Prema’s Formula 1 junior drivers swept a closely-fought Italian Formula 4 qualifying at Misano, with Tuukka Taponen and Arvid Lindblad taking their first pole positions in the championship.
It looked as though Van Amersfoort Racing’s Brando Badoer could provide an upset in the first session. With six-and-a-half minutes to go he became the first driver to lap below the 1m35s mark and, having improved again on his next lap, he remained the only one to do so until James Wharton went quicker for Prema with one minute to go.
Wharton’s fellow Ferrari junior Taponen then went even faster still by a further 0.085s to claim pole position, bouncing back perfectly after he qualified way down the order in the first round at Imola last month.
Red Bull junior Lindblad missed out by just 0.013s with a late lap that put him second ahead of Wharton and Badoer.
McLaren-backed Ugo Ugochukwu had previously beaten Lindblad into second with a couple of minutes to go, and improved again on his last lap to also enter the 1m34s, but that would only good enough for fifth.
Ivan Domingues made it two VAR drivers in the top six in front of US Racing’s Zachary David and Kacper Sztuka – who led early on but could only find a further 0.022s of improvement over the rest of the session.
Sztuka was again the early leader in the second session and the first to dip into the 1m34s, before Lindblad quickly established himself on top spot.
He stayed there until the chequered flag came out, at which point a crazy battle between Prema’s four F1 proteges played out.
Taponen again saved his best for the last minute, missing Lindblad’s benchmark by just 0.077s, before Wharton got even closer, just 0.006s away.
Ugochukwu would then claim top spot momentarily by 0.031s only for Lindblad to respond and secure pole by 0.024s.
In the end, 0.132s covered the leading quartet, with less than two tenths separating a top seven which was rounded out by Sztuka, Badoer and David.
With the fastest times coming in the second session, its second-best times would set the race three grid, with Lindblad taking another pole by a relatively comfortable 0.102s over Ugochukwu.
David and Badoer did well enough for third and fourth respectively, with Wharton and Taponen having to make do with places on the third row having only leapt towards the top of the times at the very end.
Akshay Bohra joined Prema drivers Rashid Al Dhaheri and Nicola Lacorte in the top 10 for the final race having not even set a time in the first session.
Race one grid
1 Tuukka Taponen Prema 1m34.870s
2 Arvid Lindblad Prema +0.013s
3 James Wharton Prema +0.085s
4 Brando Badoer Van Amersfoort Racing +0.109s
5 Ugo Ugochukwu Prema +0.124s
6 Ivan Domingues Van Amersfoort Racing +0.233s
7 Zachary David US Racing +0.238s
8 Kacper Sztuka US Racing +0.330s
9 Rashid Al Dhaheri Prema +0.360s
10 Gianmarco Pradel US Racing +0.491s
Race two grid
1 Lindblad 1m34.362s
2 Ugochukwu +0.024s
3 Wharton +0.061s
4 Taponen +0.132s
5 Sztuka +0.152s
6 Badoer +0.185s
7 David +0.197s
8 Nicola Lacorte Prema +0.256s
9 Al Dhaheri +0.336s
10 Domingues +0.363s
Race three grid
1 Lindblad 1m34.417s
2 Ugochukwu +0.102s
3 David +0.168s
4 Badoer +0.189s
5 Wharton +0.202s
6 Taponen +0.239s
7 Sztuka +0.247s
8 Al Dhaheri +0.305s
9 Nicola Lacorte Prema +0.343s
10 Akshay Bohra US Racing +0.469s