Maya Weug continues Top-10 streak at Spa, good battles for Blokhina
Maya Weug continues her brilliant sophomore season in Italian F4 and keeps her point-scoring streak by finishing tenth in Race 2; Victoria Blokhina gains places in each race and continues to collect crucial experience in the midfield battles.
At the third round of its 2022 season, Italian Formula 4 headed to Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, for the first time in the series' history. Widely considered one of the most competitive junior single-seater championships in the world, Italian F4 again attracted over 30 entries at one of the driver's favourite tracks.
At the previous two rounds at Imola and Misano, Maya Weug and Victoria Blokhina - the two female drivers contesting the full campaign - had very positive starts to their seasons.
Weug, in her second year in Italian F4 - has become a consistent point scorer and is getting closer to her first top-five finish.
The Ferrari Driver Academy member scored her first outright point at the season opener at Imola dn then was sixth in Race 2. With a seventh and eighth place at Misano, Maya carried her strong form into Spa - where she could also count on the experience of Rahel Frey as a coach.
Blokhina is contesting her first full season in formula cars, after a partial campaign in the UAE-based series in the winter. The 16-year-old driver soon made her mark in the uber competitive Italian championship by scoring two top-20 at her debut, finishing 17th in Race 1 at Imola - and then equalling her record in Misano.
Overall, Blokhina has shown improvements round by round and proved to be a great fighter in the races; it's in racing conditions that the driver of the #78 PHM Racing's Tatuus shines, as she gained close to 10 places in each race.
At Spa Francorchamps, Italian team Prema continued its dominance, putting four of its five drivers in the top two rows of the grid for Race 1. Andrea Kimi Antonelli led James Wharton - but the two pushed each other off line at Les Combs on the first lap, paving the way for Rafael Camara and Charlie Wurz and the leader of the championship took over the first place from his teammates.
From eleventh on the grid, Maya Weug - sporting an all black livery due to a car rebuild from the unfortunate accident of Misano - was already up to P10 after the first few corners. Blokhina gained two positions and moved into P27.
Marcus Amand (US Racing) also made the most out of the first lap scrap between Antonelli and Wharton and was able to move into third place before attacking Wurz one lap later. The French-Finnish racer missed his braking point and was forced to cut the chicane.
Antonelli, though, regrouped and was soon back into second place, followed by Wharton after both leapfrogged Wurz. With 19 minutes left, Antonelli re-gained the lead and checked out.
Maya Weug lost a place to Alex Dunne (US Racing) and then found herself battling with her Iron Lynx teammate Ivan Domingues and Brando Badoer. Meanwhile, Blokhina was also busy battling South Korean racer Kim Hwarang; having made it back to P24, a scrap between the two dropped Blokhina back to P29. With 10 minutes left on the clock, Victoria was able to gain back a couple of positions passing Rihab Jain and Ricardo Escotto.
At the front of the pack, it was a rather uneventful second half of the race, as Kimi Antonelli opened a safe gap, followed by Camara - who led a 5-car train in contention for the podium. The Brazilian would eventually hold on and claim second, ahead of Wharton and Wurz. Amand and Bedrin (PHM Racing) were the first non-Prema drivers in fifth and sixth place.
Maya Weug was 13th after a challenging second part of the race after a great start. Victoria Blokhina crossed the finish line in P27 after good battles.
The front-rows Prema lock-out continued in Race 2, with Antonelli, Camara, Wharton and Laursen battling out for the lead into La Source on Sunday morning. After a clean start, Conrad Laursen ended up in the gravel trap at Les Combes, bringing out the Safety Car.
From 16th on the grid, Maya Weug had an impressive first lap and managed to climb to 12th; Victoria Blokhina had lined up in 28th place and, after an initial good launch, she was down to P31.
The race restarted on lap 3, with Camara taking over the lead at the end of the long Kemmel straight; Jonas Ried (PHM Racing) had a contact at the Bus Stop chicane that broke his front-left suspension, but the race remained green.
Antonelli tried to respond back and attacked Camara for the following laps - often going straight though the run-off at Les Combes and thus having to give back the position to the Brazilian. He would finally make the move stick at La Source - but that gave a chance to Nikita Bedrin, who tried to overtake both on the Kemmel. Alex Dunne emerged from the 3-wide fight as the biggest winner, as the Irishman climbed to P3.
After Camara went airborne over the kerb on top of Les Combes, he lost out to Bedrin again, as Dunne was catching up with Antonelli.
Meanwhile, there was non-stop action in the midfield as well, with Maya Weug following closely Taylor Barnard. Having passed Norwegian Martinius Stenshorne, Maya overtook Barnard for tenth place. The Iron Dame was catching up with Amand - who had damaged his front wing and was quickly losing out positions - when her charge was interrupted by the Safety Car.
Barnard and Spina had in fact collided at Les Combes with a couple of minutes left on the clock and the race was declared to end behind the SC.
Kimi Antonelli took his second win of the weekend, ahead of Alex Dunne and Nikita Bedrin - in the only non-fully Prema podium of the round.
With another solid race. Maya Weug kept her point-scoring streak alive and was P10, having gained six places from her starting position.
Victoria Blokhina was able to make her way back up to P25, in another good recovery for the young driver.
All the five Prema drivers were set for another dominant show in the final race of the weekend at Spa Francorchamps, but there was drama for the Italian team when pole sitter Rafael Camara stalled on the grid and they lost one of its cars at Les Combes on the first lap when James Wharton made contact with Nikita Bedrin and ended his race in the barriers. When the Safety Car was deployed, Antonelli led from Laursen Bedrin - who had a great start from sixth - and Wurz. From 14th on the grid, Maya Weug had another brilliant getaway and was soon in the top-ten on the first lap. Similarly, Blokhina also gained three positions and moved into P25. At the restart, Amand passed Wurz for fourth when the Austrian straight-lined the chicane and Nikita Bedrin tumbled down the order after receiving a drive through penalty for the lap 1 contact with Wharton. Maya Weug battled with Stenshorne and the two traded the final point-paying position for a couple of times - before Ivan Domingues joined the party and passed Iron Lynx teammate Weug after some contact. They would both give up a position to the unbelievable recovery of Rafael Camara, who navigated through the pack from last to the top 10. The Brazilian continued an unreal recovery drive and caught back up with the leading group. He passed Wurz for fourth place, claiming a podium position with a few laps to go. Andrea Kimi Antonelli was unreachable again, though, and he took a triple-win at Spa preceding Conrad Laursen and Rafael Camara. The Italian now is just three points behind the Brazilian in the points standings. Like in the first race, Maya Weug struggled a bit more in the closing stages of the race and dropped to P14 after tight fights with the VAR cars of Badoer and Fittipaldi. She crossed the finish line in 15th place, only 0.003 seconds behind Alfio Spina.
"Maya drove very maturely at one of the most demanding and hardest circuits in this series", commented Andrea Piccini, team principal of Iron Lynx. "She made a very good improvement compared to her last performance in Spa with ADAC. She is making the right steps forward and will be back racing next weekend in the ADAC F4 in Zandvoort.” After yet another solid recovery, Victoria Blokhina battled with Castro for P23, before ultimately finishing 25th. By cutting her teeth in the Italian F4 midfield, Blokhina is collecting crucial experience. The Italian F4 Championship will return to the track at Vallelunga, Italy, on July 2-3. Currently 12th in the drivers' standings, Maya Weug is set to make another guest appearance in the German series this weekend, at Zandvoort.