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Sztuka scores another pole hat-trick for Italian F4 decider

by Peter Allen

Photo: ACI Sport

Kacper Sztuka has taken a clear upper hand in the Italian Formula 4 championship decider at Vallelunga with his second successive clean sweep of qualifying.

The US Racing driver came into the final round with a lead of just 1.5 points over Prema’s Red Bull junior Arvid Lindblad but will start all three races from pole position while his closest rival will line up only seventh, 12th and 10th.

In the first session, Sztuka had a narrow margin over Tuukka Taponen, who led the Prema effort. The Finnish Ferrari protege took over top spot with six minutes remaining, before Sztuka became the first driver to dip below the 1m34s mark with a time of 1m33.903s.

It took until the final seconds of the session for Taponen to join Sztuka beneath 1m34s, but he fell 0.023 seconds short. Ugo Ugochukwu, who is 18 points away from Sztuka, also got within 0.089s of pole.

Practice pace-setter Brando Badoer ended up fourth for Van Amersfoort Racing ahead of Sztuka’s team-mates Zachary David and Akshay Bohra, while Lindblad had to settle for seventh in front of fellow Prema drivers Alex Powell and James Wharton.

Sztuka led the second session from the front, going fastest with his first flying lap even if it was over two seconds off his Q1 best. On his next attempt he set a 1m33.857s, with Badoer briefly bettering that before Sztuka set two laps that were even quicker.

His 1m33.497s secured race two pole by 0.221s over Taponen, with his second-best lap of 1m33.555s also securing race three pole by 0.163s.

Ugochukwu and Badoer complete the second row of the grid for all three races, while two recent F4 debutants will make up row three for race two after Powell and VAR’s Freddie Slater rounded out the top six.

Qualifying round-up

Race 1 grid
1 Kacper Sztuka US Racing 1m33.903
2 Tuukka Taponen Prema  +0.023s
3 Ugo Ugochukwu Prema +0.089s
4 Brando Badoer Van Amersfoort Racing +0.112s
5 Zachary David US Racing +0.179s
6 Akshay Bohra US Racing +0.210s
7 Arvid Lindblad Prema +0.304s
8 Alex Powell Prema +0.332s
9 James Wharton Prema +0.357s
10 James Egozi PHM Racing +0.382s

Race 2 grid
1 Sztuka 1m33.497s
2 Taponen +0.221s
3 Ugochukwu +0.235s
4 Badoer +0.269s
5 Powell +0.367s
6 Freddie Slater Van Amersfoort Racing +0.435s
7 Jack Beeton Van Amersfoort Racing +0.457s
8 David +0.486s
9 Bohra +0.489s
10 Wharton +0.549s

Race 3 grid
1 Sztuka 1m33.555s
2 Taponen +0.163s
3 Ugochukwu +0.242s
4 Badoer +0.304s
5 Powell +0.322s
6 David +0.431s
7 Wharton +0.509s
8 Bohra +0.517s
9 Slater +0.533s
10 Lindblad +0.616s