A massive 28-car grid will be present for the first round of a five-week winter series based entirely in the UAE. Drivers will be moving down from F3 and up from F4 and karting, and here’s your guide to them all
Abu Dhabi Racing by Prema
Abu Dhabi Racing will again collaborate with Prema to defend the two titles it won last year with Guangyu Zhou. The team will field five cars, with the United Arab Emirates’ Al Qubaisi racing family piloting three of them. Sportscar racer Khaled Al Qubaisi did two rounds last year and took two 15th places, and his elder daughter Amna had a best finish of 14th. Both return, alongside younger daughter Hamda who was a winner in Formula 4 UAE and made the podium in Italian F4 in 2021.
They are joined by Paul Aron, fresh from coming third in the 2021 Formula Regional European Championship with Prema. Aron has two years’ experience with the Tatuus T-318 used there and in the FRegional Asian Championship having raced in the Formula Renault Eurocup in 2020. Prema endured a trying season in FREC but Aron demonstrated his undoubted speed and teamwork as they rebounded to win twice in the penultimate round at Mugello. Though he joined Prema for the FIA Formula 3 post-season testing, he is expected to remain in FRECA with Prema. His speed and experience should ensure that the Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 junior starts as one of the favourites for the overall title.
Red Bull junior Jak Crawford will however race for the team in F3 this year, and completes Abu Dhabi Racing’s line-up as he seeks to embed himself at Prema ahead of the F3 season. He won eight races in Euroformula in 2021, and showed well in F3.
There is a familiar flavour to the India’s Mumbai Falcons outfit with all four of its drivers having raced or are set to race with Prema. The team also receives technical support from the famed Italian outfit, immediately making it a serious threat even before the quality of the drivers are accounted for (and it’s certainly not lacking in that department).
Among the more experienced young drivers in the field is FIA F3 race-winner Arthur Leclerc. The 2020 FREC runner-up takes a step down therefore in what will be his first racing outside of Europe. It will be a good opportunity to showcase his team leadership qualities among one of soon-to-be F3 team-mate and fellow Ferrari junior Ollie Bearman, who is reigning ADAC and Italian F4 champion and gets his first taste of FRegional in the final two rounds before leaping up to join the F1 support bill. He will almost certainly be one to watch, as will Italian F4 rival Sebastian Montoya who occupies the car for the first three rounds before heading off to the United States to prepare for racing in the Sebring 12 Hours with his father.
Montoya is expected to race for Prema in FREC this year, and would be team-mate there to Ferrari junior Dino Beganovic, who is Mumbai Falcons’ second full-time driver and aiming to build on his three podium-filled FRAC appearances and strong end to what was an otherwise tricky FREC campaign last year.
Evans GP, run by experienced Australian engineer Josh Evans, will field three cars for Nicola Marinangeli, Frederick Lubin and Cem Bolukbasi. Second in FRAC’s teams’ standings last year, as well as fourth in the driver’s championship with Patrik Pasma, was a strong return for what was Evans GP’s first ever racing series.
Also entering their rookie single-seater campaign in FRAC last year was Bolukbasi, who was ninth in the points and now returns looking to gain more mileage before joining Charouz Racing System in Formula 2. In 2021 he also did a partial season in Euroformula and finiahed fifth in the championship with two wins, a pole and eight podiums.
Marinangeli is another FRAC returnee, having finished a pointless 21st in the 2021 standings. He followed that up with another point-free campaign in FREC with Arden. Lubin is an ex-Arden driver too, but from British F4 and then GB3. His 2021 was disrupted with a diagnosis of heart condition myocarditis, forcing him to miss races, but he’s fighting fit again.
Evans GP Academy
F4 graduates David Morales and Levente Revesz will run under the Evans GP Academy banner. American 18-year-old Morales made his racing car debut in the 2019 Lucas Oil Formula Car Race Series, took two podiums from two years in NACAM F4 then switched to British F4 with Arden during 2021 and earned two more podiums. Hungary’s Revesz raced in ADAC and Italian F4 last year, with best finishes of a ninth place in each, and is headed to FREC with Van Amersfoort Racing.
A line-up of three drivers going for the rookie classification title and one going for Masters honours doesn’t sound like it has the substance for a title charge against more experienced oppositions, but in the past Pinnacle has repeatedly shown it has what’s required to win when there’s a driver on its books a top performance can be extracted from.
The most likely to fit that mould this time is reigning Spanish F4 champion and 2021 F4 UAE runner-up Dilano van’t Hoff, who claimed five wins at the Dubai Autodrome and Yas Marina Circuit on FRAC’s support bill at the start of last year. He’s now got three rounds of FREC experience too, albeit with little in results, but it makes him Pinnacle’s only driver to know the car.
Pepe Marti debuted in single-seaters with van’t Hoff, and was also able to win in the UAE and Spain as a F4 rookie. They were team-mates in the Middle East then and are again now, so combined they could be very potent. Both have eyes on moving up to FIA F3, but need the UAE experience in case they land in FREC instead.
Capable of springing a surprise, just like countryman Bolukbasi did in 2021, is Turkey’s Salih Yoluc. The 36-year-old is an established sportscar racer who usually drives for Aston Martin customer team TF Sport and is moving into ever more competitive spheres and performing well. Going into FRAC with just a single Euroformula test as single-seater experience will be a big risk, but then team-mate Ayato Iwasaki hasn’t even raced a car before as he comes from karts.
Hitech has a pretty strong line-up, with FREC’s top two rookies and two solid F4 graduates, at least for the first few rounds. The team was winless in FRAC last year, but assuming a repeat of that this time around would be unwise.
ART Grand Prix’s Gabriele Mini will be present for the first two rounds as preparation for his second FREC season, and will likely be a race-winning threat in that short time. Similar expectations can be set of Red Bull junior Isack Hadjar, who beat Mini to last year’s FREC rookie classification title and took two overall wins after starring on his FRegional debut in the UAE. He will do all five rounds in 2022, making him a likely title challenger, as he learns Hitech ahead of racing for the team in FIA F3.
Of the F4 runners in its stable, both Leonardo Fornaroli and Joshua Dufek were winners in Italy and podium finishers in Germany’s ADAC championship. They are set to only do the first three rounds to ensure they retain rookie status for anticipated moves into FREC, while Mini’s seat is taken by Owen Tangavelou, who has two podiums from two years in French F4. All three drivers could be dark horses for podiums if things go their way and they adaptability well to the car.
Ido Cohen is the only BlackArts driver who will be in points contention, but he’s only confirmed for round one so far and holds an option on contesting the rest of the season. He beat the highly-rated Zane Maloney in 2020 as Euroformula team-mates, but otherwise has mostly sat below the radar with his performances. Making the most of his F3-level experience is a must.
Thomas Luedi, a founding member of the Hong Kong-based BlackArts, won FRAC’s Masters Cup in 2019-20 and has a best race result of 10th. He’s got lots of Asian motorsport experience, but no top-five finishes in races, while Luxembourgian team-mate Brice Morabito has raced in open-wheel series of an equivalent level in Europe and appeared on overall podiums. In 2020 he stepped up to the Austrian F3 Cup, so also has experience of high-downforce machinery.
3Y Technology by R-ace GP
Current holders of the teams’ title in FREC, R-ace has teamed up with Dubai-based 3Y Technology (previously partnered with Evans GP) for its first season in FRAC.
Category sophomore Gabriel Bortoleto looks like the team’s best hope for title honours, having finished 15th in FREC and fifth in the rookie points for the MP Motorsport-run FA Racing team last year. He has shown strong pace since joining R-ace in post-season testing, and his full-time team-mates Oliver Goethe and Lorenzo Fluxa also have FREC experience.
Fluxa is a FRAC returnee, with a best result of fourth from his 2021 campaign, and he will start the season with a driver to look up to as FREC runner-up Hadrien David is part of the line-up for the first two rounds. While his partial campaign will inevitably rule out a title challenge, he will start as one of the favourites for race wins before he is replaced by Italian F4 graduate Francesco Braschi. The line-up grows for the final two rounds as Lena Buhler, David’s R-ace team-mate last year, arrives from W Series pre-season testing.
Written by Roger Gascoigne, Ida Wood & Craig Woollard