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Ranking Italian F4’s first 10 champions

by Formula Scout

Photos: ACI Sport

Ahead of Italian F4’s 11th season, Formula Scout looks back at the first decade of one of the most popular and highly rated junior single-seater championships in the world to rank its impressive list of champions

Key Percentage of possible points scored (PP), percentage of team’s points scored (TP), Average qualifying position (QA), Laps led (LL)   Roger Gascoigne (RG), Ida Wood (IW), Alejandro Alonso Lopez (AA), Peter Allen (PA)

10. Enzo Fittipaldi BRAZIL Prema
2018: 7 wins, 9 poles, 5 fastest laps, 12 podiums   PP 75.8%, TP 45.4%, QA 2.6 (2nd), LL 113 (1st)   AA: 8th, PA & RG: 10th

Enzo Fittipaldi

IW (9th): Fittipaldi started his car racing career in Ginetta Junior, but his adaption to single-seaters after that was made easy by joining Prema in Italian Formula 4. He failed to make the podium in his rookie season and came ninth in the standings, but his sophomore campaign in 2018 was a huge improvement. Part of that down to the experience he gained by doubling up in the ADAC F4 championship, meaning he totalled 41 F4 races over the year.

His title-winning Italian F4 season started in excellent style with two wins, a third place and two poles at Adria, but then he only made the podium once over the next two rounds and against opposition that wasn’t particularly strong in depth. He retained the points lead through round two, but after losing it he did not reclaim it until race 12 of the season. That came after his third win in a row at Misano. But he then lost it again a race later, not reaching the front either in the race results or points table until he won the 20th and penultimate race of the campaign at Mugello. Victory from pole in the race after secured him the title by 21 points after dropped scores came into play.

9. Lance Stroll CANADA Prema
2014: 7 wins, 5 poles, 7 fastest laps, 13 podiums   PP 77.7%, TP 95.3%, QA 2.0 (2nd), LL 116 (1st)   IW: 7th, PA: 8th, AA: 10th

RG (9th): Stroll was a dominant victor of the inaugural season, a history-making feat since Italian F4 was the first championship run using the new FIA-spec F4 cars the federation saw as the future of the bottom rung of the junior single-seater ladder. There were high expectations on karting graduate Stroll, having been a Ferrari junior since he was 11 years old.

Racing with junior single-seater powerhouse Prema, Stroll comfortably won the title despite missing the final round, although he was helped by “over-age” team-mate and closest rival Brandon Maisano’s being ineligible for points. Stroll took seven wins to Maisano’s six, two of which were claimed in Stroll’s absence, and championship runner-up Mattia Drudi’s four.

In qualifying, however, Maisano had the edge, taking six poles to Stroll’s five in the rounds they both competed in.

While being the first champion ensures a place in the record books, with the benefit of hindsight the 2014 field was probably the weakest in Italian F4’s history.

With a billionaire father pushing his career, finding a budget has never been something Stroll has had to worry about. Success in the FIA European Formula 3 championship followed in 2016 after a winless rookie season, although suspicions over the ease of some of his victories have never gone away. He was in Formula 1 the year after, and remains there today.

8. Marcus Armstrong NEW ZEALAND Prema
2017: 4 wins, 6 poles, 13 podiums   PP 70.8%, TP 59.5%, QA 4.4 (3rd), LL 85 (1st)   PA: 6th, AA: 7th, RG: 8th

Marcus ArmstrongIW (10th): By the time Armstrong arrived in F4, he had already done 18 races in sportscars and three in Formula Ford, as well as tasting higher-level single-seaters in Formula Renault 2.0, BRDC British F3 and the Toyota Racing Series. And taking three wins on home soil in TRS upped the expectations for Italian F4.

Armstrong duly delivered, but not in the most convincing fashion possible. His four wins came in four different rounds, but at three tracks, while he did take pole position at four different venues. Driving for Prema, while his most exciting rivals were not entered for points and only part-time entrants, meant only a lack of circuit knowledge really stood in the way of the title.

But a messy season opener left Armstrong sixth in the standings after three races, and it took until nine races in for him to reach the championship summit. At that point he had one win from pole to his name and four other podiums. Although his form wasn’t imperious, he stayed on top through the season’s second half and from rounds three to seven he only finished lower than fourth twice.

7. Marcos Siebert ARGENTINA Jenzer Motorsport
2016: 4 wins, 4 poles, 1 fastest lap, 9 podiums   PP 57.8%, TP 58.3%, QA 4.5 (2nd), LL 60 (2nd)   IW: 4th, PA & AA: 9th

RG (7th): At the start of the 2016 season it was Siebert’s rival Mick Schumacher who was unsurprisingly the focus of attention. With a season in ADAC F4 with Van Amersfoort Racing behind him, Michael’s son had moved to Prema for a dual campaign.

Siebert spent 2013 in the FR2.0 Eurocup with Jenzer Motorsport, then a lack of budget forced him to take a year out. He returned to racing, and Jenzer, in Italian F4 and came fifth in the standings with two wins while on a shoestring budget.

Staying with the team for a second season proved to be the right decision (for budget and results) as Siebert won in each of the first four rounds. Prema’s Schumacher took three wins in that time, and the young German was quicker but more error-prone. Although he claimed two more wins in the last three rounds as Siebert only got two podiums, the latter secured the title with fifth in the penultimate race at Monza, passing Schumacher after he damaged his front wing battling for the lead.

F4 had been intended to provide an opportunity for smaller teams to compete on an equal footing. In some ways, Siebert’s triumph represents a victory for the ‘little guy’ over a big-name driver and team. He was the only non-Prema champion in Italian F4’s first five seasons.

Siebert’s single-seater career fizzled out after spells in GP3 and Euroformula with Campos Racing and a final throw of the dice in the inaugural Formula Regional Europe season with US Racing. He has maintained links to Jenzer, where he acts as a driver coach, and races sportscars in Europe.

6. Ralf Aron ESTONIA Prema
2015: 9 wins, 7 poles, 6 fastest laps, 13 podiums   PP 66.6%, TP 72.9%, QA 2.1 (1st), LL 133 (1st)   AA: 5th, RG: 6th, PA: 7th

IW (8th): Teams in the paddock hoped Prema’s domination of the inaugural season would not continue into 2015, but their fears were realised as 12 out of 21 races were won by Ralf Aron and his team-mate Guayu Zhou. They finished one-two in the standings, with a gap of 108 points between them. Best of the rest was a further 11 points behind.

Remarkably Zhou only spent 32 laps in the lead all season, trailing Mucke Motorsport’s David Beckmann (44) and Robert Shwartzman (47) as well as Aron’s colossal tally of 133. The champion spent 41% of the season’s laps in first place.

Stroll had managed to pull off a two-win weekend twice in 2014, and Aron achieved the feat four times but never came near to a triple win in an era where Italian F4 had reversed-grid races. He did become champion with a round to spare though.

5. Gabriele Mini ITALY Prema
2020: 4 wins, 9 poles, 2 fastest laps, 12 podiums   PP 71.0%, TP 48.8%, QA 2.6 (1st), LL 93 (1st)   PA: 3rd, AA: 4th, IW: 6th

RG (4th): Mini is the only car racing rookie to have become Italian F4 champion. Incredibly, he even won his first ever single-seater race in the season opener at Misano. Surprisingly perhaps, just three more victories followed but it was enough to take the title over Francesco Pizzi by 76 points.

Though never a dominant as some other champions, he was remarkably consistent in what was a strong field. His Prema team-mates included Dino Beganovic, Gabriel Bortoleto and Sebastian Montoya, two of whom he races against now in FIA F3.

Mini only took in two ADAC F4 rounds but did taste victory on his first appearance. Jonny Edgar and Jak Crawford, regulars from that championship, took revenge by also winning in Italian F4.

Mini was already under the watchful eye of Nicolas Todt’s All Road Management and resisted approaches from three different F1 academies after his title triumph, before finally signing with Alpine in 2023.

He showed pace, but ill-fortune and inconsistency cost Mini a title challenge in two FREC seasons, having departed Prema for ART Grand Prix. He returned to Prema this year for his sophomore year in F3.

4. Kacper Sztuka POLAND US Racing
2023: 9 wins, 9 poles, 8 fastest laps, 12 podiums   PP 78.8%, TP 59.2%, QA 2.6 (1st), LL 133 (1st)   AA: 1st, PA: 4th, IW: 5th

RG (5th): Sztuka became the fourth non-Prema driver to capture the Italian F4 title with his sensational second half run in 2023. And there was no doubt about the strength of the opposition from a Prema line-up packed with F1 juniors and fully on top of the second generation Tatuus T-421 car. In addition, Van Amersfoort Racing was back for a full season.

Sztuka had been eyeing a step up for 2023 after two years in F4 which had netted just two wins. However, lacking the budget to climb the ladder he stayed in F4 to lead US Racing’s entry in the Italian championship.

Sztuka won the season opener, although with entries exceeding the Imola circuit’s capacity it was in a race which many of his rivals were absent from. A couple more podiums followed but by the end of round four he trailed Prema’s Arvid Lindblad by 113 points.

What followed was nothing short of incredible. From the next round at Paul Ricard onwards, Sztuka would win eight of the last nine races, taking two Euro 4 victories too. From being seemingly out of contention, he stormed to the title by 35 points as Lindblad’s season collapsed.

With no ADAC F4 in 2023, Sztuka did not have the chance to prove himself outside Italy, although it was a disappointment that he did not complete the Euro 4 season, missing out on the chance of a double triumph.

His results earned him Red Bull junior status for 2024, and he’s now racing in FIA F3.

3. Dennis Hauger NORWAY Van Amersfoort Racing
2019: 12 wins, 7 poles, 9 fastest laps, 16 podiums   PP 92.3%, TP 65.8%, QA 3.4 (1st), LL 147 (1st)   AA: 2nd, IW: 3rd, PA: 5th

RG (3rd): Hauger completely dominated the 2019 season, cruising to 12 wins from 21 starts, including eight of the last 10 races. After a disastrous start to his campaign at Vallelunga he was only off the podium twice the remainder of the season, becoming champion by a massive 136 points, the most dominant margin in Italian F4 history.

The then-Red Bull junior came into the season after an impressive rookie season in British F4 and was hotly tipped for the title with VAR which was racing full-time in Italian F4 for the first time. The combination also raced in ADAC F4, where Hauger missed out on the title by just seven points.

Looking back, the F4 field in Europe back in 2019 was particularly strong. Alongside ADAC F4 champion Theo Pourchaire and his team-mate Arthur Lecler, Hauger’s rivals included Gianluca Petecof as well as rookies Paul Aron, Roman Stanek and Jonny Edgar.

Hauger moved up to FIA F3 for 2020, enduring a difficult season with Hitech GP, then became champion in 2021 after moving to Prema. He is now in his third season in Formula 2.

2. Ollie Bearman BRITAIN Van Amersfoort Racing
2021: 11 wins, 8 poles, 2 fastest laps, 15 podiums   PP 85.8%, TP 62.6%, QA 2.7 (1st), LL 158 (1st)   RG: 1st, PA: 2nd, AA: 6th

IW (2nd): Bearman focused on ADAC F4 in his rookie year racing cars, and in his three Italian F4 outings he took a win and a second place. For his second year he decided to tackle both, and moved from US Racing to VAR. The promise he’d shown with the former turned into outstanding form with the latter, as Bearman took 11 Italian F4 wins and had an unbeaten run of seven races. If not for a disqualification on technical grounds he would have had nine wins in a row, and he ended the season by winning all three races at Monza to ensure he ticked off the triple victory box twice.

There was plenty of talent in that 2021 field, but some of the drivers with plenty of potential only raced part-time and others lacked the advantage of driving for Prema or VAR and Bearman was champion by 111 points over a driver who missed two rounds. His closest full-time rival finished 145 points behind.

Six wins in ADAC F4 also carried Bearman to the title there.

1. Andrea Kimi Antonelli ITALY Prema
2022: 13 wins, 14 poles, 14 fastest laps, 15 podiums   PP 90.5%, TP 45.1%, QA 2.3 (1st), LL 214 (1st)   PA & RG: 1st, AA: 3rd

IW (1st): Since Max Verstappen bypassed F4 when he made his highly anticipated single-seater debut, it means Antonelli stands as possibly the most exciting talent to come through the category so far and certainly the one who had the most attention on him when  competing in entry-level car racing.

He preceded his romp to the 2022 Italian F4 title with three appearances in 2021, which culminated in three podiums at Monza and enough points to put him an impressive 10th in the standings.

Everyone expected him to win the title the year after, particularly as almost the entire field was classified as rookies. His outings with Prema the year before therefore put him at an advantage, even though he and the team had to learn a new car with the introduction of the T-421 for 2022.

A disastrous opening weekend at Imola suggested it may be harder than expected for Antonelli to meet the very high expectations surrounding him, but he immediately responded with two wins at Misano. He then went unbeaten at Spa and Vallelunga, took further wins at the Red Bull Ring and Monza before completing the triple a third time at Mugello to stretch his title-winning margin to 104 points.

Antonelli was even more dominant in qualifying, and on the side he claimed the ADAC F4 title as a part-time entrant and won the Motorsport Games F4 Cup.