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Italian F4: Bustamante, Hausmann, share Female Trophy wins in Spa

At the end of three incident-filled and heavily red-flagged races, Tina Hausmann and Bianca Bustamante - at her first ever weekend in Italian F4 - shared the Female Trophy wins at Spa Francorchamps.

Photo by: ACI Sport

Italian F4 contested its third round of the 2023 season – its first outside of Italian borders – as teams headed to Spa Francorchamps, one of the most popular racetracks in Europe.

The Belgian circuit is in fact one of the drivers' favourites, with highly challenging corners that are vividly linked to famous moments in the history of motorsport.

The season opened with a history-making stat in itself – with the highest number of female entries in Italian F4 since its inception: returning driver Victoria Blokhina (PHM Racing) was joined on the grid by Tina Hausmann (AKM Motorsport) and Aurelia Nobels (Prema Racing).

Blokhina, in her second year of F4 racing, made good progress through the first season and then headed to the Emirates for the F4UAE championship this winter, in order to prepare for her second campaign.

Swiss talent Tina Hausmann, 15, highly impressed in testing, as well as in a one-off appearance in Formula Winter Series, where she collected a podium finish at her very first race in single seaters.

Aurelia Nobels also turned heads as the winner of the third edition of the Girls On Track - Rising Stars programme, promoted by the FIA Women In Motorsport. The Brazilian/Belgian driver has therefore joined the ranks of the Ferrari Driver Academy with top team Prema.

While the very first race of the season was off to a challenging start for the female drivers of the championship, Nobels had a great recovery in race 2 at Imola, claiming a highly valuable 11th place finish – in almost a point-scoring result at debut in one of the most competitive junior series globally.

In Misano, Hausmann had a massive roll-over crash in race 1 that ruled her out for the entire weekend. Having injured her shoulder, Hausmann focused on her recovery in the following weeks.

But there was no luck for Nobels as well, as the Prema driver was involved in an accident in pitlane which left her with a broken wrist.

Aurelia had been among the protagonists in qualifying, setting the 11th fastest lap.

With three wins in the Female Trophy, Blokhina led the special classification after the second round, having also secured two 15th place finishes among the over 30 entries.

Having been ruled out for the Spa Francorchamps weekend, Aurelia Nobels was replaced by F1 Academy driver Bianca Bustamante – who has raced in F4UAE with Prema as well, won a race in the new all-female series, and has been making huge progresses in what is only her second seasons in formula racing.

The Filipina therefore made her Italian F4 debut in the #51 Prema machine, visiting the Belgian track for the first time in her career.

Hausmann, on the other hand, was able to recover in time from her shoulder injury and returned behind the wheel of the #21 AKM Motorsport Tatuus.

In the first practice session, Bustamante showed promising pace in both sessions, ending FP2 almost within the top-20 in yet another highly competitive 31-car field. Hausmann and Blokhina, though, were not far behind – as the Swiss racer made up for it in the first 15-minute qualifying session, where she finished P23. Bustamante and Blokhina would line up in P28 and P31 respectively.

In the second qualifying, Bustamante significantly improved and was 24th fastest, two places ahead of Hausmann and three ahead of Blokhina. Brando Badoer (Van Amersfoort Racing) and James Wharton (Prema Racing) scored the two pole positions, both preceding Polish talent Kacper Sztuka (US Racing).

Photo by: ACI Sport
Race 1

Wharton, Badoer, David and Sztuka battled through the first lap for the lead in a highly exciting first lap; from 23rd, Tina Hausmann held position in the midst of the action-packed field, as Blokhina had a great launch and recovered four positions on the first lap to slot into 27th. Unfortunately, Bustamante stalled at the start, but soon caught back the pack. On the second lap, the Filipina gained three places, clearly having pace to run further up the order.

Ugo Ugochukwu was making up ground and the American passed Sztuka for fourth, then attacked Linblad – while also Prema teammate Taponen recovered. The race, though, was soon red flagged after a monstrous accident involving Victoria Blokhina and Guido Luchetti on the Kemmel straight. Blokhina's car rolled several times and impacted the guard rail before coming to a halt completely totalled; luckily, Blokhina walked away from the crash.

The race was then resumed behind the safety car and went on for 10 more minutes behind the pace car. Wharton perfectly managed the restart and built a small gap to Zachary David, as Badoer, Ugochukwu and Lindblad followed. Hausmann had meanwhile slipped to 25th, just one position ahead of Bustamante – the latter passing Raphael Narac.

Spina and Kluss made contact on lap 6, which left the German driver with a broken front wing; as the PHM Racing driver dropped down the order, Hausmann gained a few more positions, having also passed AKM Motorsport's teammate Frederik Lund. The Sanmarinese team lost Davide Larini one lap later, as the Italian rookie went off and retired. The accident brought out the red flag once again and, with less than a minute left on the clock, James Wharton was declared winner of the first race at Spa Francorchamps, ahead of Zachary David and Brando Badoer – after a last lap pass for third place by Ugo Ugochuwko went unrewarded due to the red flag rules.

Tina Hausmann had a good recovery drive to P21, but due to the red flag she was classified P25.

"Qualifying 1 was not too bad, we had a good track position and we had P21 - and P1 in the women's trophy", Hausmann summed up. "In Q2 we had a lot of traffic, which impacted the qualifying in a bad way. The start of the first race was not too bad and we made up some positions. But then two red flags came up and I finished a weird race in P21, which is not too bad because I earned two positions - but due to the regulations the result is the one from one lap before the second red flag. It is what it is, but we are still very motivated and looking forward to tomorrow."

The Swiss driver claimed her second Female Trophy win, ahead of Bianca Bustamante, in her first Italian F4 race of her career. The Filipina crossed the finish line in P24, but the red flag meant that she was classified in P25.

Photo by: ACI Sport
Race 2

Wharton and Sztuka went side by side into La Source at the start of race 2 on Sunday morning, but it would be the Ferrari Driver Academy driver to hold on, as most of the field had a clean start except for Brando Badoer, who went off in the gravel but rejoined.

From 26th on the grid, Tina Hausmann lost a few spots and then was unfortunate to make contact with Guido Luchetti at Les Combes on the second lap. With front suspension damage, Hausmann was out of the race and the safety car was deployed. Bianca Bustamante held P24 from the start, close behind her Prema teammate Tuukka Taponen.

At the restart, Wharton, Sztuka and Lindblad led the pack, while all sorts of battles animated the field. Bustamante gained three positions - but the action was short-lived, as Brando Badoer and Alfio Spina collided and the former ended his race in the gravel at Malmedy.

At the green flag, a huge crash at the top of Raidillon involved multiple cars: Ivan Domingues hit the outside wall and then was collected by the incoming cars of Bhirombhakdi, Ischer, Quintarelli and Egozi - luckily with no consequences for the drivers. The red flag was displayed with 7 minutes to go, as Sztuka had just taken the lead over Wharton. Bustamante had managed to avoid the crash, climbing to 15th place.

The race, though, was not restarted - meaning that the order was reverted back to the previous lap. Bhirombhakdi received a post-race drive through penalty and Jack Beeton was excluded from the event, having been deemed at fault for the race-ending accident. As a result, Bustamante was classified in P19 and took her first Female Trophy win in Italian F4 alongside her first top-20.

The early end also handed back the victory to James Wharton, ahead of Sztuka and Lindblad.

Photo by: ACI Sport
Race 3

Polish ace Kacper Sztuka led the field into turn one from race 3 pole position, beating championship leader Arvid Lindblad at the start of the final race of the Belgian weekend.

From 22nd on the grid, Bianca Bustamante had contact on the main straight at lights out, but managed to continue without major damage, retaining her starting position. Hausmann, from the back of the grid, got away despite a clutch issue.

At Les Combes, Lindblad tried to go around the outside for the lead, but there was contact with Sztuka, as both the front runners dropped out of contention.

Ischer and Al Dhaheri made contact at la Source on the second lap - with the Emirati ending his race in the gravel with suspension damage. The incident triggered yet another safety car; Zachary David, meanwhile, had snatched the race lead, preceding Ugo Ugochukwu and James Wharton.

The race resumed with 20 minutes to go and Bustamante moved into the top 20 with another good restart; Tina Hausmann did even better, as the Swiss driver went from the back of the field to P21. At the end of lap 3, Ugochukwu overtook David at the Bus Stop chicane - then the American held off David and Wharton in a three-wide moment on the Kemmel straight.

With noise restrictions at Spa, the race was shortened by around 10 minutes: Ugochuwku took the chequered flag after 8 laps and took victory in the only race finished under green flag this weekend. Zachary David was second and preceded James Wharton on the final step of the podium. Bianca Bustamante equalled her best finish in Italian F4 with a 19th place finish; the Filipina took her second win in the Female Trophy out of three races.

"Today we made progress and that's a win I'll take", Bustamante commented. "Starting from P24, we stayed sharp and smart while battling on track. Made the right calls that in the end were very critical which rewarded us with P19, improving our race pace by a lot", she continued, summing up race 2.

"After getting more experience driving in SPa, we had a mega jump with our race pace", she said about the final race. "From P24 to P19 and even setting the 15th fastest lap."

"With a few racing laps, it was hard to move up, but we showed good things this race! Closing the margin but in the end still some chunk to find".

Hausmann held P22 until the final lap, but due to a clutch issue, she was handed a 10 second penalty for a jump start which dropped the Swiss driver to P24.

"For sure not the way we wanted to finish the weekend," Hausmann said. "A crash in Race 2 and some problems in Race 3 did not allow me to do well."

"We tried it all, but it is what it is", she continued. "For sure it was great to see that the crash did not have any impact on my confidence with the car. We’ll return stronger in Monza."

The next round of the Italian Formula 4 Championship will in fact be at the Temple of Speed, in the most iconic place of Italian motorsport, on 23–25 June.

Victoria Blokhina leads the Female Trophy standings with 126 points in class.

Photo by: ACI Sport



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