Victoria Blokhina makes Spanish F4 appearance at Barcelona season finale
Victoria Blokhina joined Drivex for a one off appearance in the Spanish F4 championship, in the last F4 race in Europe before the winter break. In a packed grid, the young driver had some tough luck with some contacts at Circuit de Catalunya, as she now gets ready for the F4 UAE campaign.
Three weeks after the end of the 2022 Italian F4 championship, Spanish F4 was ready to round out its season as well and, as the last racing opportunity in Europe, several drivers took the chance to get one more taste of F4 machinery before their winter plans.
While the 2022 title was already wrapped up by an impressive Nikola Tsolov (Campos Racing), the battle for the runner up spot saw Hugh Barter and Tymoteusz Kucharczyk - also followed by Kirill Smal, still mathematically in contention - in a tight fight for points.
The championship completed its best season to date, with a packed grid of 35 cars at Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, where the RFEDA Racing Weekend - the home of Spanish national motor racing - is historically rounding out its racing seasons.
Among the crowded field was also Victoria Blokhina, who has contested her rookie year in single-seaters in Italian F4. The 16 year-old racer - a FIA Girls On Track Rising Stars finalist last year - got up to speed with F4 machinery in the F4 UAE championship before making some impressive progression in the highly competitive Italian series, where she scored 6 top-20 finishes and was close to scoring outright points at the Red Bull Ring round.
Joining the Spanish F4 Championship for the first time in a one-off with Drivex, Blokhina had to quickly adapt to a new team and - crucially - to the new tyre, as the Spanish series uses Hankook rather than the Pirelli of the Italian series.
Championship dominator Nikola Tsolov claimed pole position for the first race, sharing the front row with Polish talent Tymoteusz Kucharczyk. On the second row, the other two Campos and MP Motorsport cars of Hugh Barter and Kirill Smal also suggested a exciting race for the front-runners. At her first race in the Spanish series, Victoria Blokhina qualified in P30 out of a 34 car field for the season finale. Tsolov and Kucharczyk managed to get through turn 1 unscathed - ahead of Smal, who got past Barter when the Australian had to take the escape road at Turn 1 - but a multi-car crash at the second corner soon neutralized the action. The two Drivex cars of Bruno Del Pino and Gaël Julien had collided, with also the Monlau VAR of Jef Machiels getting caught in the accident. Victoria Blokhina avoided the clashes and gained a few spots at the start, moving into P26. The shortened race got back underway with 9:30 minutes left on the clock; Kucharczyk tried the outside line at Turn 1, but also had to defend from the charging Kirill Smal, who had the best reaction at the green flag and threatened the Polish driver. Just behind them, the Campos drivers Barter, Stromsted and Espirito Santo fought for fifth place - as Kelstrup lost a few places by having to go around the bollard at Turn 2. On lap 7, Blokhina made up two more positions and moved into P24, but then had to pit for a front wing change one lap later, dropping to the tail end of the field. Kucharczyk eventually lost second to Smal on lap 9, while Tsolov took victory in race 1, 1.4 seconds up the road. As the top-three managed to open a gap to the rest of the pack, Ho (MP Motorsport) and Barter (Campos Racing) rounded out the top five. Victoria Blokhina completed the first race of the weekend in P28 after the unfortunate contact.
With the second fastest lap in Saturday's qualifying, Tsolov would start from pole also on Race 2, ahead of Campos teammate Hugh Barter and MP Motorsport's Timoteusz Kucharczyk and Christian Ho.
Victoria Blokhina was P28 for the shortest race of the weekend - the 18 minute + 1 lap session.
The whole field made it through the first lap untroubled, with Tsolov leading the 34 cars from Barter and Kucharczyk. Blokhina had a good launch and gained one place on Machiels, who lost a few positions on the opening lap.
While the top three were starting to pull away, Alvaro Garcia (Formula de Campeones) hit the barriers at turn 2, triggering the intervention of the safety car.
The green flag waved with 6 minutes to go; Barter was soon under pressure from Kucharczyk - with Smal and Stromsted looking to make up places with opportunistic moves. Having recovered to 25th, Blokhina was unfortunately involved in a contact soon after the restart at Turn 3 and had to retire from the second race. Bennett (Sainteloc Racing) and Arkhangelskii (Drivex) also picked up damage.
With only a handful of green-flag laps, race 2 finished under safety car conditions.
Nikola Tsolov also claimed pole position on Sunday morning - the 15th pole of the season for the Bulgarian driver - and preceded Christian Ho and Robert de Haan. Timoteusz Kucharczyk set the early pace but was topped in the final minutes by thousands of a second and finally dropped to sixth when he couldn't improve further. With a good session, Victoria Blokhina lined up on the 12th row, in P23. Smal gained one position at the start and moved up to second, as Tsolov had a perfect getaway to gain over 1.5 second in one lap. Blokhina was also up to P21, as she tried to make the most out of an overall unlucky weekend in the final race. Barter completed a great move on lap 2 as the Australian got past Kucharczyk for fourth at Turn 1 - before the safety car made its appearance on track for an accident at turn 16 between Bennett, Jensen and Soldavini. At the restart, Smal soon attacked Tsolov but had to desist when he had to defend from Monlau's De Haan. After the initial pressure from the driver from Kyrgyzstan, Tsolov once again opened a gap and never looked back. Right in the mix of the battles, Blokhina was down to 26th. The crowded field, unfortunately, resulted in more contacts in the second half of the standings - and Blokhina had once again to pit for a new front wing. She would rejoin in P30. While Tsolov checked out, Smal and De Haan - with Barter not far behind - battled for the second step of the podium. On lap 11, Stromsted was sandwiched between Kucharczyk and Ho at Turn 1; after contact, the Danish driver rolled over violently and ended his race upside down in the gravel. The driver emerged unhurt from the crash. The neutralization resulted in the end of the racing action for the 2022 season; Nikola Tsolov - already champion after an impressive run of 13 race victories and 18 podiums over 21 races - had another perfect weekend, claiming all races at the Barcelona season finale. Kirill Smal was back on the podium with second place, as Robert De Haan secured his second podium of the season. Vice-Champion Hugh Barter was fourth and preceded Christian Ho, Valerio Rinicella and Tymoteusz Kucharczyk. Victoria Blokhina took the chequered flag in P28, in her first outing in the Spanish F4. The young driver's season, though, is not over yet: she will in fact head to the UAE for the upcoming F4 UAE championship.