The Chinese Formula 4 championship was supposed to race on the new Tianfu International Circuit last weekend, but the ‘European-style’ track was not ready for hosting duties.
Instead the paddock headed to Zhuhai for the season’s penultimate round, and with the status of November’s finale still slightly uncertain.
The competitive action kicked off with two qualifying sessions, and Tiago Rodrigues took his second pole of 2023 in Q1. A 1m44.504s put him almost a second clear of Kaishun Liu, and the debuting Yingjie Xu was 1.752s behind in third.
The advantage swung around in the red flag-disrupted Q2, with Liu taking pole by 1.553s over Jing Zefeng. Xu was a further 0.096s behind, and Patrick Tsang was 4.781s slower than Liu in fouth. Only 10 drivers set representative laptimes, and championship leader Rodrigues was seven seconds off the pace in sixth.
Chinese F4 still uses first-generation Mygale chassis, and after qualifying a demo was done with the Gen2 car the series will adopt in 2024.
Liu made a slow start to race one but managed to stay in second and there was a battle for the lead but Rodrigues stayed ahead. Marco Lau spun on lap two but got restarted.
Rodrigues was pressured at times by Liu, Xhu shadowed them in third and Zefeng was busy holding off Tsang in fourth. He defended his position by braking late into turn one on lap six, and on lap seven Tsang was darting around in his mirrors.
Sixiang Lu then got stuck in the gravel and the safety car was out until lap 10 of 15. Chengru Hu tried passing Tsang at turn two, which gave Zefeng some breathing room until Yang Shengwei headed into the gravel and the safety car returned.
Racing resumed with two laps remaining and Zefeng skated through the turn one gravel but rejoined as Hu passed Tsang. Rodrigues and Liu went into the final lap 0.179s apart and Liu attempted to pass him down the inside at turn one. It sent Rodrigues into the gravel, while Liu spun then went even further through the run-off before rejoining.
After Rodrigues got back on track he had a skirmish with Tsang that sent him off again, and debutant Xu ended up winning by 2.372s over Hu, with Tsang third and Rodrigues fourth. Liu got a penalty that dropped him to 11th.
Race two followed later on Saturday and Zefeng had reversed-grid pole. He swept to the inside at the start, with Rodrigues getting into second from fifth on the grid and then passing Zefeng later in the lap.
The safety car appeaered on lap two after Wei Jiang got beached in the gravel. Xu went from sixth to fourth before yellow flags waved.
Racing resumed on lap five, and Rodrigues fled the chasing pack while Xu pulled off a messy move on Tsang at turn one. Xu cleared Zefeng with a switback move a few corners later, and had 2.89s to make up on the leader by the end of the lap.
Liu got past Tsang and Hu on lap six, with Hu gaining a position back by passing Tsang at the start of lap seven before the safety car came out due to Shi Wei crashing out. On the lap 10 restart the battle for third went wrong at turn one as Liu, Zefeng and Tsang went off. The safety car returned, and Zefeng could continue but going back onto the pit straight he drove into the back of another car and then the barriers.
Lap 11 became the final lap of a shortened race as red flags later waved, with Rodrigues winning ahead of Xu and Peng Yang.
Liu finally scored points in race three on Sunday, winning from pole. There was some side-by-side action behind on lap one, and Gan Yicheng crashed out which meant the safety car was needed.
Rodrigues passed Xu and Zefeng to claim second on lap two before racing was neutralised, and following the lap five restart it was a calm race up front while Hu charged from 15th on the grid to sixth.
Wei had reversed-grid pole for race four, and lost his advantage by wheel-spinning off the line. Liu Tiezheng led, and Champ Motorsport’s drivers had a big crash at turn five. Lau was sent spinning and Tsang drove over the top of him, with two team-mates also involved while another two cars went off.
Jun Fei got into second before the safety car was summoned, and when racing resumed on lap four he took the lead but was passed by Rodrigues at the final corner for the win.
Hu was an another charge, going from eighth to fourth in two laps, while Xu retired. Kaishun Liu reclaimed fourth from Hu then jumped to second on lap eight. He sprinted away from the three-car fight for third, won by Fei, which later became a three-car fight for fourth. Hu took that position after lots of battling with Zefeng and Tiezheng.
Race 1 (15 laps)
1 Yingjie Xu Smart Life Racing 32m03.135s
2 Chengru Hu Champ Motorsport +2.372s
3 Patrick Tsang Champ Motorsport +3.975s
4 Tiago Rodrigues Champ Motorsport +5.780s
5 Yongkang Yang Pointer Racing +6.767s
6 Wei Jiang Pointer Racing +6.938s
7 Peng Yang Ningbo Team +7.601s
8 Marco Lau Champ Motorsport +10.208s
9 Shi Wei LEO Geeke +12.957s
10 Jing Zefeng Ningbo Team +15.865s
Pole: Rodrigues, 1m44.504s
Fastest lap: Rodrigues, 1m42.023s
Race 2 (11 laps)
1 Rodrigues 25m22.902s
2 Xu +0.726s
3 P Yang +1.457s
4 Sixiang Lu LEO Geeke +2.180s
5 Y Yang +4.023s
6 Liu Tiezheng Blackjack Racing +4.830s
7 Yang Shengwei Chengdu Racing +5.825s
8 Jun Fei LEO Geeke +6.890s
9 Yingfu Han Henmax Motorsport +7.843s
10 Tsang +8.343s
FL: Rodrigues, 1m42.427s
Race 3 (16 laps)
1 Kaishun Liu Smart Life Racing 30m18.238s
2 Rodrigues +4.341s
3 Xu +17.971s
4 Zefeng +22.400s
5 Tsang +28.133s
6 Hu +39.038s
7 Fei +46.654s
8 Lau +56.019s
9 Tiezheng +58.313s
10 Wei +58.638s
P: Liu, 1m45.783s
FL: Liu, 1m41.934s
Race 4 (16 laps)
1 Rodrigues 31m00.445s
2 Liu +11.086s
3 Fei +29.489s
4 Hu +33.509s
5 Zefeng +35.483s
6 Tiezheng +37.470s
7 Yang +52.183s
8 Lu +53.658s
9 Shengwei +1m01.124s
10 Wei +1m12.685s
FL: Rodrigues, 1m42.354s
1 Rodrigues 285 2 Liu 231 3 Zefeng 191 4 Ruiqi Liu 151 5 Hongyu Zhang 98 6 Shengwei 96 7 Fukang Jiang 64 8 Hu 62 9 Xu 58 10 Lu 52