From Italy to India, via the new Euro 4 spin-off and the all-female F1 Academy series, there was plenty of F4 racing across the globe in 2023
The starting point of FIA Formula 4 as a category celebrated its 10th season this year, and organiser ACI Sport launched Euro 4 to partner its long-running Italian F4 championship. Euro 4 visited Italy twice and Spain once for its three-round season, while Italian F4 had two international rounds for the fourth time in its history as it raced in Belgium and France. That somewhat made the existence of the new sister series pointless.
As per usual, Italian F4 had huge grids , with an average of 33 starters per race. The 24-car grid for the season-opening race was the smallest, and the round at Paul Ricard in France attracted a high of 37 drivers. But only six of the 50 drivers that took part this year won races, with a further six making the podium.
Five of the winners drove for Prema, with US Racing’s champion Kacper Sztuka being the exception. His team-mates Zachary David, Akshay Bohra and Gianmarco Pradel all brought home podiums, with Brando Badoer and Ivan Domingues doing the same for Van Amersfoort Racing and Alfio Spina taking home BVM Racing’s sole trophy. He came 12th in the standings with a second place, three fifth places, two ninths, a 10th and 14 non-scores.
Although Sztuka won the season opener, he did not win again until race 14 of the campaign as he began a run of six victories in a row. After championship runner-up Ugo Ugochukwu beat him to victory in race one at Vallelunga, he responded with two more wins to end the season as well as his sixth pole in a row.
Sztuka became champion with a race to spare, and is now a Red Bull junior.
A week after losing the Italian title, Ugochukwu went to Barcelona for Euro 4. The title was decided in a four-way fight in the final race, and it likely would have been five had Sztuka been present. James Wharton led Prema team-mate Ugochukwu by two points heading into the decider, but finishing fourth in a double-points race which Ugochukwu won meant he missed out on the title by 24 points.
Prema’s Arvid Lindblad and Bohra had been the top two in the standings with two races remaining, but dropped to fourth and third respectively. Had a regular points system applied to the final round, the absent Sztuka would have been fifth rather than eighth in the standings and Prema’s Freddie Slater would have been 12th rather than 10th.
For a series that runs over six months of the year, it can be a surprise that there’s only 14 races in total in Japanese F4. Once again it was the junior drivers of Honda and Toyota who were usually filling the top positions, and Toyota won its long-running rivalry as its drivers took eight victories to Honda’s five. The top two in the points were also Toyota juniors.
Rikuto Kobayashi started the season in dominant style, taking a lights-to-flag win at Fuji Speedway by 11.8 seconds. In race two he made a mistake under pressure and finished third, but was battling for victory at the end and left round one with a 15-point lead.
Unsurprisingly the Honda juniors came to the fore in round two at Suzuka, with Yusuke Mitsui winning both races from pole. A second and a fourth for Kobayashi meant his championship lead grew by five points.
The field was back at Fuji for round three, Toyota territory, but Honda junior Yuto Nomura pipped Kobayashi to pole for both races. Kobayashi had to battle hard race-long to win race one, then in race two he took the lead down the pit straight on the final lap. Over the weekend, he almost doubled his points lead.
Mitsui repeated his Suzuka double in round four, while Kobayashi had a silly collision in race one and finished fifth in race two. The title fight was back on.
Sportsland SUGO hosted round five, and the poles were shared by Nomura and Bionic Jack Racing’s Kazuhiso Urabe. Nomura converted pole into victory, and Kobayashi climbed from 10th on the grid to finish sixth, falling down to third in the standings. Mitsui took the points lead by finishing second, and extended it with an identical result in race two behind Urabe as Kobayashi had an off and finished 22nd.
Six drivers remained in title contention with four races to go, and with the stakes raised the Toyota juniors hit form. Kobayashi led home team-mate Jin Nakamura in race one at Autopolis, then it a was Toyota 1-2-3 in race two as Nakamura led Shunji Okumoto and Kobayashi who was now top of the table again. Mitsui had finished 10th, but from 29th on the grid.
Kobayashi qualified on pole for both races of the final round at Twin Ring Motegi, and between safety car periods it was a battle between Nakamura and Kobayashi for race one victory. Nakamura triumphed, meaning five points split the pair.
He immediately got into second behind his team-mate in the decider, but was not fast enough to then pass him and so Kobayashi became champion with his fifth win.
Chinese F4 still uses first-generation F4 cars from Mygale, and grid sizes this year averaged 16 cars despite there being only six full-time entries. Six drivers won races, and there was an intense title fight between Tiago Rodrigues and Kaishun Liu.
Ruiqi Liu was the star of round one at Zhuhai, which was originally scheduled to take place at Zhengzhou. He took two poles, two wins, a second and a third from the weekend’s four races. But he was absent from round two at Ningbo, which was postponed by a week so it clashed with his Italian F4 programme, and Rodrigues came to the fore with three wins.
Pingtan street circuit hosted round three, which also took place a week later than planned, and Ruiqi Liu marked his return by taking pole then claiming a win, a second and a third in the races. But he was outshone (only slightly since the top three in Q1 were covered by 0.079s) by his namesake and Rodrigues. Kaishun Liu took two wins and two second places, and Rodrigues brought home a win and three other podiums to look after his points lead.
Other drivers came to challenge them in the last two rounds, Yingjie Xu was the only driver to inflict defeat on them.
The ‘European-style’ Tianfu International Circuit was not ready to be raced on when Chinese F4 was supposed to visit it, so round four took place at Zhuhai. Rodrigues led Liu in race one until the final lap when Liu attempted to pass him down the inside at turn one. They both went off, gifting the debuting Xu victory.
Rodrigues won races two and four, extending his points lead. Liu retired following an off in race two, won race three and was second in race four.
In rather familiar circumstances, the season finale also didn’t go ahead as planned as the Macau Grand Prix dropped Chinese F4 from its schedule. Ningbo picked up hosting duties, and Liu took both poles, won three times and finished second in race three. Rodrigues won that race, and more importantly the title.
A run of eight wins in a row did not neccessarily make winning the NACAM F4 title an easy job for Pedro Juan Moreno.
The start of his winning streak brought him level with Cristian Cantu at the top of the standings, and two races later he was 29 points clear. It took a further four races to add another 28 points to his lead, and it looked like victorious run would come to an end in race one of the fifth round at Queretaro.
Cantu was leading Moreno by a huge eight seconds when he threw victory away by heading to the pits. He finished ninth, and Moreno ended up winning by 10.2s and adding another 23 points to his lead.
The pressure was now on for Cantu, and he responded by winning five of the season’s last six races. But Moreno took a win, two second places and a third before skipping the double-header season finale since the title was already wrapped up.
Marco Alquicira was the only other driver to win, doing so twice. A non-championship round was scheduled to take place in Mexico City two weeks ago, but was cancelled.
Sztuka started his winning form in the Formula Winter Series, where he won five of the six races he contested and the title. His only defeat was inflicted by Matteo De Palo, who only did round two at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit and he took two poles, a win and a fifth place to put himself sixth in the standings despite missing three quarters of the season.
The final round was skipped by Sztuka since he was already champion. Meanwhile, his team US Racing brought two new names to the grid Zachary David and Akshay Bohra. The former won both races with fastest lap, took a pole position and netted fifth in the points table, while the latter finished fifth and second to be ninth in the standings.
Since many of that series’ drivers headed to Italian F4, it was a different set of names that were the benchmark in Spanish F4. The all-French combination of Sainteloc Racing and Theophile Nael beat the local teams to take the title, with Nael picking up eight wins, six other podiums and five poles to become champion with two races to spare.
A late charge by Campos Racing’s Christian Ho failed to make for a close title fight despite winning the last four races. Two of those were overshadowed with Nael’s crowning taking the headlines in one and Enzo Deligny’s antics being the big talking point of the season finale.
Another series sophomore, MP Motorsport’s Valerio Rinicella was third in the standings and he took the chequered flag in all 21 races. He won two of them and stepped on the podium ten further times.
Deligny was Spanish F4’s top rookie, coming fourth in the standings with two wins, eight other podiums and remarkable consistency over the season’s 21 races. His disqualification was one of only six races he failed to be in the top five.
The next best rookie was team-mate De Palo, and while it took only three races for him to win he then only finished in the top five seven more times. Similarly Brazilian F4 champion Pedro Clerot kicked the season off with two wins and a second place, but never visited the podium again and slipped to sixth in the standings, and former Danish F4 star Noah Stromsted got three podiums in the first three rounds but only scored 50 points in the remaining four.
Most European teams and their drivers went to F4 United Arab Emirates to warm up for their main campaigns. Prema ran its own cars and provided technical support to Mumbai Falcons, while Xcel Motorsport did the same with Yas Heat Academy.
Prema-run cars filled the top three places in the standings, winning 13 of the 15 races between them. R-ace GP’s Zachary David and Hitech GP’s Arvid Lindblad won the two other races.
Ugochukwu won the first two races of the season, then Ferrari juniors Tuukka Taponen and Wharton came to the fore. Wharton launched his title fight by making history, as he won the first ever single-seater race in Kuwait. Two of the next three races at the Kuwait Motor Town circuit were won by Ugochukwu, helping him to keep the championship lead to the end of round three. Taponen did the triple in round four at Dubai Autodrome, but it was Wharton who became points leader.
Rinicella was in title contention entering the final round at Yas Marina Circuit, but Wharton put one hand on the title there with two poles and then two wins. Taponen was the only one who could deny him the crown in the last race, and started third.
Wharton immediately swept to the inside off the line to defend the lead, so Taponen tried going around his outside at the opening corner. Despite running well wide at the exit, Taponen managed to take second and was able to attack Wharton again into Turn 12 (of the grand prix configuration, as F4 uses the support paddock pitlane and grid). However both ran off track and then collided as they rejoined the track for the direction change at Turn 13.
Wharton’s suspension broke and he was out of the race on the spot, while Taponen was able to creep back to the pits but retired there and so Wharton became champion. Ugochukwu took his fifth win, more than the Mumbai pair achieved.
Two weekends ago there was F4 action in Bahrain, but it was for the non-championship Saudi Arabian F4 Trophy Event which ran as a precursor to the nation launching a series next year. All 13 cars participating were run by Meritus GP, and the races were won by Oscar Wurz (son of ex-Formula 1 racer Alexander), Suleiman Zanfari and Federico Al Rifai.
Brazilian F4‘s second season had an average grid size of 12.5 cars and had a round supporting F1. Vinicius Tessaro won the title with a race to spare, taking six victories but only three poles over the course of the campaign. Matheus Comparatto was his chief rival, and he also claimed three poles as well as four wins.
Seven other drivers won races, including Alpine junior Matheus Ferreira, who could only come 18th in Italian F4 with a best finish of fifth but in a cameo in his home championship won twice.
Announced in August 2021 with a planned launch date in February 2022 and with all cars being run by Prema, Indian F4 got pushed back by nine months in January of last year.
A fortnight before its new start date in November the season got cancelled, and the next update came in March 2023 when it was announced that the second-generation Tatuus chassis would be swapped for Mygale’s and racing would start in October.
MP Motorsport was revealed in June to be the team behind the centrally-run field of cars rather than Prema, and in August the group behind a new street circuit in Chennai said Indian F4 would be part of its first event in December and have a night race.
Eventually a full calendar was released, and the season opener on Hyderabad’s Formula E circuit was supposed to host round one which would be in November. But it got relocated to Chennai’s permanent circuit just a few days before action began and the track also gained extra races when fomer F1 venue Buddh International Circuit lost its round.
The inaugural event did take place on November 4/5, and Cooper Webster won two of the three races to lead the points, but later in the month there was more calendar chaos.
Chennai was set to host rounds two and three back-to-back on November 30/December 1 and December 2/3, but it was announced that round two would take place on December 1/2 and round three would be postponed to December 5/6.
Rounds four and five were due to follow a similar format, running back-to-back on December 9 and 10 on the new Chennai street circuit. That weekend was revised to feature less racing and run as one round over three days, but still include the planned night race, while round five was moved to the permanent Chennai track and a December 16/17 date.
The second round of the season had a weather-shortened race, then Cyclone Michaung disrupted the series further. Round three was cancelled on the day track action was due to begin due to the cyclone, and its impact on the streets of Chennai meant round four was relocated to the permanent track.
To make up for that, Indian F4 packed its next Chennai trip with five races (albeit on the circuit’s short layout), and Webster won three of those. He clinched the title with another two wins in the final round, which was back on Chennai’s full layout.
Enzo Peugeot may have won the Pau Grand Prix, but Evan Giltaire arguably took the bigger honours in French F4 by winning the title in a dramatic finale. While just four points seperated the pair at the end of the season, there was a gap of 101 points to Kevin Foster who came third in the standings.
On wins it was Peugeot who led the way, with seven to Giltaire’s six and Foster’s single succes at Nogaro, while the pole positions were shared exclusively between those three. Giltaire got eight, Peugeot started in first place four times and Foster got both poles in Pau.
The top two in the championship both stood on the podium 13 times, with Peugeot doing so three times in reversed-grid races while all but one of Giltaire’s podiums came in the higher-scoring races. That helped make the difference in the title fight. Drivers who were not fast enough to challenge the title contenders but brought home big results because of the reversed-grid races were Garrett Berry, who came sixth in the standings after winning two of them and making the podium in two others, and Yani Stevenheydens who did the exact same but also finished third in the Pau GP.
FEED Racing France scholar Foster ended up with 10 podiums, as the Pau weekend actually ended up being his lowest-scoring of the year. After mastering a drying track in qualifying, he spun down to 26th place on the opening lap of race one and recovered to 17th after being lucky to avoid damage as the field rushed past him on the narrow city streets. He was not so lucky in race two as Adrien Closmenil wiped him out, and in the grand prix he spun twice and broke his rear wing.
Having traded victories through the year, Peugeot and Giltaire went into the final round at Paul Ricard 28 points apart.
Giltaire took both poles in qualifying, while Peugeot was only fifth fastest. Pole was converted into victory in race one by Giltaire, and Peugeot had his points lead more than halved by finishing fourth.
He started four places higher than his rival for the reversed-grid race two, but contact on lap one immediately ended his race and Giltaire’s rise to fourth place meant he went into the title decider four points behind Peugeot and guaranteed to become champion if he turned pole into victory.
He did just that, while Peugeot had a desperate time trying to make his way up the order to challenge him. He sent Foster into retirement in a clash, and when he eventually passed Hiyu Yamakoshi for second he was already 3.8s behind Giltaire.
Australian F4 ran from 2015 to ’19, and will be relaunched next year. But F4 racing has still been taking place in the interim on the sixth largest county in the world. Australian Formula Open, as the name suggests, is a Formula Libre-style series that features Formula 3, Toyota Racing Series and first-generation F4 cars.
Kristian Janev won the AF04 title by topping the F4 class five times in 12 races, while Brodie Norris took eight wins from 11 starts and finished just three points behind him in the title fight as both missed the final round. Chris Huang came third in the standings by contesting 15 of the 17 races and making the podium eight times but never winning.
In addition to the United States F4 championship, which was won by Patrick Woods-Toth and had eight race-winners in 2023, there are several other ‘national’ and regional F4 series in the country.
Formula Development, which is rebranding as the Ligier JS F4 Series next year as it continues to use a first-generation car, is one of those and another is Formula Pro USA which under its portfolio has the F4 Western championship.
Dmitry Pistolyako, who has spent over a decade running an online English language school, lived his childhood dream this year by not only becoming a racing driver but a title-winning one too as he started the F4 Western season with five wins in a row then racked up four second places to become champion by 84 points over Alexander Cornfeld.
Joining the grid for the final round of the season was F1 Academy race-winner Emely de Heus, and she finished fifth in race one then was disqualified from race two.
The F4 Western Winter Series had three cars for its four races, which were all won by Australian Daniel Quimby.
Ava Dobson was the only driver to contest FDevelopment round one at Road America, and Pablo Jose Benites and Aidan Potter shared the wins as the only drivers in round two at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Three drivers raced at Virginia International Raceway, with Teddy Musella and Caleb Campbell the winners. It was a totally different trio of drivers for the Circuit of the Americas season finale, and Cash Felber won twice.
Pedersen pipped Pedersen to win this year’s Danish F4 title. That was Mikkel and Magnus, and between them they won 11 of the season’s 18 races. Their main challenger was Theodor Jensen, who won four times but only did seven races so came seventh in the standings.
Mathias Bjerre Jakobsen was therefore the true best-of-the-rest driver, taking two wins en route to third in the standings, but Algeria’s Leo Robinson was another driver with a better scoring rate than the champion as he finished every single race in second or third after joining the grid in round four. His 10 podiums put him fourth in the championship, just ahead of fellow part-timer Victor Nielsen. In fact, only four drivers did the full season since the champion Mikkel Pedersen failed to start a race. That’s one less full-timer than last year, but matching 2021 and beating 2019.
The Formula Renault 1.6-spec Formula Nordic also got assimilated into Danish F4 this year. They shared grids for the two Swedish rounds and the finale, and Linus Granfors managed to beat the F4 stars to win a race overall. Next year they combine as one series: Nordic 4.
Finland used to have its own F4 series, but now it is just F4 racers who attend Formula Open Finland rounds and other racing events in the country. Nestori Virtala was the only attendee for several of those, against drivers in F3 cars, and also contested the Estonian Grand Prix in Eastern Europe.
F4 South East Asia returned after three years off, and began its four-event schedule with a first ever visit to China. There was a field of 10 cars for the opening round at the Zhuzhou circuit, and Jack Beeton won two of the three races.
A non-championship event at the Macau Grand Prix followed, and the grid ballooned to 22 cars with many stars of Europe’s Formula Regional, F4 and karting scenes attending. Ginetta Junior champion Freddie Slater set the practice pace while Prema team-mate Arvid Lindblad crashed, but the latter rebounded in qualifying as he beat the former to pole by 0.549s. Third fastest was Hadrien David, the 2021 FRegional European Championship runner-up.
Wet and windy conditions hit Macau ahead of the safety car-filled qualification race, which Lindblad won. Slater was second and two-time Macau GP winner Charles Leong was third. The track had mostly dried in time for the main race, where having pole proved crucial once again for Lindblad taking victory ahead of Leong and Rashid Al Dhaheri, while Slater suffered mechanical issues.
The series reconvened at Sepang two weeks later with an impressive 18-car entry list. Exciting newcomers included sportscar star Doriane Pin and karting graduates Kean Nakamura Berta and Tomass Stolcermanis. All three made the podium, but couldn’t beat David who took three wins.
Sepang hosted the finale with 17 cars the week after that and Nakamura dominated qualifying. But he couldn’t translate that into success in the races, even in the absence of David, and the wins were shared between Al Dhaheri, Nicolas Stati and Pin. Her victory made her championship runner-up behind Beeton.
ACCR F4 evolved into F4 Central European Zone for 2023, and attracted an average grid size of less than eight cars as it raced in Hungary, Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Ethan Ischer beat his Jenzer Motorsport team-mate Reno Francot to the title by two points, but only after a penalty was applied in the final race.
Needing only to finish second to become champion, Francot had appeared to be on course for that despite a late challenge from Michael Sauter. On the penultimate lap, Sauter dived inside Francot into turn one. As Francot then fought to regain the place, the two touched, forcing Sauter into the gravel and preventing any further attacks on Francot.
However, Sauter ended up finishing ahead of Francot, who was relegated to third by a five-second penalty. Therefore, the title went to Ischer as he took his eighth win of the season.
The all-female F1 Academy series launched this year and filled the spot in the market previously held by the FRegional-spec W Series. It raced in Europe and the USA, supported F1, NASCAR and the DTM, and as with many F4 series was won by Prema.
The team’s line-up was led by Marta Garcia, who came ninth in Spanish F4 back in 2017, and she won seven races. The last of those at Circuit of the Americas meant she lifted the title with two races to spare, and also earned her a 2024 FREC seat.
Sauber junior Lena Buhler was her closest rival in the points table, and took the first two wins of her single-seater career. Two fifth places had been her previous best results from two-and-a-half years of racing in cars.
The Al Qubaisi sisters proved they can win away from their home circuits in the UAE, with Hamda victorious at three different tracks to put herself third in the standings while older sister and MP Motorsport team-mate Amna took two reversed-grid race wins and was sixth in the points table.
Alpine junior Abbi Pulling was far from matching pre-season expectations as she finished fifth in the standings with a total of seven podiums but no wins.
The sole rookie was 16-year-old Chloe Chong, who despite being with Prema came 14th in the standings and never beat the sixth place finish she achieved on her debut.
2023’s F4 stars
|Kai Daryanani 70
|Kacper Sztuka 16
|Akshay Bohra 65
|Cooper Webster 13
|Noah Lisle 60
|Arvid Lindblad 47
|Pedro Juan Moreno 11
|Zachary David 47
|Evan Giltaire 8
|Dion Gowda 47
|Tom Mills 10
|Ruiqi Liu 46
|Ugo Ugochukwu 45
|Theophile Nael 8
|Christian Ho 7
|James Wharton 45
|Ethan Ischer 8
|Tuukka Taponen 45
|Tiago Rodrigues 7
|Dmitry Pistolyako 6
|Liam McNeilly 419
|Niko Lacorte 45
|Kaishun Liu 7
|William Macintyre 45
|Cristian Cantu 7
|Rikuto Kobayashi 5
|James Piszyck 45
|Enzo Peugeot 7
|Kanato Le 45
|Marta Garcia 7
|Valerio Rinicella 5
|K Liu 14
|Colin Queen 379
|Isaac Barashi 43
|Louis Sharp 6