US Racing’s Kacper Sztuka drove a measured race to win the Italian Formula 4 season opener at Imola despite late pressure from Brando Badoer.
Once he had found a way past a fast-starting Akshay Bohra, Badoer began to narrow the gap to Sztuka with a series of fastest laps, closing from 3.3 seconds behind to just 0.6s at the chequered flag, although a delighted Sztuka had enough in hand to hold on for victory.
The Pole made a perfect getaway from pole position, with a grid consisting from qualifying groups B and C after the 37-car entry had to be divided due to exceeding grid capacity.
Bohra immediately found a way round the outside of Prema’s front row starter Niko Lacorte at Tamburello to move up to second, with Van Amersfoort Racing’s Badoer tucking into fourth.
As Sztuka extended his lead out in front, the three ran nose-to-tail as they battled for second.
R-ace GP’s Matteo De Palo headed the next group, already 1.8s behind Badoer with Zachary David and James Wharton right behind him.
Badoer managed to get inside Lacorte into Rivazza on lap three, while in the midfield Prema’s Tuukka Taponen ran wide at Acque minerali while challenging team-mate Rashid Al Dhaheri for 10th, dropping him back to 12th.
At the same time a couple of incidents in quick succession at Tosa involved backmarkers Manuel Quodamcarlo and Viktoria Blokhina going off, while Aurelia Nobels and Tina Hausmann also tangled dropping to the back of the field.
With Sztuka comfortable out front, Badoer got a good run out of Tamburello to snatch second from Bohra into Villeneuve, and Lacorte followed through.
Badoer immediately set about chasing down Sztuka, lapping 0.3s per lap faster as he closed to within a second, although ultimately running out of laps to challenge for victory.
Behind them Lacorte held on for an excellent third place ahead of Bohra and BVM Racing’s Alfio Spina.
Wharton and De Palo had continued to put pressure on Bohra throughout the race, with Wharton having a look at the Villeneuve chicane as de Palo then tried a move on the Australian into the following Tosa corner.
With two laps to go, Wharton and De Palo made contact at Tosa, locking wheels and forcing both into retirement, although with both cars off the track a local yellow was deemed sufficient.
David and Al Dhaheri took sixth and seventh, ahead of James Egozi in eighth. Enzo Deligny fought through to ninth on his car racing debut for AKM Motorsport, just ahead of fellow karting sensation Taponen.
Race result (16 laps)
|1||Kacper Sztuka||US Racing||28m07.034s|
|2||Brando Badoer||Van Amersfoort Racing||+0.641s|
|4||Akshay Bohra||US Racing||+11.265s|
|5||Alfio Spina||BVM Racing||+12.570s|
|6||Zachary David||US Racing||+13.113s|
|7||Rashid Al Dhaheri||Prema||+13.269s|
|8||James Egozi||PHM Racing||+15.482s|
|9||Enzo Deligny||AKM Motorsport||+15.847s|
|11||Ariel Elkin||Jenzer Motorsport||+28.156s|
|12||Kim Hwarang||Jenzer Motorsport||+28.572s|
|13||Raphael Narac||R-ace GP||+31.427s|
|14||Griffin Peebles||AKM Motorsport||+34.499s|
|15||Finn Wiebelhaus||AS Motorsport||+43.461s|
|16||Ismail Akhmed||Van Amersfoort Racing||+44.304s|
|17||Manuel Quondamcarlo||AS Motorsport||+59.821s|
|18||Ruiqu Liu||US Racing||+1m20.155s|
|19||Tina Hausmann||AKM Motorsport||+1m44.501s|
|20||Ethan Ischer||Jenzer Motorsport||+1 lap|
|21||Aurelia Nobels||Prema||+1 lap|
|22||Viktoria Blokhina||PHM Racing||+1 lap|
|23||James Wharton||Prema||+3 laps|
|24||Matteo De Palo||R-ace GP||+3 laps|
|Fastest lap: Badoer, 1m44.521s|