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Lindblad completes Monza hat-trick in thrilling Italian F4 slipstreamer

by Roger Gascoigne

Photo: ACI Sport

Arvid Linblad completed a clean sweep of Italian Formula 4 wins at Monza, emerging victorious after a thrilling battle with Prema team-mate Ugo Ugochukwu and US Racing’s Kacper Sztuka.

The trio repeatedly swapped positions through the first half of the 17-lap race as each looked to take advantage of the tow down Monza’s long straights.

Lindblad made another excellent start from pole to lead the field with Sztuka slotting into second place as they funnelled into the first chicane on lap one.

Behind them Ugochukwu went round the outside of Brando Badoer to claim third as the Van Amersfoort driver put two wheels onto the exit kerbs. Badoer was not going to give up the place without a fight, staying alongside through Curva Grande and into the della Roggia chicane before having to cede position to the McLaren junior.

Tuukka Taponen’s miserable weekend continued as he was pitched into the barriers by Alfio Spina as they exited the first chicane.

Out front, Lindblad and Sztuka managed to get a gap to Ugochukwu and quickly resumed where they had left off in race two, with Sztuka stuck to Lindblad’s gearbox through Parabolica as they completed lap one.

The two were absolutely side-by-side down the main straight, Sztuka on the outside locking his brakes as he tried to find a way past but Lindblad could once again defend his line into the first chicane.

Behind the top four, US Racing’s Akshay Bohra had passed Prema’s James Wharton for fifth into Ascari, but the Ferrari junior retook the position into Parabolica, a slight puff of smoke as he went for the inside under braking.

Sztuka looked to have a pace advantage as he continued to look for a way through, again running alongside into the second chicane but was forced to cut the inside of the corner and gave the position back.

The fight for the lead allowed Ugochukwu and a smoking Badoer to close the gap to create a foursome in front. Unfortunately, the smoke from Badoer’s engine indicated a terminal failure, the Italian pitting at the end of lap two.

Having repeatedly failed to find a way past Lindblad at the two chicanes, Sztuka surprised Lindblad with a lunge to the inside at Parabolica to lead across the line as they started lap three.

Lindblad had a better exit and drew back alongside the Pole, but Ugochukwu took advantage of the double slipstream to make it three-wide as they braked for the first chicane, with the American holding onto the outside line to emerge ahead with Sztuka back in third.

Ugochukwu had to defend his position on the run through Curva Grande as his challengers looked left and right to maximise the slipstream.

On the next tour, Lindblad tried to replicate his team-mate’s move around the outside at Rettifilio but was unable to hang on and had to cut the chicane, rejoining in the lead. Lindblad just managed to let Ugochukwu back through and hold off Sztuka into Roggia, the three continuing to fight all around the circuit.

Bohra, who had been shown the black-and-white flag, and Ivan Domingues, who had moved up to fifth, began to close on the battling trio upfront, with Rashid Al Dhaheri leading a gaggle of cars in sixth.

Lindblad tried the same move the next time around and with the same outcome, again cutting the chicane and needing to return the position to Ugochukwu.

However, on this occasion Sztuka was able to make the move stick into della Roggia to take second with Lindblad dropping back into the clutches of Bohra and Domingues, both of whom demoted Lindblad at Lesmo 1.

This action gave Ugochukwu an advantage of 0.8s but he was unable to break the tow to Sztuka who was quickly back on his tail.

Lindblad was soon back to fourth, outbraking Domingues into the first chicane and setting after Bohra who he passed in an identical move next time around, having set the fastest lap.

Bohra, however, was not prepared to cede easily, forcing Lindblad to defend robustly on the next lap. The pace of the first five was such that they were able to extend the gap to Dhaheri and Wharton behind them to over three seconds.

Sztuka lost momentum slightly behind Ugochukwu into Parabolica, allowing Lindblad to get a run on him past the pits, reclaiming second into the first chicane on lap 10, with Sztuka again cutting the second chicane as he tried to make amends, allowing Bohra to get ahead into Ascari.

As a result, the leading pair had pulled out a gap at the front but rather than working to pull clear, Lindblad challenged Ugochukwu into the first chicane on lap 11, with the American locking up as he defended the position.

The American spun as they touched wheel dropping back to 13th, with Lindblad cutting the inside of the corner having been unable to make the left-hander.

Lindblad was now however over three seconds clear of his pursuers with Sztuka having repassed Bohra for second.

The remaining laps passed largely without drama, Lindblad crossing the line 3.07s ahead of Sztuka to complete a near-perfect weekend.

On the penultimate lap Domingues slowed in fourth, allowing Al Dhaheri through into Lesmo, before heading to the pits.

Wharton claimed fifth, ahead of Zachary David, Gianmarco Pradel and Raphael Narac. Ugochukwu fought his way back to ninth at the finish with Niko Lacorte taking the final points position.

Race result (17 laps)
Pos Driver Team Time
1 Arvid Lindblad Prema 32m20.620s
2 Kacper Sztuka US Racing +3.067s
3 Akshay Bohra US Racing +4.663s
4 Rashid Al Dhaheri  Prema +6.906s
5 James Wharton Prema +10.299s
6 Zachary David US Racing +12.759s
7 Gianmarco Pradel US Racing +13.194s
8  Raphael Narac R-ace GP +13.536s
9 Ugo Ugochukwu Prema +14.212s
10 Niko Lacorte Prema +16.160s
11 Jack Beeton Van Amersfoort Racing +17.653s
12 Valentin Kluss PHM Racing +18.681s
13 Ethan Ischer Jenzer Motorsport +19.242s
14 Ruiqi Liu US Racing +24.505s
15 Matheus Ferreira  Van Amersfoort Racing +24.981s
16  Matteo Quintarelli R-ace GP +25.247s
17 Tuukka Taponen Prema +25.414s
18 Aurelia Nobels Prema +25.758s
19 Andrea Frassineti BVM Racing +26.576s
20 James Egozi PHM Racing +29.095s
21 Victoria Blokhina PHM Racing +31.559s
22 Tina Hausmann AKM Motorsport +32.476s
23 Finn Wiebelhaus Jenzer Motorsport +34.977s
24 Ismail Akhmed Van Amersfoort Racing +36.249s
25 Frederik Lund AKM Motorsport +42.950s
26 Diego de la Torre AKM Motorsport +42.988s
27 Guido Lucchetti Airflow Racing +47.442s
28 Nandavhud Bhirombhakdi PHM Racing +58.024s
29  Ivan Domingues Van Amersfoort Racing +1 lap
Ret Alfio Spina BVM Racing
Ret Ariel Elkin Jenzer Motorsport
Ret Brando Badoer  Van Amersfoort Racing
Fastest lap: Lindblad, 1m53.184s

Championship standings
Lindblad 221.5   2 Ugochukwu 141   3 Wharton 123.5   4 Sztuka 108   5 David 104   6 Badoer 104   7 Taponen 78   8 Lacorte 71   9 Bohra 64   10 Spina 52