Double top-10 and a point for Rafaela Ferreira in Brazilian F4
The Brazilian Formula 4 series held its second round of the 2023 season at Interlagos and Rafaela Ferreira added two top-10 finishes to her resumé, also scoring a point.
Just over two months after the opening of the second season of its history, the Brazilian F4 returned to the holy temple of national motorsport - Interlagos, for another round. The weekend featured the debut of two drivers - North American Carl Bennett and Fefo Barrichello, but also with the absence of Cecília Rabelo. The 16-year-old driver from Cavaleiro Sports was out of track activities due to a shoulder injury that she suffered in the first round, but which had not yet fully recovered. But the female presence was still represented by Rafaela Ferreira - 18 years old racer for TMG Racing.
Round activities began on Thursday - July 6th, and Rafaela Ferreira maintained a similar performance in the two extra-practice sessions, recording lap times close to 1:38s - two seconds behind the leader of both sessions, Vinicius Tessaro.
He also led the last extra session and also the free practice sessions the following day, albeit showing an evolution for the rest of the pack, including Ferreira - who was just 0.810s behind in FP2. In qualifying, the results remained similar, with Vinicius Tessaro achieving a double pole position for races 1 and 3. Rafaela Ferreira qualified 11th for both races.
Despite having classified in 11th, Rafaela Ferreira had to start in last place because of an error that occurred during the formation lap. When the red lights went out, Vinicius Tessaro maintained the lead, while Álvaro Cho - who completed the front row - remained stationary in his position. Luckily, he wasn't hit by anyone as the field accelerated towatfs rurn 1. Ferreira had recovered one position.
At the beginning of lap 2 she was close to the drivers immediately in front of her and briefly overtook Carl Bennett. He fought back, but Rafaela Ferreira continued to press on during the next few laps. On the 4th lap she managed to complete a beautiful pass on Alexandre Machado and took P11.
At the front of the grid, her teammate Luan Lopes took the lead from Tessaro. Just over 7 minutes to the end of the countdown, Ferreira gained another position when Nelson Neto served a drive through penalty he had received for taking the wrong position on the starting grid.
Making a recovery race after the problem at the start, Álvaro Cho had already overtaken Machado and was close behind Rafaela. At the same time, she reached her best position in the race - P9 - after Fefo Barrichello made a mistake and left the track; Ferreira was then pressured by Cho, who managed to overtake her at the beginning of the penultimate lap.
Luan Lopes kept the lead until the end and claimed victory, followed by Matheus Comparatto in second and Tessaro in third. Rafaela Ferreira closed the top 10.
With the reverse grid format for the first 8 positions - considering the result of the previous race - the second contest of the day had Carl Bennett in pole position, with Matheus Callejas at his side. Rafaela Ferreira started from 10th position. Just like in the previous race, this time it was Bennett to stall on track at the start, thus dropping to last place while Callejas took the lead. Ferreira ended up losing two positions but promptly started her recovery.
At the end of lap 3, Alexandre Machado went to the pits to change the front wing - damaged after he hit João Tesser's car #29. Rafaela Ferreira reached 11th place and Carl Bennett, who was right behind, tried to get closer to her over the following laps. Until on lap 6, four drivers were fighting for ninth; Ferreira was among them and made two beautiful maneuvers over Nelson Neto and Luan Lopes. Bennett was also part of this train and eventually passed her on the following lap.
Neto still tried to pressure Rafaela Ferreira in the final laps, but the she defended well and secured herself another 10th place. The race was quite hectic and with several battles also between the drivers in the first positions. Matheus Callejas managed the gap over Arthur Pavie who was less than 1 second behind in the last lap and took victory. Lucca Zucchini completed the podium.
For the first time in the season the drivers had to face an extra challenge - one that has traditionally provided some spectacular in Interlagos - the wet track. The starting grid again had Vinicius Tessaro and Álvaro Cho on the front row, with Rafaela lining up in 11th place. Fefo Barrichello chose to bet on the slick tires and therefore started from pit lane.
In the opening stages, Tessaro lost the lead to Luan Lopes, but recovered the first position still over the first lap. Curiously, again a car stalled on the starting grid - João Tesser, Ferreira's teammate at TMG Racing. He - who occupied fourth place, managed to get the car running, but he couldn't catch up with the other drivers and remained only ahead of Barrichello who suffered from the wrong tire choice.
Rafaela Ferreira continued for the entire race in 11th, struggling to get close to the competitors in front of her, but also at a comfortable distance from Tesser. Tessaro led a lonely race, followed by Lopes - in addition to Bennett and Cho, who were fighting for 3rd place on the podium.
Before the end of the race, rain got heavier and Barrichello was forced to make a pit stop. With the very slippery track in some part of the circuit, Alexandre Machado and João Tesser spun. Machado lost one position, dropping to 10th place and Ferreira extended the gap to Tesser. Vinicius Tessaro won Race 3, with Rafaela Ferreira taking the chequered flag in 11th.
“It was a complicated weekend, in the first race I would start 11th, but due to a mistake on the formation lap I had to start last, but I ended up in 10th." - commented the 18 years old driver.
"And in race 3 it was a little different, it was wet and we had never trained in these conditions with this car, so I gained a lot of experience and if it rains again in a new opportunity I will be ready." - she added, highlighting her first experience of driving a formula car on a wet track.
With the second round now in the books, the drivers' standings see Vinicius Tessaro at the top, now with 97 points. The result of race 2 earned 1 point for Rafaela Ferreira, now in 11th on the points' table.
Cecília Rabelo - who missed out due to injury, is tied with Fefo Barrichello in 13th. Among the Rookies, Matheus Comparatto distanced himself from second place and now has 128 points. Ferreira got important points and kept the 4th place in the class, with 53 points.
F4 Brazilian will return to the track in just under a month, from August 6th and 8th, with the beautiful Velocitta Circuit as the stage for the third round of the 2023 championship.