With a stellar karting CV and Red Bull’s livery on his car, expectations were high for Arvid Lindblad’s F4 debut, one month after turning 15. Having made solid progress in a part-season, a move to Prema beckons in 2023
Following Nico Rosberg protege Taylor Barnard in 2020 and Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 junior Andrea Kimi Antonelli in 2021, Red Bull’s Arvid Lindblad became the latest karting superstar to make the move into car racing mid-season in 2022.
For Antonelli and Lindblad, whose birthdays are both in August, they took the earliest opportunity to get single-seater racing experience after reaching the minimum age of 15 required to race in the Italian Formula 4 championship and were able to contest the final three rounds to gain crucial experience for a full season in the series the year after.
Lindblad was placed with Italian F4’s reigning champion team Van Amersfoort Racing for his car racing baptism, and says he is “happy with how I’m doing; I’m getting closer and closer, getting on the brink of top fives, which is really good”.
The protege of Formula E star Oliver Rowland impressed VAR with his pace in testing, initially in a first-generation F4 car before the team received its final order of Tatuus’s new T-421 car and he was able to try out the machinery he would make his eagerly-awaited debut in at his backer’s home circuit, the Red Bull Ring, in September.
By his own admission, however, he “struggled a lot” on his first outing. “It was difficult with it being my first time in the wet in qualifying, so I started all the races in the midfield or towards the back.”
In changeable conditions, he managed to take two 15th places in races one and two of the weekend, picking up a 10-econd penalty for causing a collision in the second which also contributed to being 29th on the grid for the final race of the weekend. Despite making a good start, he could only climb to 22nd at the flag.
A weekend of valuable experience gained, but Lindblad felt that he “could have done a much better job”. The next race weekend at Monza went far better.
“Bounced back really well [with] two top-10 finishes and I was fighting in the top five right at the end in both races,” Lindblad says. “But a couple of mistakes towards the end resulted in not the best results but still pretty good. I was on the rookie podium as well in race one, so got a trophy there as well which is nice.”
Qualifying at Monza has its own challenge, particularly with a huge field of 44 cars jostling for track position to maximise the slipstream on the circuit’s long straights, and Lindblad followed a strong 11th place in the first session with a superb sixth, 0.441s off the pole-sitter, in the second.
In race one he got up to fifth but a mistake on the last lap dropped him to seventh, although he still made the podium in the rookie classification, while in race two a brief trip through the gravel while challenging for fifth dropped him back to ninth, leaving Lindblad to curse himself for his lack of aggression in the wheel-to-wheel combat.
In the final round at Mugello, Lindblad showed his pace with sixth and seventh in the two qualifying sessions, and was VAR’s top driver in Q2. “P6 and P7 in the qualis. Happy with that,” he told Formula Scout in the paddock after qualifying.
“I’ve been doing a decent job here and narrowing the gap more and more to my team-mates. Quali I did a good job. I was half a tenth off my team-mate [Martinius Stenshorne] in Q1 and then was best of the team by some margin in Q2, which was good.
“We’ve been struggling a bit in general as a team so far this year, but we’re getting better and better. We’re getting really quite close now, I feel, and I think I did a good job with what I had.”
The qualifying gaps to Stenshorne, who established himself as the fastest driver in VAR’s F4 squad through the season, illustrate the improvement made by Lindblad in three weekends.
|Session||Gap (time)||Gap (difference in %)|
|Red Bull Ring Q1||+0.538s||+0.51%|
Lindblad was unable to benefit from his hard-won grid slots as he stalled in the first two races at Mugello.
“I just made a mistake and stalled,” he confessed, something he put down to his foot slipping on the pedals.
A “decent recovery” in race one took him back to 21st. “I was 41st at one point and then I almost got into the top 20”, but in such a large field, he shrugged, “you’re not going to get back into the points”.
However, an eighth-place finish in the third and final race meant he could finish the season on a high and head of 10 full-time drivers in the championship standings.
Many of the drivers he faced on track in F4 were previous opponents from his karting career. Lindblad first starred on the British scene with Rowland’s own team, then competed across Europe after stepping up to junior karting in 2019. An outstanding sophomore season on OK Junior karts in which he won WSK’s Super Master Series and the Champions of the Future series, came second in the CIK-FIA European Karting Championship and just missed out on winning the World championship meant he became a Red Bull Junior Team-supported driver for 2021 as he progressed into senior karting.
That year went even better, winning the WSK’s Euro Series and Final Cup, being CotF runner-up, coming third in the European and World championships and being named the FIA’s Karting Rookie of the Year, succeeding Antonelli as the recipient.
Many of his karting rivals had already made the step to F4 in 2021 or at the start of 2022, while Lindblad moved into shifter karting as one of Kart Republic’s factory drivers. He also made a part-time return to OK karts, beginning with the CotF Winter Series which did not go to plan as he was injured in a violent crash.
Once he returned to action, Lindblad came eighth in the European championship for KZ2 karts and 16th in the OK equivalent having done only half the season, then third in the FIA’s KZ2 Karting World Cup. The week after that he was sharing the track once more with former Kart Republic team-mates Antonelli and Rafael Camara as he made his F4 race debut.
“I know Kimi and Rafa very well. We’re old friends, I guess, but we’re rivals as well. I want to beat them.”
Lindblad adds “I’m very inexperienced compared to them at the moment” in F4 having effectively a season’s less experience than both, but that doesn’t prevent him from measuring himself against the Prema pair, as he says that “I’m not too happy that they’re doing better than me at the moment”.
“[Driving an F4 car is] very different, that’s for sure, especially with the brakes. Braking is a lot more important than in karting, especially how you use the brakes and how that can affect the balance of the car and how it reacts.”
“I think a lot of it is just confidence, it really takes time to develop that trust in the car, to really then just push more and more on the limit.
“I’ve just been getting better and better, and now I’m sort of in a good place. I’m driving pretty well. The basics are coming better and better. Now it’s really just me getting more and more on the limit, starting to get a lot more confidence with the car.
He explains that VAR have been “running quite an oversteery set-up [as] that’s the only way we could really find performance and I’m comfortable with it”.
As the move into cars meant he became a fully fledged Red Bull junior, Lindblad is expected to deliver.
“It definitely adds pressure as I’ve got a lot of eyes and a lot of very important people watching me,” he admits. “It’s a tough programme to be on if you’re not performing.
“But there are two sides to it, and you can also look at as this incredible opportunity I’ve been given and if I am able to perform, do a good job and maximize myself that I will have a seat in F1 or whatever in however many years. So, I’m just really focused on making sure I do my job because at the end of the day, if I don’t do that, then I won’t arrive to the top.”
RBJT boss Dr Helmut Marko has a reputation for being ruthless with his young charges if they fail to meet targets. So far, Lindblad has had little personal contact with Marko although he dutifully “sends him a report every week on how things go when I’m racing”.
“We’ve had a few meetings and he calls my dad every now and again but nothing really too major so far,” Lindblad says.
“To be honest, I’m not really thinking too much about that. I’m just focused on doing my job. I feel like they’re quite happy with how Monza went and, most importantly, the progression and the improvement made from the Red Bull Ring.”
“[They] weren’t really super involved in the karting side, they were more focused on letting me do my job and if things weren’t going well then we’d have a chat. I was always at the front, so we never really had too many chats about the karting bit.”
Being part of an F1 junior team, even if at the entry point, provides “a different dynamic, especially compared to those who aren’t on an F1 programme”, as Lindblad goes on to explain.
“I’m really grateful to Red Bull for the opportunity they’re giving me and the help they’re giving. They’re really working now to try and help us to really maximize ourselves and to be better.
“Now I’m getting more a lot more involved in the programme. They’re doing a lot of things to help. Training camps and stuff like that we’ll do in the winter.
“We also had some talks every couple of months and training on different aspects which we need to work on. On and off track as well, because it’s not just about driving the car. They’re putting in a lot of work. And there’s a lot of things they put us through,” he says, before adding for context: “That sounds a bit rough. Now I’ve just got to do my job.
“Whenever I’m at the factory I go to the gym, go on the simulator there, speak a lot with the guys who are quite involved in the junior team and even some of the other drivers on the programme just to get experience and knowledge from them.
“Most of them are in Formula 2 now, so they’re super experienced. They’re right on the brink of F1, which is where we all want to be. I’m right at the beginning of that journey so I’m trying to learn as much as I can from those who are more experienced.
“For the last six months, we’ve been speaking about the cars to make sure I’m prepared for these races now and then also for next year, and the plan for next year.”
Having gained his initial experience in cars with VAR, Lindblad is expected to switch to the all-conquering Prema, for whom he has already been among the quickest in four post-season Italian F4 group tests with, for a title assault in Italy next year.
He will face tough competition, not least from what is shaping up to be another formidable line-up at Prema, if he is to follow rival Antonelli’s footsteps in the Italian championship.
Lindblad races under the British flag, although starting out in karting his overalls sported the Swedish colours after the country of his father and the top of his F4 helmet displays the English, Indian and Swedish flags.
The Londoner is proud of his multicultural heritage: “I refer to myself as English, but I’m a lot more than that. My mum was born and brought up in England, but both her parents are from India. So, I’m born and brought up in England, but I have Indian and Swedish heritage.
“I don’t really like to call myself Anglo-Swedish or Anglo-Indian because I feel like there’s a lot more to me than just English and Swedish. I’m also Indian, and [it gets] quite complicated when you start calling yourself three nationalities.”