on the grid by Madison Aust, who despite the late entry was an encouraging 14th. Here's the story of the weekend
The 2022 F4 US Championship season finally kicked off its season at NOLA Motorsports Park, Avondale, Louisiana, for the first of the six triple-header rounds. The series continues its positive record of female participation, as 19 year-old Maite Cáceres and 16-year-old Madison Aust joined the grid, succeeding Chloe Chambers and Emily Linscott in the US-based F4 series.
Both Cáceres - arguably one of Uruguay's most exciting talents in karting - and Aust were part of the W Series selections in January, when they got the chance to drive the US-spec Formula 4 car in the 5-day test at Inde Motorsports Ranch, Arizona. American Aust had also just started out in single-seaters, contesting national categories, as well as Formula 4 testing days with Crosslink/Kiwi Motorsport, while Cáceres will represent International Motorsport for a full-time campaign.
The best lap time in qualifying was signed by Matt Christensen (Velocity Racing Development), ahead of Noah Ping (Velocity Racing Development) and Bryson Morris (Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport).
Maddie Aust and Maite Cáceres started the first race from P19 and P20. Maite missed out the first two practice sessions on Friday due to issues with the gearbox and used the third practice to learn the track and get along with the features of the NOLA racetrack. Qualifying itself turned out to be a difficult one due to two red flags, so the young Uruguayan was left with just three laps for a timed run.
The same issue proved challenging also for Aust: "My debut in US F4 went well, but due to some red flags during qualifying I wasn’t able to earn as fast of a lap time as I would have hoped for, but looked forward to the challenge", she told us.
Christensen started Race 1 alongside teammate Ping and held the lead while a battle for third saw Morris and Lochie Hughes (Jay Howard Driver Development) putting some pressure on second-placed Ping.
Due to a caution on lap 8, the race restarted three laps later with a rocket start by Ping from 4th to first ahead of Christensen, Hughes and Morris. But there was more drama, as Ping and Christensen were forced to retire from the race after the teammates made contact. Hughes earned the lead and brought it home to a yellow-waved-finish.
Madison Aust finished the race in16th position, just ahead of Maite Cáceres, who was also battling with a wrist injury.
"Race 1 wasn’t bad after having my wrist broken a few weeks ago I was happy to finished it", Maite told us after her international racing debut on Saturday. Importantly, she continued to improve session after session. After he won the first race of the weekend, Hughes started Race 2 from pole, but dropped down to third with Christensen taking over the lead ahead of Morris. He secured the top spot before a red flag interrupted the race midway through. Christensen pulled away when the race was green-flagged again, but Morris made better use of his tires to close the gap and was able to catch Christensen for a drag race on lap 14. Morris took over the lead and was able to open a gap over Christensen, ultimately crossing the finish line nearly 3 seconds ahead of Christensen and Ping. Unfortunately, Madison Aust didn't finish the race ,while Maite Cáceres came home with another encouraging improvement in 16th position.
"There was some intense battling in race one and two", explained Aust, "but unfortunately due to a radiator leak in race two I had to retire the car to keep from overheating."
Race 3 saw a quick Nicholas Rivers (Velocity Racing Development) setting the early pace and taking over the lead on lap 3. He had to endure two restarts and then hunt down Ping, who had passed him on lap 11 - but Rivers was able to reclaim the first place on the final lap to take home his first win of the season on the last race of the weekend. Ping finished second on track but was handed a penalty for causing a collision and dropped down to 13th place. That moved Hughes to second and Alex Berg (Doran-Kroll Competition) to third. Madison Aust scored her best weekend result of the weekend with P14, which offered some redemption after the previous technical issue.
"Fortunately, I was able to come back strong in race 3 where I was able to test and further develop my racing craft", Aust said.
Maite Cáceres, on the other hand, unfortunately wasn't able to see the chequered flag as she was hit into turn 3 after a good start. But the Uruguayan talent was nevertheless "happy with the progress and being my first race in US F4", she added. The next round of the 2022 F4 US championship will take place from 19th to 22nd May at Road America, where Maite Cáceres and Madison Aust will continue their learning season to keep climbing the order.