Italian F4: Maya Weug looks ahead at Mugello finale after unlucky Monza round
"A weekend to forget" - Maya Weug had her first non-point scoring round in the 2022 Italian F4 season, in a weekend marked by disrupted qualifying, a record-breaking number of entries and a cancelled race.
The sixth round of the 2022 Italian F4 championship at Autodromo Nazionale di Monza went into the history books as the most crowded field in the history of the championship, as 44 entries tackled the Temple of Speed for the penultimate round of the season.
53 young drivers have now entered at least one race in Europe's top F4 championship so far.
This rise in entries' numbers, though, hasn't translated into better racing unfortunately. With plenty of drivers just making their first steps in car racing and out of karting - mixed up with more experienced racers in F4 machinery - and on tricky circuits and in difficult conditions, the latest couple of rounds led to heavily-disrupted races and very few green-flag laps throughout the weekends.
Friday practice at Monza offered a glimpse of what would be one of the most chaotic weekends in the series: a series of red flags limited running time to a minimum - and the trend continued in Saturday morning qualifying.
While Q1 was relatively clean, three red flags in the 15-minute session mixed up the order and drivers barely had the time to put a lap in.
Charlie Wurz (Prema) took pole position for Race 1, alongside Marcus Amand (US Racing). Just behind them, Rafael Camara (Prema) shared the second row with Kacper Sztuka (US Racing). Championship leader Andrea Kimi Antonelli couldn't do better than sixth, while Maya Weug finished P18 after a difficult session.
Weug, at her second year in the championship, is having really strong campaign at the wheel of the #83 Iron Lynx / Iron Dames Tatuus: the Ferrari Driver Academy member had always scored points in every weekend on the eve of the sixth round but, at the Temple of Speed, the Dutch-Belgian racer struggled to get into the rhythm - and the continuous interruptions in testing and practice certainly did not help her quest in finding the perfect setup.
In Q2, Kimi Antonelli managed to clinch pole position and preceded Martinius Stenshorne (VAR), Alexander Dunne (US Racing) and Rafael Camara.
In the few timed laps after the out-laps, Maya Weug was often within the top ten - but couldn't improve just before the final red flag and ended up again in P18.
On a sunny and warm October Saturday, Race 1 saw Charlie Wurz's first ever win in the championship, as the Austrian driver survived four restarts to win in a crash-filled contest.
Conrad Laursen was deep into Prima Variante at the start, as the 44-car field approached the tricky first chicane. Championship leader Antonelli also hit trouble, as he made contact and lost his front wing. He pitted at the end of the first lap, but the Safety Car gave him the chance to join the back of the pack.
The race was in fact neutralized after rookie Ruiqi Liu (AKM Motorsport) collided with FRECA star Hadrien David, making a one off start for R-Ace GP. David had also struggled to set a representative lap time in qualifying and was starting from 28th place.
At the restart, Wurz led Amand and Sztuka - but the Frenchman soon dropped down as Stenshorne was making up positions and gained third place. Weug also started her recovery drive from P16, having gained two places.
But the action was short-lived, as Giovanni Maschio parked in the gravel and the Safety Car was once again deployed.
With 13 minutes to go, Wurz was back up to pace and had to defend from his pursuers at the second chicane - but the third SC was out before they could compete a lap: Iron Lynx's promising rookie Nicola Lacorte was hit and spun at Prima Variante, with Machiels collecting him. Weug avoided the chaos and continued to climb towards the top ten, gaining four more positions.
Now second, Sztuka tried to attack Wurz at the restart, but the Austrian held on; Stenshorne dropped behind Dunne and Camara, while Antonelli had a remarkable recovery from the back of the pack to P24.
Victoria Blokhina - who was also on a charge - had contact with Antonelli at the first corner and lost her front wing.
With 3 minutes to go, Valerio Rinicella pushed Ivan Dominguez off track and Maya Weug - who was just behind them and looking for a way past - couldn't avoid the accident. Both the Iron Lynx drivers were out of the race, as the race was back under Safety Car conditions.
Wurz held off the attacks of Alex Dunne - who had passed Sztuka for second in the closing stages - in the final lap shootout, thus taking his first win of the season. Antonelli ultimately finished P11 after the first lap incident.
Out of the 44 entries, 16 cars did not finish Race 1.
Sunday morning presented very different weather conditions to the previous day, as heavy downpour ended up changing the racing program.
As drivers went on the grid for Race 2, a big accident halted the starting procedure: Jonas Ried (PHM) spun just out of the pit lane and was collected by Victoria Blokhina. With Ried facing the pit exit and in atrocious visibility, he was hit head on by the incoming Giovanni Maschio, who's car went underneath the PHM Tatuus - in yet another accident that highlighted the importance of the Halo. All drivers were unhurt, but the starting procedure was aborted and eventually called off as weather conditions remained horrific.
Race 3 was declared cancelled, and Race 2 moved to the end of the day's schedule - as drivers took to the grid at 17:00 local time. Rain had stopped and the track had dried enough for everyone to go out on slicks.
After a safety car start, Andrea Kimi Antonelli held the first place at the first chicane on lap 2, ahead of Stenshorne, Dunne, Camara and Wurz. Having started from P17, Weug lost a few places but was quick to gain them back before the Safety Car made its way back on track, when Frassineti got stuck in the gravel at Ascari.
Antonelli had another clean restart despite Dunne's pressure; the Irishman tried around the outside of Turn 1 and both had to cut the corner. One lap later, Dunne jumped on the kerb and pushed off Camara - allowing past both Wurz and Stenshorne to podium positions.
This battle gave Antonelli the chance to open a gap.
Maya Weug - who was again climbing the order with steady pace - was hit by Nicola Lacorte at Turn 1 and spun around. While Lacorte had terminal front suspension damage, Weug could continue - but had dropped to P31.
Meanwhile, Rafael Narac and Frederik Lund collided at La Roggia chicane, and Nandhavud Bhirombhakdi was off at Ascari after coming together with Jonas Ried, triggering another Safety Car.
In the final two minutes of racing, Wurz was deep at Turn 1 but could keep his second place, ahead of Stenshorne. Wharton and Taylor straight lined the chicane and lost places.
Bringing an end to a crazy racing weekend for Italian F4, Akhmedkhodjaev parked in the gravel on the final lap; the red flag brought the results back to one lap before and Kimi Antonelli could celebrate his 10th win of the season, ahead of Wurz and Stenshorne.
After a difficult weekend, Maya Weug finished P31, in her first non-point scoring round of the season. She was in good company as well: other front-runners like Wharton, Laursen and Bedrin all came home with no points from Monza.
Italian F4 will now return to the track in two-weeks' time for the season finale at Mugello.