Home Formula 4Italian F4 Last lap fuel drama for Wharton hands Sztuka Italian F4 hat-trick

Last lap fuel drama for Wharton hands Sztuka Italian F4 hat-trick

by Roger Gascoigne

Photo: ACI Sport

Kacper Sztuka took a dramatic victory in the third Italian Formula 4 race at Paul Ricard as leader James Wharton suffered a fuel pump issue three corners from the finish.

Sztuka’s maximum points haul from the weekend moves him up to third in the standings, three points behind Prema’s Ugo Ugochukwu.

Sztuka made an excellent start to challenge poleman Wharton into turn one, sweeping around the outside to take the lead. But Wharton, who had pulled into the pits in race two to save his tyres for race three, forced his way back in front before they completed the lap, with Sztuka running wide but holding onto second.

Behind them, Prema’s Ferrari junior Tuukka Taponen was in third with Van Amersfoort Racing’s Brando Badoer in fourth.

Ugochukwu and points leader Arvid Lindblad completed the top six at the end of lap one, with the positions remaining unchanged to the flag.

Sztuka could do little about Wharton’s lead despite twice setting a new fastest lap, with the pair’s laptimes usually very evenly matched.

Lindblad briefly renewed his battle from race two with Ugochukwu, with the Red Bull junior going around the outside of his Prema team-mate into the chicane, but Ugochukwu repassing on the exit.

Perhaps mindful of the reprimand and one-race probation received for causing their collision in race two, Lindblad settled for sixth.

The battle for seventh provided the main excitement of the race as US Racing pair Akshay Bohra and Zachary David fought with Enzo Deligny, the Red Bull junior making a second appearance of the season with AKM Motorsport.

The track limits as defined by the circuit seemed to be largely optional as various battles raged in the midfield.

Deligny found a way past Bohra, though took to the multi-coloured run-off areas in the process, and Bohra soon found a way back ahead. Also, however, with only passing interest in the circuit perimeter lines.

Their battle allowed R-ace GP’s Raphael Narac, Jenzer Motorsport’s Ariel Elkin and VAR’s Matheus Ferreira to close up.

Deligny drew alongside Bohra past the pits but was unable to make the move stick into turn one, running wide as a result and rejoining having lost three places, but snatched the final point from Ferreira on the last lap.

Up front Wharton appeared to be heading for a well-deserved victory before suddenly slowing three corners from the finish, allowing a surprised and overjoyed Sztuka through to take the win.

A unsurprisingly disappointed Wharton held off Taponen for second, telling Formula Scout that he had first felt a loss of power on the back straight on the final lap before the issue became terminal in the final metres.

It was later identified that the cause of the lack of power was a faulty fuel pump failing to pump fuel into the engine.

Race result (14 laps)
Pos Driver Team Time
1 Kacper Sztuka US Racing 32m45.171s
2 James Wharton Prema +1.094s
3 Tuukka Taponen Prema +1.263s
4 Brando Badoer Van Amersfoort Racing +1.914s
5 Ugo Ugochukwu Prema +2.422s
6 Arvid Lindblad Prema +4.094s
7 Akshay Bohra US Racing +8.410s
8 Raphael Narac R-ace GP +9.599s
9 Ariel Elkin Jenzer Motorsport +10.312s
10 Enzo Deligny AKM Motorsport +11.473s
11 Matheus Ferreira Van Amersfoort Racing +12.220s
12 Alfio Spina BVM Racing +13.192s
13 Nandhavud Bhirombhakdi PHM Racing +13.536s
14 Ethan Ischer Jenzer Motorsport +15.156s
15 Zachary David US Racing +15.309s
16 Niko Lacorte Prema +15.731s
17 Griffin Peebles Jenzer Motorsport +15.899s
18 Kim Hwarang Jenzer Motorsport +16.175s
19 Gianmarco Pradel US Racing +16.544s
20 Aurelia Nobels Prema +16.914s
21 Tina Hausmann AKM Motorsport +17.419s
22 Viktoria Blokhina PHM Racing +20.306s
23 Ivan Domingues Van Amersfoort Racing +20.555s
24 Alvise Rodella BVM Racing +21.158s
25 Rashid Al Dhaheri Prema +21.365s
26 Ruiqi Liu US Racing +21.724s
27 Guido Luchetti Airflow Racing +21.997s
28 Ismail Akhmed Van Amersfoort Racing +22.371s
29 Diego de la Torre AKM Motorspot +25.789s
30 Gabriel Holguin Maffi Racing +26.529s
31 Matteo Quintarelli R-ace GP 33.655s
32 Jack Beeton Van Amersfoort Racing +1 lap
33 Pablo Sarrazin Van Amersfoort Racing +1 lap
Ret Frederik Lund R-ace GP
Ret James Egozi PHM Racing
Ret Kabir Anurag R-ace GP
Ret Valentin Kluss PHM Racing
Fastest lap: Sztuka, 2m06.202s

Championship standings
Lindblad 245.5   2 Ugochukwu 186   3 Sztuka 183   4 Wharton 156.5   5 Taponen 123   6 Badoer 122   7 David 114   8 Bohra 78   9 Lacorte 71   10 Spina 53