It was all change in the Formula Regional Europe paddock at Spa-Francorchamps as some familiar faces turned up in unfamiliar surroundings.
Formula Scout understands that travel complications for MP Motorsport’s Russian driver Michael Belov was the catalyst of the reshuffling, opening up a place for Mari Boya to join MP the rest of the season, with an overjoyed Esteban Masson getting an opportunity to replace him at ART Grand Prix for the remaining rounds after racing for MP’s sister team FA Racing.
Formula Scout spoke to the key protagonists at Spa to understand what lay behind the moves.
MP Motorsport’s FREC team manager Rupert Shakespeare explained that “with Michael being stuck in Russia, I think Mari was just interested in having a trip back to MP and the pieces just fell into place”, adding that Belov’s travel situation meant “it was quite complicated to get to a circuit and he couldn’t stay in Europe” so had to do repeated journeys to and from his home in Russia through the season’s first half before he withdrew.
Belov claimed two wins in a half-season with G4 Racing in 2021, but struggled to repeat those successes in 2022 with two podiums from the first 10 races.
“As ever the level comes up and you have a bit of bad luck and it doesn’t quite click sometimes,” said Shakespeare. “That’s how it goes in motor racing sometimes.”
Bringing Boya back to the team that he drove for in Spanish Formula 4 in 2020 was an attractive option for both parties once it was clear Belov wouldn’t race.
“It has been some difficult last rounds for me,” Boya told Formula Scout. “Things didn’t go as we wanted, I will say, and we had a good option, a good proposal from MP when they saw the situation. So ‘why not?’, we decided to make the last rounds with them.”
Shakespeare added: “We’ve been in contact because he drove for us before in F4 and things just fell into place like that. Nothing was intentional or programmed.”
ART GP, which ran Gregoire Saucy to the 2021 title, then moved quickly to sign reigning French F4 champion Masson who admitted to Formula Scout that the deal had been something of a surprise as he had only known that he would be driving for the team “for a little bit more than one week”.
“I did one day of sim to prepare for this event because I do not know the [Spa] track but [it’s] a great team, I’m really happy to join them,” he said.
“Didier Andre, my manager, worked a lot on it. I don’t know the details but maybe it was a bit more for next year.”
“The opportunity came when Boya changed teams, but I will thank him because it’s a great opportunity for me obviously,” he enthused. “It’s really a prestigious team so I’m really happy to join them. It’s my first time in a French team but it is only my second team.”