F4 Italy: Victoria Blokhina completes rookie campaign with brilliant recoveries
Victoria Blokhina rounded out her rookie season in F4 Italy with impressive charges through the field, gaining over 20 positions over the races. Blokhina now gets ready for the 2023 UAE F4 series, as she will contest a second season in F4.
Another amazing season of Italian Formula 4 has come to an end, crowning its deserving champion after three dominant races at the spectacular Mugello track – in some of the most scenic Tuscan hills.
What is effectively the international F4 championship – which saw 55 drivers from 28 different countries taking the start of at least one round – has once again delivered great racing and exciting prospects, with among them two very promising female drivers.
Maya Weug had a really strong sophomore campaign, sith support from Ferrari Driver Academy and Iron Lynx/Iron Dames; but equally impressive was rookie Victoria Blokhina, who just completed her first year in race cars.
Coming off a promising karting career, Blokhina contested a partial campaign in the F4 UAE championship in winter, when she learned the basics of the all new Tatuus F4 car that made its debut in the Emirati-based series. Victoria was then straight off to the Italian championship, challenging herself in the most competitive of environments. And she certainly delivered, with consistent progression, learning and improving a lot – especially in battles.
With often over 40 cars on track, the Italian series is in fact a really proving ground for the talents of tomorrow, who quickly have to adapt to crowded fields and physically demanding racetracks.
In her rookie campaign, Blokhina cracked the top-20 at her series debut and, in a really strong weekend at Red Bull Ring, almost grasped her first top ten, ending with a P12 as best result.
Difficult qualifying sessions often forced her to make impossible comebacks through the field – which have now become a trademark for the PHM Racing driver.
In Mugello it was no different: Blokhina was P34 and P35 in the two qualifying sessions, which forced the 16 year old to navigate through the field in the three races that would round out the year.
“Qualifying was difficult because I never had a clean lap, I had quite a lot of traffic” – Victoria commented. “In the second qualifying, I just pushed so much: a few corners were fine, and then the rest of the lap was not so great.”
Andrea Kimi Antonelli was unbeatable and scored pole positions for all the three races. Dunne – who aimed at the second place in the championship standings – preceded Ugo Ugochukwu (Prema Racing), Charlie Wurz and Martinuis Stenshorne.
On the starting grid of Race 1, Red Bull backed driver Arvin Lindblad stalled as the lights went out and was luckily avoided by the whole pack. Antonelli held the lead, while in the midfield Jonas Ried, Alfio Spina and Ismail Akhmed hit trouble.
After a difficult qualifying, Rafael Camara moved into eighth place from P10 on the grid, as Maya Weug climbed six places and was straight into the top ten. Two more front-runners – James Wharton and Kacper Sztuka – were also out of the race early.
The safety car bunched up the field when Koolen, Bhirombhakdi, Maschio and Perino went out in a multiple car accident. Antonelli had almost built a one second gap in the lead over Dunne, but the Italian was never under threat also at the restart.
Victoria Blokhina had meanwhile already gained 9 positions and, at the green flag with 7 minutes to go, she had another great reaction and moved into P24.
Antonelli perfectly timed the restart and pulled away, with Stenshorne overtaking Ugochukwu for third – as the American dropped to sixth.
The victory in race 1 handed Andrea Kimi Antonelli the 2022 Italian F4 title, in his eleventh win of the season. Dunne and Stenshorne completed the podium.
Blokhina’s efforts were unfortunately hampered by a last lap contact that left her without front wing; she would drop all the way down to P30 after an otherwise really solid recovery.
“In the first race my start wasn’t so good” – Blokhina explained. “I tried to find some place, but it ended up being the wrong decision. But then midway through the race it was not so bad, I did some overtakes.”
“Then the Safety Car came and I didn't have a great restart. I had a few laps to catch the guys, and then I had a contact where I broke my front wing and picked up a puncture.”
“In race 2 I’d like to be at least around P25, possibly higher” – she said on Saturday afternoon.
From P36 on the grid, Blokhina had to take evasive action at the start and dropped to P40 when Lindblad stalled again.
From pole, Antonelli led Camara, Sztuka and Dunne after one lap of racing, before Dunne attacked and passed his US Racing teammate for third.
Lindblad’s nightmare weekend continued with a contact with Frassineti, with the Italian ending up receiving a penalty for pushing off the Briton. Lindblad was out of the race and the Safety Car made its first appearance of the day – also after a separate incident between Maschio and Koolen.
Blokhina, meanwhile, had managed to gain two more positions.
At the restart with 12 minutes to go, Camara went side by side with Antonelli for the lead, but the 2022 champion held on. This battle, though, allowed Dunne and Sztuka to close in again on the leading Premas.
A great restart saw Blokhina moving up five places.
A second safety car neutralized the race once again when Niels Koolen and Liu Qi Rui collided and hit the barriers.
With only 4 minutes left on the clock, Antonelli was once again perfect at the restart, as Dunne attempted a move on Camara at Turn 1. While he initially backed off, the Irishman made the move stick one corner later.
Seventh-placed Marcus Amand slowed down with a broken front wing and dropped down the order, leaving Maya Weug in eighth place. The Iron Dame had started in tenth position and was the protagonist of another remarkable race in the points-paying positions.
In the hectic final laps, Blokhina was unstoppable in her recovery and advanced into P29 – after ending 40th in the first lap.
Andrea Kimi Antonelli had opened a 1.2 second gap and won ahead of Dunne and Camara – further 3 seconds down the road. Sztuka and Ugochukwu rounded out the top five, with Maya Weug ultimately finishing ninth after a good battle with Martinius Stenshorne.
The final race of the 2022 Italian F4 season rounded out the track activities at Mugello for the weekend, with track conditions and temperature changing.
Rafael Camara had the opportunity to redeem himself in Race 3, as the Brazilian started from pole position ahead of teammate Antonelli. At the first corner, though, Dunne, Sztuka and Camara went three-wide, resulting in contact and in two of the potential winners ending their race in the gravel: Camara and Sztuka were out, while Dunne, who was on the inside line, was handed a drive through penalty.
After a great start, though, Antonelli had already taken the lead and preceded Ugochukwo and Dunne when the Safety Car was deployed.
Victoria Blokhina had an equally good launch off the line and was already up to P30 when the race went back underway with 19 minutes to go.
Before serving his drive through, Dunne was able to claim second from Ugochukwo after the American locked up at Turn 1.
There were big battles just outside the top 10, with Maya Weug having to defend from Lindblad and Spina. From P11, she would eventually drop to P15, possibly struggling a bit with tyres.
A big accident involving Castro and Lacorte brought out the Safety Car once again. Both drivers were unhurt, but the Van Amersfoort Racing’s car of the Belgian had sustained significant damage in the hit with the barriers.
On the final lap Antonelli could extend once again his gap and won unchallenged – in an utterly dominant weekend. Ugo Ugochukwu took second place, helding off Charlie Wurz in the closing stages in a Prema 1-2-3.
Victoria Blokhina’s final race of the year was another really strong charge through the field that ended with a P23 – gaining 11 positions.
“My target was to just have fun in this race. And I had fun with a lot of good overtakes. I did a pretty good job” – Blokhina told us.
“I was a bit unlucky because another driver overtook me behind the safety car, but I could get the position back. Overall it was a good race for me.”
Her first season in such a competitive series has noticeably made her a better driver, giving her the opportunity to improve in areas such as wheel to wheel battles and understanding of the car.
“I really learnt a lot from battles in this rookie season”, she stressed. “In the first races I was a bit scared, but now I’m really strong in fighting.”
“The car is new and it was my very first year. I also learned a lot about the setup of the car.”
“Also the tracks were all new. Mugello for example is a really hard track, but in the end I could gain positions. It’s really physical and I was tired at the end of the races, unlike in Monza for example.”
Blokhina will now continue her adventure in motor racing with another season of Formula 4 racing that will crucially allow her to move her expectations.
“I will stay one more year in Formula 4 and a good target for next season would be the top ten”, she told us.
Her next challenge will be the 2023 F4 UAE, as she will remain at the wheel of a PHM Racing Tatuus.