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McLaren junior Ugochukwu wins first F4 UAE race of 2023

by Ida Wood

Photo: F4 UAE

McLaren junior Ugo Ugochukwu started the 2023 Formula 4 UAE season with victory at Dubai Autodrome.

Ugochukwu started on pole and held fellow front row starter Arvid Lindblad into the opening corner, with MP Motorsport’s Valerio Rinicella moving into third place as Mumbai Falcons’ Tuukka Taponen made a slow start from third on the grid.

The top three quickly broke away, with MP’s Kirill Smal a slightly lonely fourth and more action taking place in the battles for fifth and below.

Rinicella started to be gapped by the two ahead, who at one point had less than a car length between them before Ugochukwu added a few tenths of a second to his lead.

Their battle was paused mid-race by a safety car period that ran all the way until the penultimate lap. Initially race control signalled that it would be the final lap, and the first group of drivers who crossed the line were shown to have completed the race.

However it was then determined that, for a race done on a time limit rather than a lap limit, the race would continue into the next lap and Ugochukwu held off Hitech GP’s Lindblad to win.

A five-second penalty for jumping the start meant Lindblad was classified eighth, with Rinicella and Mumbai Falcons’ James Wharton completing the podium.

Wharton had qualified 10th, but was already battling Taponen by lap two of the race, with his move for fifth place coming as Taponen ran off-track. Later in the lap, PHM Racing’s Valentin Kluss also got past Taponen.

Pinnacle VAR’s Brando Badoer was next to clear the Ferrario junior before the safety car period, and after the restart he lost eighth place to Sainteloc Racing’s Theophile Nael who fought his way up from 20th to finish seventh once Lindblad’s penalty was applied.

Also losing places at the restart was Smal, who dropped from fourth to sixth.

The cause of the safety car period was a crash further down the field between Niko Lacorte and Flavio Olivieri, while other drivers to get into trouble were William Macintyre, who had to pit due to damage and the lapped pair of Noah Stromsted and Federico Rifai who both also visited the pits. Stromsted changed all four tyres during his pitstop after getting a puncture.

Victoria Blokhina did not get moving on the formation lap and was wheeled into the pits, but was able to start the race.

Race results (11 laps)

Pos Driver Team Gap
1 Ugo Ugochukwu Prema 26m50.801s
2 Valerio Rinicella MP Motorsport +2.096s
3 James Wharton Mumbai Falcons +2.954s
4 Valentin Kluss PHM Racing +4.245s
5 Brando Badoer Pinnacle VAR +4.477s
6 Kirill Smal MP Motorsport +4.672s
7 Theophile Nael Sainteloc Racing +5.468s
8 Arvid Lindblad Hitech GP +5.561s
9 Tuukka Taponen Mumbai Falcons +5.602s
10 Jesse Carrasquedo R-ace GP +6.447s
11 Keanu Al Azhari Yas Heat +6.515s
12 Akshay Bohra PHM Racing +7.299s
13 Kanato Le Hitech GP +7.538s
14 Dion Gowda Carlin +8.058s
15 Hamda Al Qubaisi Yas Heat +8.272s
16 James Piszcyk Hitech GP +8.367s
17 Alexander Abkhazava R-ace GP +9.172s
18 Matteo Quintarelli Yas Heat +9.630s
19 Muhammad Ibrahim Mumbai Falcons +10.128s
20 Jack Beeton Pinnacle VAR +10.175s
21 Lena Buhler R2Race +10.833s
22 Fernando Barrichello Carlin-Xcel +11.348s
23 Theodor Jensen Sainteloc Racing +11.970s
24 Aleksandr Bolduev Xcel Motorsport +12.430s
25 Kai Daryanani Pinnacle VAR +13.359s
26 Bianca Bustamante Prema Racing +14.218s
27 Emely de Heus MP Motorsport +15.277s
28 Luciano Morano Sainteloc Racing +16.015s
29 Noah Lisle Xcel Motorsport +17.802s
30 Victoria Blokhina R2Race +20.025s
31 Georgy Zhuravskiy Xcel Motorsport +20.841s
32 William Macintyre Hitech GP +23.879s
33 Zachary David R-ace GP +36.005s
34 Jakob Bergmeister PHM Racing +39.071s
35 Sebastian Murray Cram-Hitech GP +42.205s
36 Noah Stromsted PHM Racing +1 lap
37 Federico Rifai Xcel Motorsport +1 lap
38 Flavio Olivieri Cram-Hitech GP
Ret Nicola Lacorte Prema Racing
Fastest lap: Taponen, 2m02.076s