15-year-old Victoria Blokhina made her debut in single-seaters at the first round of F4 UAE in Abu Dhabi, scoring her first Top-20 result and gaining crucial experience in a very close and competitive field of 27 cars.
The first round of the 2022 season of F4 UAE at YAS Marina marked the formula racing debut of 15 year old Victoria Blokhina. The Russian joined 3Y Technology by R-ace GP after a solid karting career, and gained international attention when she was selected among the finalists of the FIA Women in Motorsport supported and Ferrari Driver Academy-affiliated Girls on Track Rising Stars programme. At Abu Dhabi, first point-scoring round of the championship, she made her debut in the strong 27-car field, among some of the most interesting junior prospects including names such as Charlie Wurz, Nikita Bedrin, Jonas Ried and Andrea Kimi Antonelli. This year, the Emirati-based series debuted the new Tatuus halo-shod Gen2 chassis, which gave further momentum to the expanding series: many European teams were eager to work on the new car ahead of the start of the summer seasons. "I am very happy to debut in the UAE F4 Championship. Formula car racing is very different from karting and every start teaches me how to drive against other drivers, I am very motivated to make progress", Victoria said. In the midst of several deleted lap times during the qualifying sessions, Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak (MP Motorsport) and Andrea Kimi Antonelli (Prema) ultimately scored the first two pole positions of the year in F4UAE. Q1 saw Inthraphuvasak as the fastest driver, ahead of Aiden Neate (Abu Dhabi Racing by Prema) and Andrea Kimi Antonelli to shape the grid of race 1. In Q2, it was Antonelli who would be the first to break the 1:55 minute barrier and scored pole ahead of James Wharton (Abu Dhabi Racing by Prema) and Inthraphuvasak, setting the grid for race 3. Victoria Blokhina finished the two qualifying sessions in P25 and P24 respectively. It was not a good start to Race 1 for pole sitter Inthraphuvasak, as he stalled on the grid - but was luckily avoided by all the following cars and dropped back towards the end of the field. Neate snatched the lead, ahead of Antonelli and Wharton. But the action was interrupted shortly after, when Jamie Day (Xcel Motorsport), B (AKM Motorsport) and Suleiman Zanfari (MP Motorsport) were all involved in a crash that put the race under Safety Car conditions to allow the recovery of the vehicles. The race resumed with just a little over 4 minutes left on the clock: Antonelli tried everything to sneak ahead of Neate, while Wharton and Alex Dunne (Hitech GP) closed in on the last lap. Antonelli tried to pass Neate at Turn 6, allowing Neate and Wharton to get alongside and was forced to compromise the corner entry for the following turn. All three battled to the finish line and Antonelli scored the victory by just 0,003 seconds ahead of Neate and Wharton in an amazing finish. Victoria Blokhina was able to avoid the messy first laps of the race, held P21 and passed one competitor at the restart to advance into the 20th place, but she ultimately finished 21st at the end of race 1. Race 2 saw again Inthraphuvasak on pole, ahead of Ivan Domingues (MP Motorsports) and Nikhil Bohra (3Y by R-ace GP) after the Top10 finishers from Race 1 were handed a 3 place grid penalty as they continued to race after the chequered flag. Blokhina started from P23. After a delay, the race distance was shortened and Oliver Gray (Hitech GP) led the early stages. From fifth on the grid, Antonelli stormed to second at the start and hunted down - and passed - the leader of the race only to pull away. In the 12-lap race, Antonelli secured his second victory in a row, ahead of Neate and Gray. Blokhina came home with a 17th place - an impressive result at her first ever F4 racing weekend - but received a 5 second time penalty as she made contact with Badoer on the last lap of the race. She had battled with the Italian driver throughout the race and was able to complete several passes until the last corner. She was classified P19, which nevertheless marked her best result so far, and her first top-20. Antonelli started Race 3 from pole and defended his lead early in the race from Wharton and Neate until Bedrin crashed and brought out the Safety Car. The restart was Wharton's chance to pass Antonelli - but the FDA-backed racer locked up under braking. Further behind, another accident triggered a second Safety Car: Sohil Sha (Mumbai Falcons by Xcel) and Bohra collided and the latter ended up making contact with the barriers. With 10 minutes left on the clock, the race restarted with Neate and Wharton battling it out for second place while Charlie Wurz (Prema) closed in on the leading group. Wurz would then lose his fourth place to Inthraphuvasak. Behind them, Alex Dunne (Hitech GP) and Martinius Stenshorne (3Y by R-ace GP) made contact and the former lost his front wing, but could continue and reached the pitlane. Stenshorne promptly parked his car in a safe place. In the leading group, Wharton retired due to a technical problem and Antonelli won his third race in a row, ahead of Neate and Inthraphuvasak. But the race wasn't over after the chequered flag, as a few penalties were about to change the order: Inthraphuvasak inherited the victory, ahead of Wurz and Antonelli. Victoria Blokhina kept her P22 at the end of Race 3. The last race of the weekend - and the only one on Sunday - saw Ivan Domingues starting from pole position, ahead of Suleiman Zanfari and Miron Pingasov (both MP Motorsport). Blokhina started from 22nd position. Zanfari got ahead of Domingues, but Barnard quickly made his way from fifth into the lead and pulled away soon. Antonelli was on a mission: having started from P12, the Italian made his way through the grid with awesome passes - overtaking two cars at once at one point. He was often half a second quicker than the rest of the competition during his charge, but ultimately ran out of time and finished second behind Barnard. Jamie Day secured the final step of the podium. The only girl on the grid, Victoria Blokhina, was spun at the start of the race but showed great pace to catch up with the back of the field. She seemed able to fight back and battled with Akhmedkhodjaev in the final laps. She finished P21 after a promising debut in single-seaters, having certainly collected crucial experience for the races to come. She will be back this weekend in Dubai for the second round of the 2022 F4UAE Championship.