Spanish F4: Lola Lovinfosse and Emely de Heus score best finishes of the season at Algarve
At the third round of the ever-growing Spanish F4, both the female drivers of the championship recorded their best results in the series to date, with Lola Lovinfosse claiming the three Female Trophy victories and getting closer to a point-scoring finish.
The Spanish Formula 4 championship contested its third round of the 2021 season at Algarve International Circuit, Portugal – since 2020 home of the F1 Portuguese GP.
The series has witnessed a notable growth in the past couple of years for its high competitive levels yet cost-effectiveness and has thus attracted some of the most promising single seater talents and feeder series teams.
With a grid of over 20 cars – 23 at Portimao – it is currently one of the healthiest F4 championships in Europe and features drivers from 15 different nationalities.
For the exception of the 2018 season, Spanish F4 always had at least one female driver on its grid: it was Marta Garcia in 2017; Belén Garcia, Nerea Marti and Irina Sidorkova in 2019; Lena Buhler in 2020 and has now welcomed Lola Lovinfosse and Emely de Heus for its current season.
Drivex's Lola Lovinfosse, 15 years of age, has been a known profile in European karting and was selected for the final stages of the FIA Girls on Track program in 2020.
Racing for MP Motorsport is Dutchwoman Emely de Heus, 17. Both are making their formula cars debut and have made significant progress from their opening weekend.
Proof of their improvements are not only their race results – at Portimao both scored their best finishes to date – but also their ability to steadily close the gaps and battle within the pack, which is really promising for the remainder of the season as they hunt down their first points.
At the flowing and undulating Portimao circuit, championship leader Dilano Van't Hoff (MP Motorsport) once again showed his dominant pace by securing pole position in qualifying.
Emely de Heus set the 22nd time, while Lola Lovinfosse was just one row ahead, in 20th.
But it wasn't all easy for Van't Hoff, as the pole sitter stalled on the grid and dropped to tenth place. Danish driver Sebastian Ogaard (Campos Racing) took the lead and Daniel Macia moved into third place when Marti fell to fifth.
Both de Heus and Lovinfosse had good starts, gaining few positions - with the Frenchwoman managing to advance to P16 in the very opening stages.
When the dust settled, Bordas was overtaken by Marti and Dagnbol, and Michi got summoned by the stewards after the race.
Ogaard built a strong lead over Rik Koen, who had Macia on his tail.
In the second half of the race, Lovinfosse lost positions and found herself just behind de Heus - but was able to get back ahead in the final laps.
Macia ultimately did manage to overtake Koen for second, but went wide. The Dutchman and Marti then continued the close fight until they collided: the incident promoted Bordas to a podium position and Van't Hoff to fourth, after a really impressive comeback.
Shortly after, the championship leader gained one more position after moving ahead of Enric Bordas, thus clinching a podium spot.
Sebastian Ogaard won the first race, ahead of Daniel Macia and Dilano Van't Hoff.
Lola Lovinfosse equalled her best result previously obtained at Navarra and finished P17, one position ahead of Emely de Heus – the latter also improving her personal best of 20th at the previous round.
"In free practice we did a few tests on the car and basically it was good." – explained Lovinfosse after the first day of action at the Portuguese track. "In qualifying, the gaps were really short from the front and I'm pretty happy about it to be honest."
"The first race was the 25 minute plus one lap one – the longer one. I managed to get a really good start and I ended the first lap in P15 – I was starting P21. After, I was in traffic and it was really difficult." – she summed up.
"But overall a really good day, I'm happy about the team and the car."
The starting grid for race 2 was essentially confirmed with Van't Hoff lining up on pole, Ogaard alongside him and Lola Lovinfosse and Emely de Heus starting from the tenth and eleventh row respectively.
The championship leader had another slow start, which Sebastian Ogaard once again took advantage of and fired into the lead. Bordas, Van't Hoff, and Marti engaged in the battle for second place, allowing Ogaard to build a strong 4 second lead over the pursuers.
Lovinfosse moved up to P19, de Heus to 21st. The French driver fought her way up the field and, with confidence in the battles in the midfield she found herself in 13th place. At the end of the race, she would drop to 17th, having lost places after going off-line.
Meanwhile, Emely de Heus had also progressed to P18, before she had to visit the pitlane at the end of the race after contact with a rival. She finished 21st.
Sebastian Ogaard won his second race of the weekend – and his second of the season. Van't Hoff and Marti joined the Dane on the podium; Bordas was again fourth while positions changed when Kelstrup lost his P5 to Ryabov in the final stages.
"What a race, really messy, a lot of overtakes. I was starting P21 and the race was 18-minute plus one lap." – said Lovinfosse.
"I had a 'normal' start, nothing incredible but pretty okay. After the first three laps I was P15, then on lap 10 I was up to 13th. I went on the dirty part of the track and I lost 3 positions, but we ended up P17, really happy about my race. I'm still ahead in the Female Trophy, so we ended the race with a podium."
For the third time last weekend, Van't Hoff lined up on pole at Portimao, but Marti joined him on the front row for Race 3 on Saturday. Ogaard lined up right behind the championship leader, on the second row.
Both de Heus and Marti stalled the start and the pole sitter finally got away well. Macia went into second, Koen up to third after overtaking Sebastian Ogaard.
Lola Lovinfosse moved into 17th after a very good start from the 10th row, as the recovering Emely de Heus overtook Jorge Campos to get back into P22.
Bordas and Degnbol got into the fight, which caused Degnbol to go off; the MP Motorsport driver definitely had the worst out of it and he lost many positions, while Bordas had to give up two places. Local driver Espirito Santo, who was running in 8th, hit trouble and pitted.
Lovinfosse had another charging race and once again fought elbows out in the midfield. She moved into 15th place, having shown good racecraft.
Ryabov overtook Ogaard but went wide, which helped the Danish racer to remain close.
Many drivers violated track limits, which resulted in plenty of black and white flags being handed out - among them were Dunne, Campos, Garcia, Bordas, and Ogaard.
Ryabov attacked Koen, but the latter positioned his car perfectly and defended. He would be overtaken one lap later, but fought back and found a way around Ryabov again - he went wide in the process and it was predictable that stewards decided to take a look at his action.
Both the female drivers further progressed: Emely de Heus managed to move into 18th place and Lola Lovinfosse grabbed P14.
Oxley was the first driver to receive a 5 second penalty – unfortunately, the next would be de Heus, who had brilliantly managed to climb to 16th place.
On the last lap, the fight between Koen and Ryabov once again became alive, as the Russian took P3 but Koen managed to switch back at the last moment and held the hardly-fought position until the end.
Dilano Van't Hoff claimed his fourth win of the season – his first of the weekend – and finished ahead of Formula de Campeones' Daniel Macia and MP Motorsport's Rik Koen was third.
Lola Lovinfosse finished 14th across the line – then promoted to 13th. This is her best result in formula cars so far and real testament to her progress – at 15 years of age and as one of the youngest on the grid. Lovinfosse brought home all the Female Trophy victories of the Portuguese triple-header.
Similarly, Emely de Heus was 19th across the line, but her pace in the final race could have translated into a top-15 finish, which leaves the Dutchwoman with high hopes for the next rounds.
“This week we had a good pace and I’ve had some fun fights for positions." - she told us. "Sometimes I was a bit unlucky when I drove straight and couldn’t make the corner, making me lose some places. But overall, I’m satisfied with the weekend, even though I made a few mistakes”.
Spanish F4, which has just announced that it will run the new halo-equipped Tatuus F4 T-021 in 2022, will return to the track in Motorland Aragon for its fourth race meeting on July 31st and August 1st.