Lola Lovinfosse secures first Top-20 of the season in F4 Spain
After a challenging season opener, Lola Lovinfosse showed improved pace and good battles in the second Spanish F4 round at Jerez, where she secured her first Top-20 of the season so far.
French racer Lola Lovinfosse, 16, is entering her second Spanish F4 campaign after making her single seaters debut in 2021 following a remarkable karting career. Lovinfosse finished 27th in the standings in her rookie season, collecting some very promising results like eleventh Top-20s and a few close finishes to point-scoring positions. Just before the 2022 season opener, she changed team and joined Teo Martin Motorsport in a last minute move, which meant she was on learning mode at Portimao - a track where she had her best results last season. Despite having a challenging weekend, Lola had a good Race 2, where she gained eighth places to finish P22. "Super difficult weekend, we had issues with the car in race 1 and 3", she wrote after the first round. "Not the days that we wanted to have but we have seen good performances driving wise", she continued. "I'm confident we can turn it around." And the second race meeting at Jerez circuit was indeed a further step in the right direction, as she showed better pace in practice sessions and battled within the pack in all races. In an ever-growing grid with almost 30 cars - and in what has effectively become one of the top-two most competitive F4 championships in the world - Lovinfosse started from P24 on the grid of Race 1.
Alpine junior Nikola Tsolov clinched pole position as the Bulgarian driver resumed his battle with Tymoteusz Kucharczyk. At the start, Tsolov seemed to have held position after the first few corners, but his main rival moved into the lead midway through the first lap, as many drivers went into the gravel on cold tyres. From third on the grid, MP Motorsport's Valerio Rinicella was also able to move into second behind Kucharczyk, before the Safety Car freezed the action for a big accident involving Gracia Filho collided with several cars, flying over the Drivex Tatuus of Maksim Arkhangelskii and also taking Gandhi and Nogales out of contention.
Meanwhile, Lola Lovinfosse had already moved into P21, gaining three positions at the start - and further climbed the order at the restart, placing her #10 Teo Martin Motorsport's F4 in 18th position.
The race went back to green with 10 minutes left on the clock and Rinicella, after a fastest lap, seemed able to put pressure on Kucharczyk. The Polish driver, though, responded and opened a gap of over 1 and a half seconds, as the Italian had to defend from the return of Tsolov and Charlie Wurz.
Tsolov made a move stick and hunted down Kucharczyk; the two had a stunning battle for the lead in the final minutes, but Kucharczyk held on and took his first win of the season after a tense last lap. Rinicella preceded Wurz for the final podium position.
Lola Lovinfosse remained within three tenths to Ryabov for most of the race, but was then overtaken by Bruno Del Pino with 3 minutes to go. On the final lap, she traded places with Ricardo Escotto (Cram-Pinnacle) and she was able to get back ahead, securing a P19 which also means her first top-20 of the season.
Tsolov and Kucharczyk were back alongside each other on the starting grid of race 2 - and this time the Campos Racing driver kept P1 at lights out. Ricard Gracia was off again having clashed with Nogales and the Safety Car was deployed on the second lap.
From 24th on the grid, Lola Lovinfosse had a slightly more challenging start and had lost one place before the neutralization. A lengthy interruption meant that the race went back to green with only 9 minutes to go; Tsolov had a perfect restart and pulled away, while Rinicella had another good reaction and put pressure on Kucharczyk.
Lovinfosse passed Machiels and advanced to P23 when Arkhangelskii pitted with issues.
Meanwhile, Tsolov was able to extend his lead to over 4 seconds and took a dominant win, becoming the first driver to win two races in 2022. Kucharczyk and Rinicella rounded out the podium, while Kelstrup and Smal had good runs in the top-five.
Having gained one place from her starting position, Lola Lovinfosse crossed the finish line in P23.
The final race of the weekend saw once again Nikola Tsolov starting from pole position after a brilliant Q2, while his main rival Tymoteusz Kucharczyk was only eleventh. Lola Lovinfosse had an off in the second qualifying and thus would start from P27. After another great qualifying, Valerio Rinicella stalled on the grid of race 3 and was avoided by the whole pack; Tsolov had a good launch and preceded Kelstrup and Barter into the first corner. Within the first lap, there was further drama for Kucharczyk, who was involved in a contact and lost his front wing when Smal was spun by Ho right on his path. The Polish driver had to pit and dropped all the way down. Lola Lovinfosse kept her nose clean and gained six places on the opening lap, slotting into P21. She would then drop behind Machiels and Rinicella, but was able to overtake Machiels again on lap 3 and catch back up with Ricardo Gracia. Tsolov continued to pull away from Kelstrup in a rather uneventful race in the leading positions; on the other hand, Lovinfosse was consistently faster than Gracia and ran all race within a few tenths before making a move stick on lap 13. The Brazilian tried to respond at the last corner - hitting the back of Lola's car - but the young French lady held on and kept P21. Nikola Tsolov enjoyed a 6.2 second gap over Georg Kelstrup when the race was red flagged for the heavy accident of Maksim Arkhangelskii, who was able to climb out under his own power after a big hit with the tyre barriers. With another dominant win, Nikola Tsolov took the championship lead after a nearly-perfect weekend at Jerez. Kelstrup and Barter finished on the podium, ahead of Suleiman Zanfari and Gael Julien who had battled for fourth. Lola Lovinfosse had good battles and showed better pace, finishing P21, just outside the Top-20. "Difficult weekend, I didn’t manage to get a good feeling with the car", commented Lovinfosse after the event. "We saw some good performances through the weekend but I was expecting for more. Now let’s focus on the next race." The third round of the 2022 Spanish F4 season is scheduled for 11-12 June at Circuito Ricardo Tormo, Valencia.