F4 Italy: Aurelia Nobels sweeps Female Trophy wins, Tina Hausmann secures class title
The Italian F4 Women Trophy went down to the wire at the Vallelunga season finale, where Aurelia Nobels took three class victories; it would be rookie Tina Hausmann though to secure the 2023 title, succeeding Maya Weug as the highest finishing woman in the highly competitive Italian series.
The 2023 Italian Formula 4 Championship wrapped up its 10th season of competitions at Vallelunga, just outside of Rome, where the overall title as well as class titles were assigned.
As Polish up-and-coming star Kacper Sztuka was crowned 2023 champion after Saturday's second race, the Female Trophy class went down to the wire, as Tina Hausmann and Victoria Blokhina battled until the very last race.
While out of contention for the female-title, Ferrari Academy driver Aurelia Nobels was also among the protagonists of the weekend: the Brazilian in fact had a positive qualifying and claimed three class victories sweeping the Vallelunga weekend and securing a top-20 overall in race 2, thanks to a solid performance on the tricky 4.085 km circuit.
PHM Racing's Blokhina, in her second year in the championship, entered the season finale as the leader in the Female Trophy standings thanks to a very consistent season: Victoria's trademark recoveries were also paired with a high finishing rate, alongside two top-15 and five top-20s overall. A massive crash at Spa Francorchamps ruled her out from the Belgian races, but she would return to top form from the following round.
Nobels' season was a bit more troubled, as a wrist injury at Misano meant that Aurelia would have to sit out also the following races at Spa; another big crash at Monza in the Euro4 Championship took her out from 2 more races, but having made her return at Mugello's penultimate round of Italian F4, Aurelia was physically was ready to finish on a high at Vallelunga, albeit mathematically out of the Female Trophy title fight.
Tina Hausmann, who has just turned 17, had been on a streak of positive results, including three class victories at the penultimate round in Mugello.
Hausmann has arguably been one of the most interesting rookies of the 2023 Italian F4 season - and her whole rookie year in single seaters has been nothing short of impressive. From a podium at debut in Formula Winter Series - in her first ever race in cars - Hausmann claimed two top-20 finishes in her first weekend in Italian F4, which she contested with AKM Motorsport.
While she had to sit out the Misano weekend due to a big roll-over crash, Hausmann continued her learning oriented season with strong races at Monza and Paul Ricard, where she was also in the top-10 among the rookies. With the three female trophy wins at Mugello, she brought her total of class wins up to seven, as she would attempt to win the title at Vallelunga.
Blokhina had a strong first practice session, while Nobels found pace in the second practice: all three drivers entered Saturday morning's qualifying with ambitions to start within the top-20 among the uber-competitive 34 car field for a tight circuit like Vallelunga.
Kacper Sztuka secured all three pole positions for the final races of the year; Aurelia Nobels put in another strong performance to line up P20 and P22 after the 15-minute qualifying sessions, leading both Hausmann and Blokhina among the Female Trophy class. Hausmann in fact had some challenging sessions and couldn't do better than 27th and 26th; Blokhina also struggled a bit more, as she was 31st fastest in both sessions.
In the afternoon, the title fights entered the final chapter: after six consecutive wins, Sztuka had the best starting position to try to outscore championship rival Arvid Lindblad (Prema Racing), who would start seventh. Also in championship contention, McLaren junior Ugo Ugochukwu (Prema Racing) had a brilliant launch from third on the grid and managed to snatch the lead after passing Sztuka at turn 5. Taponen would also find a way past Sztuka, as Lindblad advanced to sixth.
Aurelia Nobels had a great start and moved up to P19, then battled with Quintarelli, Liu and Wiebelhaus, eventually falling to P22 by lap 2. Hausmann was also busy in the fierce battles just a bit further down: she followed closely Anurag and series rookie Kalender, as well defended from Blokhina, who had gained positions on the opening lap.
Hausmann overtook Kalender on lap 5 and immediately started to put pressure on the US Racing car of Kabir Anurag for P27. While Nobels had dropped to 25th, the Brazilian picked up a couple of positions by lap 10, as she managed to climb back to P23, still in control of the female trophy battle.
It was a rather uneventful race up front, as Ugochukwu comfortably held the lead from teammate Taponen and Sztuka, who was unable to fight back and had to settle for third place in race 1.
Aurelia Nobels put pressure on Jenzer's Shimo Zhang - and gained a position on the penultimate lap when Riuqi Liu dropped down the order. Aurelia claimed the Female Trophy win with a positive P22 in race 1. Tina Hausmann was also on the move and passed both Anurag and Wiebelhaus in the closing minutes to finish 25th. The Swiss driver was just one tenth behind Giacomo Petrini across the line.
Victoria Blokhina moved up two spots from her starting position and took the chequered flag in P28. The PHM Racing driver retained the lead in the Female Trophy standings, although Hausmann was now just 6 points behind.
Aurelia P22, Tina P26, Vika P30
Sztuka had another chance to extend his championship lead with another pole position - but the Polish driver had to defend from another sterling start from Ugochukwu, although the American couldn't take first place away from Sztuka this time.
Behind them, though, a contact ignited a massive 8 car accident which saw championship contender Arvid Lindblad cutting across the grass and many cars behind collecting each other. After a great start, unfortunately Tina Hausmann was the blameless victim of the incident, as she was hit and had to retire with front and rear suspension damage.
Shimo Zhang, Akshay Bohra, Finn Wiebelhaus, Kabir Anurag, Tome Kalender, Diego De La Torre and Guido Luchetti were also out on the first lap accident; both Aurelia Nobels and Victoria Blokhina had managed to escape without damage, with the former climbing to P16 and Blokhina gaining 12 spots to slot into 18th.
The race was red flagged to allow the recovery of the crashed cars; eventually the initial starting grid was restored and a shortened race was back underway behind the Safety Car.
Nobels therefore was back to P20, while Blokhina accelerated away from P28 once the safety car pulled into the pit lane with 19 minutes to go. At the green flag Aurelia had to defend from Riuqi Liu, while Blokhina gained a spot after Beeton hit trouble.
Sztuka had Taponen right in his mirrors and the Finn attacked on lap 4, although Sztuka held on. This allowed Brando Badoer to join the party, having passed Ugochukwu one lap earlier.
After initially defending, Sztuka could pull away and never looked back, as Taponen, Badoer and Ugochukwu were unable to keep up with the US Racing driver.
Nobels claimed back P20 and Blokhina also picked up a further position when Matteo Quintarelli fell down the order. In the final two minutes of the race, Nobels had caught up with Pradel and Larini, but eventually crossed the finish line in P20.
Following spot race penalties for Powell, David and Lacorte, though, Aurelia Nobels - who claimed again the Female Trophy win - was promoted to P17, and Blokhina - originally in P23 - secured her fifth top 20 of the year.
"We had a test before the event, which was good, and it helped us a lot" - commented Aurelia. "Then, in qualy, we did P20 and P22. Not the positions we were expecting, but in all three races we had very, very good starts managing to gain some spots."
"In Race 1, we finished in P22. After a few laps, we went back to P26, but we fought back and we had the pace. I finished P22 and was very close in the lap times. In race 2, we started P20 and finished P17. Once again, we had the speed, we were three tens off from P2."
Thanks to a dominant race 2, Kacper Sztuka was crowned 2023 Italian F4 champion, writing his name among some prestigious predecessors such as Lance Stroll, Ralf Aron, Marcos Siebert, Marcus Armstrong, Enzo Fittipaldi, Dennis Hauger, Gabriele Minì, Oliver Bearman and Andrea Kimi Antonelli.
The pressure was already off for Sztuka, who led the field at turn 1 from Ugochuckwu and Taponen at the start of the final race of the season. But everything was still up for grabs in the Female Trophy, as Tina Hausmann had missed the first match ball, but had another chance on Sunday.
Having battled elbows out all weekend in the midfield Aurelia Nobels had another great start and gained three positions - while drama for the Female Trophy standings saw Victoria Blokhina making her way back to pit lane at the end of the first lap. The PHM Racing driver - who retained the lead of the class standings, but needed to win to be crowned after the dropped score, had a big challenge to overcome after rejoining the track almost one lap down.
From P25 on the grid, Tina Hausmann battled with Anurak, Pedrini and Pradel, trading positions in a very close field. Hausmann picked up a position after avoiding a contact between Pradel and Pedrini just ahead of her; by lap 10, Hausmann was trying to make up ground in P26, as Nobels fell to P21 after losing out to Ruiqi Liu at the hairpin.
The Brazilian struggled in the final 10 minutes of the race and dropped further down the order: now only 7 tenths of a second separated the FDA driver to Hausmann, as the Swiss rookie closed in with a handful of laps to go into the season.
Ahead, Kacper Sztuka took another dominant lights-to-flag victory - the ninth of the season - having opened a 3 second gap to Prema drivers Ugochuwku, Taponen and Wharton - who passed Badoer for fourth.
Aurelia Nobels held on to P24 and swept the Female Trophy victories at Vallelunga.
"It was quite a positive weekend", Aurelia commented. "The pace was there again in Race 3, where we finished P24. We learned a lot during this championship, It was a good year so far with PREMA, everyone is helping me and I'm quite happy, quite satisfied."
Just behind her, Tina Hausmann completed her rookie season in race cars with a widely positive season, also adding the 2023 Female Trophy title: Tina in fact succeeded Maya Weug in the class championship, having collected 310 points. While Blokhina had gained 331 points, the dropped score format meant that only 16 out of the 21 races would count towards the classification. Victoria was therefore nine points short, having completed all but four races.
"My Italian season couldn’t end in a better way: after today’s result in Vallelunga I secured the P1 in the women’s category", Hausmann stated.
"Really happy for this achievement that means a lot to me: huge thanks to the team AKM Motorsport, that made it possible and special thanks to Marco Antonelli for his coaching, supporting and mentoring throughout the whole season."
Former winners of the Female Trophy title include Julia Pankiewicz, Fabienne Wohlwend, Amna and Hamda Al Qubaisi and Maya Weug.
Both Aurelia and Tina will be back on track in a week's time for the final round of the Euro4 championship at Barcelona.