Victoria Blokhina claims personal best result in F4 at Abu Dhabi Trophy Round
Victoria Blokhina completed the F4 UAE non-championship Trophy Round in support of the F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by scoring a career best of sixth place in Race 2.
As per tradition since its inception in 2016, the Formula 4 UAE Championship attracted the attention of some of the most promising up-and-coming Formula 4 talents, looking to gain experience in the European off-season.
While the inaugural championship featured a non-championship opening round at YAS Marina, the 2020 season started with a special round in support of the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix, which has now become one of the most prestigious races in world's F4 championships due to its global stage.
The first F1-supporting Trophy Round was famously won by Amna Al Qubaisi, who made history by becoming the first ever Arab woman to win a single-seater race. Her sister Hamda scored six wins across the following seasons in the UAE-based F4 championship - as the series continued to offer a great platform for female racers.
The 2023 season will continue this trend, as Viktoria Blokhina is set to enter the Emirati championship, having completed her rookie season in Italian F4. Furthermore, Blokhina has made a one-off appearance in the Spanish series, as the 16 year-old driver gets ready for a sophomore campaign in F4 machinery.
In 2022, Blokhina was in fact just moving her first steps in race cars after graduating from karting and claimed a best finish of 19th at YAS Marina. She then made huge steps forward throughout the Italian F4 season, which saw Blokhina almost scoring points at Red Bull Ring, in an almost 40-car field.
At her return to the United Arab Emirates, Victoria Blokhina entered the non-championship 2023 Trophy Round in the #21 XCel Motorsport entry, with a practice session, qualifying and two 23-minute plus one lap races on the support package of the F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Her weekend started off with a fifth place in practice, which showed very promising pace ahead of qualifying.
The opening session was led by Emirati karter Federico Rifai, at his first race in F4, who preceded Irish star Alex Dunne and Louis Sharp.
2022 British F4 champion Dunne then sealed pole position on Friday, outpacing Rifai and Sharp by two tenths. With a very solid qualifying performance, Victoria Blokhina was seventh fastest - in her best qualifying effort in F4 - less than a second adrift.
Saturday's race saw Dunne clearing the field at the start after Rifai stalled on the grid; the Irishman was chased by young New-Zealander Sharp. Blokhina, unfortunately, spun at Turn 9 and dropped all the way down the order on the first lap.
After the opening stages, though, Sharp closed in on Dunne, leaving behind third-placed Keanu Al Azhari. Costas Toparis, meanwhile, had passed James Piszcyk for fourth place - with also Kanato Le looking for an opportunity to move up the order.
Louis Sharp eventually made his move for the lead on lap 4, going around the outside of Turn 9 and completing the impressive pass in the hotel complex on Alex Dunne.
Once in front, the 14 year-old Carlin driver stretched his legs and opened a five second gap to win his third F4 race of his career, after two wins in the British championship.
Alex Dunne was second and managed to held off the pressure from Keanu Al Azhari in the second half of the race.
Toparis and Le rounded out the top five, while the recovering Rifai charged through the field after stalling at the start and eventually made it up to sixth; he could in fact pass Piszcyk on lap 11 on the backstraight and then snatched P6 over Quintarelli one lap later.
In the caution-free first race, Victoria Blokhina could not close back the gap and finished P11; despite the unfortunate opening lap, though, Blokhina's pace was good enough for seventh - as the race 1 fastest laps set the grid for Sunday's second race.
Louis Sharp shared the front row with Alex Dunne, followed by Costa Toparis and Keanu Al Azhari. In a thrilling first lap, the two front runners made contact as they ran alongside into the first corner; Sharp ran wide as a result of the touch, but held the lead. Dunne made an attempt as they approached Turn 5, but he locked up and had to back out. The battle continued through the second sector and Dunne went side-by-side in the new long left-hander; Sharp ran wide and, as he rejoined the track, the two made another contact that left Dunne without his front wing. As the Irishman pitted for repairs, the Safety Car made its first intervention when Piszcyk and Quintarelli also clashed. At the restart on lap 5, Sharp defended from Piszcyk and then never looked back. Kanato Le got by Toparis and moved up to third place at the chicane, with also MacIntyre making up a spot. There was no luck for Alex Dunne; while recovering positions, he made further contact with Toparis at Turn 6 and lost his front wing for a second time. The incident brought out the second Safety Car. With a last lap restart, Sharp cleared the field again and won unchallenged, ahead of Kanato Le, who found his way past Al Azhari at the chicane after a close battle. MacIntyre and Rifai completed the top five. Dunne had once again charged through the pack to claim sixth - but a 10 second penalty for running wide Sharp in the first lap promoted Victoria Blokhina to sixth place. It was Blokhina's best ever result in Formula 4, as well as her first top ten. The 2023 F4 UAE season will resume its on-track activity on January 9-10, with pre-season testing getting underway at Dubai Autodrome. The first points-paying races will then be contested on January 13-14, with F4 UAE supporting the 24H of Dubai.