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  • Writer's pictureIGOR LAERTE

Rafaela Ferreira scores first ever female podium in F4 Brazil

Rafaela Ferreira becomes the first woman to score a podium in the history of F4 Brazil with third place - and rookie win in Race 2, in the final round of the 2023 season, at Interlagos.

Rafaela Ferreira, Cecília Rabelo, F4 Brasil
Photo credits: Magnus Torquato

Last weekend, F4 Brazil completed the 2023 season at the Interlagos Circuit, in São Paulo, and the season finale saw young driver Rafaela Ferreira achieve two unprecedented historic results. In its second year of activity on Brazilian tracks, the single-seater series had a female presence on the podium for the first time in its history, after Ferreira scored third place overall in race 2. Furthermore, Ferreira became the first woman to win a race among the rookies.

In the free practice sessions, the two female drivers on the grid - Rafaela Ferreira and Cecília Rabelo - showed a constant performance in relation to the best lap times recorded, with the highlight being Ferreira's P7 in FP1. The results of the qualifying session for races 1 and 3 showed a great balance between the whole field of drivers who entered the final round, with Ferreira and Rabelo qualifying for both races in 10th and 11th respectively.

Race 1

In the first race of the weekend, two drivers had issues during the start and were stranded on the track - Matheus Comparatto and João Tesser. Championship runner-up Comparatto managed to get his car in motion, however Tesser had to retire and the marshalls removed his car quickly, without the race having to be neutralized. Rafaela Ferreira moved up to P7 and Cecília Rabelo was right behind, in 8th.

Rafaela Ferreira, Cecília Rabelo, F4 Brasil
Photo credits: Victor Eleutério

On the third lap, pole sitter Luan Lopes still held the lead, but Vinícius Tessaro was working to get closer, while Ferreira had overtaken Lucca Zucchini, moving up to 6th place. Rabelo had lost P8 to Arthur Pavie, but he received a drive-through penalty on the following lap for exceeding the track limits and she regained the position.

Tessaro took the lead and Comparatto – who was on a mission for a recovery race – was putting pressure on Rafaela Ferreira for P6. She defended well and cleanly, but he eventually managed to overtake on the main straight at the end of lap 10. He had also already overtaken Cecília Rabelo, who at that time was in 9th position.

On the penultimate lap Rabelo was caught by Alexandre Machado and unfortunately lost the position. Vinícius Tessaro took victory and Rafaela Ferreira crossed the finish line in 7th and Cecília Rabelo completed the top 10.

Race 2

The result obtained in the previous race placed Rafaela Ferreira on the front row of the starting grid for race 2, alongside Lucca Zucchini who was in pole position. Cecília Rabelo started from P11 once again. When the lights went out, Zucchini remained ahead of the pack, but Álvaro Cho took second place from Ferreira - and she was also overtaken by Matheus Comparatto on the opposite straight. Rabelo had made a great start, gaining 2 positions.

However, the race ended in an unexpected way for the young racer who had made history by becoming the first woman to claim a pole position in the series. While fighting for positions in the middle of the pack, she made contact contact with Vinícius Tessaro's car and Nelson Neto was also involved in the incident. Both had to retire and unfortunately Cecília Rabelo was disqualified by the race stewards.

"Well, I think it was all a racing thing, but it was a bit my fault" - Rabelo said. "I overtook Nelson under braking and Tessaro was ahead at the exit of the turn and I ended up hitting his car. I believe that's part of it, but I already apologized to them." - commented Cecília Rabelo, sharing her view on the incident.

The safety car led the field for two laps and when the restart was authorized, Cho tried to take the lead from Zucchini - who defended well and remained in 1st. Right behind, Rafaela Ferreira found a gap and made an overtake that would forever place her name in the history books of F4 Brazil: she had taken back P3 from Comparatto with a beautiful maneuver and remained in that position until the end.

Lucca Zucchini and Álvaro Cho had a great duel for the lead throughout the race, but it would be Zucchini to take the checkered flag ahead, followed by Cho. Rafaela Ferreira then achieved the first podium of her career - and the first for a woman in the Brazilian single-seater series. Third position also gave her another trophy, as she was the winner among the rookie drivers.

Despite having to retire from the race due to the incident, the final result guaranteed Vinícius Tessaro the title for the 2023 F4 Brazil season.

"I'm very happy with this achievement and being able to serve as an inspiration to other girls and women!"

Rafaela Ferreira, F4 Brasil
Photo courtesy: Rafaela Ferreira

"We had a very good pace throughout the week, always doing well in training and racing and we showed all the progress we've made since the beginning of the year." - said Rafaela Ferreira after the race.

"It was a feeling of overcoming. All the work we did since the beginning of the season, we overcame several problems and this result shows that it was a job very well done."

She continued: "I had a good pace, better than Matheus on the restart, I managed to overtake him on the restart and even without the safety I believe we would have had a chance of doing so. Happy with the result, first woman to stand on the podium and win in the Rookie class!"

Race 3

On the morning of Sunday, December 17th, the young drivers hit the track for the last time in 2023, and just like in race 1, Rafaela Ferreira and Cecília Rabelo started in 10th and 11th place respectively. At the end of the formation lap, Ferreira had an issue and went around on the main straight, but she managed to recover and line up her car on the starting grid.

With Vinícius Tessaro's title already in the bag, the main battle was for the runner-up spot and pole sitter Matheus Comparatto remained at the top. Rafaela Ferreira seemingly had troubles with her car and fell to P12 at the end of the first lap. Cecília Rabelo had overtaken Lucca Zucchini and moved up to P9, but a mistake at the beginning of lap 2 made her lose positions and drop to the back of the grid.

Unfortunately, the season ended a little early for Rafaela Ferreira, who had to retire her car during lap 12 for a technical issue. Despite pressure from Fernando Barrichello, Matheus Comparatto remained in the lead until the end and won the last race of 2023, also saving the runner-up position in the championship standings. Cecília Rabelo completed the race in 11th.

Rafaela Ferreira, Cecília Rabelo, F4 Brasil
Photo credits: Duda Bairros / Victor Eleutério - Edited by: Igor Laerte

The second season in the history of F4 Brazil ended with Vinícius Tessaro being the champion, with 233 points. Rafaela Ferreira was in 13th place in the drivers standings - with 40 points collected. Cecília Rabelo was in 15th, with 16 points – having missed half of the season due to a shoulder injury suffered in the first round.

The provisional calendar for the 2024 season has already been released by VICAR - organizer of the series in Brazil, and will have 8 rounds scheduled - 2 more than 2023. There is also a new feature, which will be a weekend contested outside the country, in Argentina - in the Oscar y Juan Gálvez Circuit, in October. The Velocittà Circuit will host the first round on March 24th.

Now expectations will be focused on the driver announcements, in the hope that Rafaela Ferreira and Cecília Rabelo will be returning for another year in the Brazilian competition, and of course - that more young female drivers will join them on the race tracks in 2024!



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