Promising first weekend for the women of F4 Italy in Imola
Aurelia Nobels, Tina Hausmann and Victoria Blokhina kicked-off the first weekend of the Italian F4 weekend at Imola. In a huge field of the most exciting F4 talents worldwide, new FDA driver Nobels was close to her first top-10 finish, while unfortunate contacts prevented the highly-promising Hausmann to capitalize.
The new season of F4 Italy got underway with high expectations for an exciting season, featuring 37 cars to fill the grid on its first round at Imola. Drivers from 20 different nationalities truly highlights how the Italian-based series is increasingly standing for the international F4 championship - and among them we have three female drivers on grid, the highest female participation in the series' history.
Aurelia Nobels, driving for Prema, made her debut in the very competitive series under the Ferrari Driver Academy banner. Another rookie was Swiss driver Tina Hausmann, who impressed during her guest appearances in Formula Winter Series for San Marino-based team AKM Motorsport. Both were joined by Victoria Blokhina, again driving for PHM Racing, at her second year in the championship.
Due the large amount of drivers, the field was divided into groups, hunting the fastest time during the qualifying sessions on Friday. Ugo Ugochukwu (Prema) was fastest overall, and would start from pole in Group A. Second fastest was Kacper Sztuka (US Racing), dominator of Formula Winter Series, who started from pole in Group B. In Group C, the top-placed driver was Nicola Lacorte (Prema).
Aurelia Nobels, at her first qualifying in the series, was P10 in Group A, in quite a remarkable performance by the FDA driver. Tina Hausmann was also very competitive and set the 12th fastest time in Group B, preceding Victoria Blokhina in P15 in the same group.
"Pretty satisfied with my qualifying: some rain drizzles right before green flag made the conditions sooo tricky, but I managed to score P10 in my group." - said Nobels.
"Rain came 30 minutes before the session so track was a bit odd", explained Tina Hausmann. "We did not lose time and we went straight on flying laps and it was a right call as the session finished earlier due to red flag. Anyway, lots of improvements and 2 tenths from top10" – she continued.
Having started from pole, Sztuka made his way to the front and pulled away from the rest of the group – as the races were divided in groups due to the Imola's track capacity. But it wouldn't be an easy run, as Brando Badoer (Van Amersfoort Racing) quickly made his way up to the front.
Sztuka, though, held on to the race lead, ahead of a few battling-cars: Badoer managed to get past Lacorte, while in the midfield things heated up as Manuel Quondamcarlo (AS Motorsport) and Victoria Blokhina went off track. Unfortunately, Aurelia Nobels and Tina Hausmann also made contact and were forced to pit with damages, but eventually managed to rejoin the race.
The race remained green, with Sztuka ahead, Badoer in second after he had overtaken Bohra. The Italian set the pace as he tried to catch Sztuka, around 0,3 seconds faster per lap. With two laps to go, Wharton and De Palo made contact and were both forced to retire while battling for fifth.
Sztuka scored the first victory of the season ahead of Badoer and Lacorte. After the early incidents and the subsequent pit stops, Tina Hausmann was 19th across the finish line, Aurelia Nobels was P21 and Victoria Blokhina P22. Hausmann therefore bagged the first win in the Female Trophy class.
The second race saw McLaren junior Ugo Ugochukwu - who had a difficult start at lights out - recovering and eventually passing race 1 winner Sztuka for the lead. The American managed to extend his lead, ahead of his teammate Arvid Lindblad - who followed him past Sztuka.
Finnish driver Tuukka Taponen made up some places, until he made contact with Gianmarco Pradel which brought out the Safety Car. Unchallenged, Ugochukwu once again pulled away from Lindblad in a Prema 1-2, with Zachary David (US Racing) in third.
Aurelia Nobles was close to her first Top10 of the season and finished in eleventh place after an amazing race. Victoria Blokhina also had a positive run in 15th, preceding Tina Hausmann in 20th place.
"The pace was better in Race 1, contact apart I had good speed and I managed to win the women trophy", Tina Hausmann commented. "Race 2 was really though, no excuses there I just didn’t find the proper pace."
Race 3 started without female participation; Lacorte took his first win in F4, ahead of Arvid Lindblad and Ivan Domingues (Van Amersfort Racing).
As winner of race 3, Lacorte started from pole position but he wasn't able to hold off Lindblad, who took over the lead into Tamburello and then pulled away fast. Badoer was following with a five-car-train behind him. Even if Badoer put down some fast laps, all was neutralized by a Safety Car when Jesse Carrasuqedo Jr. hit the kerbs and bounced into Matheus Ferreira. Aurelia Nobels tried to avoid the incident and was forced to go through the gravel.
At the restart, Lindblad defended from Badoer - but soon the race was again under yellow as Hwarang Kim (Jenzer Motorsport) went off. Drama wasn't over yet, as Taponen was hit behind the safety car and had to retire.
At the second restart, Lindblad was under pressure again but managed to cross the finish line in first place, ahead of Alfio Spina (BVM Racing) and Ugo Ugochukwu.
In an eventful race, Aurelia Nobels finished 18th.
"For the first races of the championship, it was very positive", Aurelia explained.
"We had a good qualifying session, the second race was really positive with a lot of good battles, holding the guys behind me."
"I managed to finish P11 and P1 in the women’s category. In the final race, we lost some positions at the start but then we recovered. I’m happy with this weekend and will work on it to be better in the next one." - Nobels concluded.
The Belgian-Brazilian now leads the standings of the Female Trophy after the first three races.
Victoria Blokhina was 20th, while Tina Hausmann was forced to retire from race 3, in an overall unlucky weekend for the Swiss driver, who has showed plenty of potential in pre-season testing.
"Mixed feelings after final race. The pace was promising but another driver crashed into me and I was forced to retire." - Hausmann summed up.
The upcoming weekend will host the second round of the Italian F4 season, at Misano, from 5th to 7th May.