Home Formula 4Italian F4 Sztuka twice fastest in Italian F4 practice as more drivers join Imola grid

Sztuka twice fastest in Italian F4 practice as more drivers join Imola grid

by Ida Wood

Photo: ACI Sport

US Racing’s Kacper Sztuka set the pace in both practice sessions for Italian Formula 4’s opening round at Imola.

His team left it late to go on a proper timed run in FP1, with Prema’s fleet of drivers setting the pace at first.

Ugo Ugochukwu led the way a quarter of the way into the 40-minute session, with a 1m45.671s putting him 0.281 seconds ahead of team-mate Tuukka Taponen. R-ace GP’s Matteo De Palo was 1.032s behind in third place.

The top two then lapped in the 1m44s, with Taponen taking over in first place with a 1m44.346s lap. He was 0.151s faster than Ugochukwu, with fellow Prema driver James Wharton 0.681s back in third.

Wharton improved to lap sub-1m45s, and by the second half of the session was only 0.032s off Taponen. Van Amersfoort Racing’s Matheus Ferreira and Ivan Domingues also broke the 1m45s barrier, while Sztuka and his team-mates were yet to even show a representative pace.

When Sztuka eventually went on a qualifying simulation, with 12 minutes to go, he comfortably eclipsed Taponen by lapping in the 1m43s, and team-mate Zachary David did the same.

Akshay Bohra made is a US Racing 1-2-3 by setting a 1m44.191s prior to a late full course yellow interruption, but ended the session in fifth as Ugochukwu and Wharton improved at the end – although still failed to get into the 1m43s.

The top 12 were covered by a second, with PHM Racing’s Valentin Kluss in ninth the only driver not from US Racing, Prema, VAR represented in that group.

Taponen was fastest again early on in FP2, with Sztuka then setting a 1m44.130s benchmark. He improved to 1m43.643s before the session’s halfway point, and following that there was no change to the order of the top 10.

Sztuka ended up fastest by just 0.013s over Ugochukwu, with David 0.187s back and Taponen and Wharton closely match in fourth and fifth and 0.28s off the pace.

Bohra was 0.615s behind in sixth place, and along with Nandhavud Bhirombhakdi, Jesse Carrasquedo Jr and Manuel Quondamcarlo was one of four drivers who failed to improve on their FP1 pace.

Last-minute additions to the grid taking part included PHM Racing duo Bhirombhakdi and James Egozi, R-ace GP’s Matteo de Palo and AS Motorsport’s Finn Wiebelhaus.

Bhirombhakdi raced in ADAC and Italian F4 for Jenzer Motorsport last season, and did two F4 United Arab Emirates rounds with PHM this year.

Egozi graduates from OK karts, having come sixth in WSK’s Final Cup, ninth in its Super Master Series, 11th in the CIK-FIA world championship and 19th in the European championship in 2022. He currently leads the 2023 WSK SMS with one round to go.

De Palo’s primary campaign this year is Spanish F4, while German karting graduate Finn Wiebelhaus‘ focus is on French F4. Both are only confirmed for round one in Italy.

Free practice results
Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 Kacper Sztuka US Racing 1m43.643s 20
2 Ugo Ugochukwu Prema 1m43.656s +0.013s 29
3 Zachary David US Racing 1m43.830s +0.187s 22
4 Tuukka Taponen Prema 1m43.926s +0.283s 28
5 James Wharton Prema 1m43.930s +0.287s 29
6 Akshay Bohra US Racing 1m44.191s +0.548s 22
7 Arvid Lindblad Prema 1m44.280s +0.637s 27
8 Niko Lacorte Prema 1m44.316s +0.673s 28
9 Ivan Domingues Van Amersfoort Racing 1m44.340s +0.697s 33
10 Ariel Elkin Jenzer Motorsport 1m44.415s +0.772s 32
11 Alfio Spina BVM Racing 1m44.462s +0.819s 33
12 Rashid Al Dhaheri Prema 1m44.489s +0.846s 28
13 Brando Badoer Van Amersfoort Racing 1m44.496s +0.853s 32
14 Valentin Kluss PHM Racing 1m44.515s +0.872s 32
15 Matheus Ferreira Van Amersfoort Racing 1m44.555s +0.912s 35
16 James Egozi PHM Racing 1m44.637s +0.994s 28
17 Enzo Deligny AKM Motorsport 1m44.666s +1.023s 31
18 Matteo De Palo R-ace GP 1m44.720s +1.077s 33
19 Griffin Peebles AKM Motorsport 1m44.751s +1.108s 32
20 Ruiqu Liu US Racing 1m44.774s +1.131s 21
21 Gianmarco Pradel US Racing 1m44.812s +1.169s 22
22 Nandhavud Bhirombhakdi PHM Racing 1m44.894s +1.251s 35
23 Aurelia Nobels Prema 1m44.900s +1.257s 27
24 Ethan Ischer Jenzer Motorsport 1m44.940s +1.297s 31
25 Kim Hwarang Jenzer Motorsport 1m44.990s +1.347s 35
26 Tina Hausmann AKM Motorsport 1m45.010s +1.367s 34
27 Jack Beeton Van Amersfoort Racing 1m45.018s +1.375s 32
28 Davide Larini AKM Motorsport 1m45.317s +1.674s 31
29 Jesse Carrasquedo Jr BVM Racing 1m45.399s +1.756s 32
30 Viktoria Blokhina PHM Racing 1m45.455s +1.812s 29
31 Raphael Narac R-ace GP 1m45.700s +2.057s 28
32 Matteo Quintarelli R-ace GP 1m45.847s +2.204s 30
33 Ismail Akhmed Van Amersfoort Racing 1m45.857s +2.214s 28
34 Andrea Frassineti BVM Racing 1m46.044s +2.401s 34
35 Manuel Quondamcarlo AS Motorsport 1m46.498s +2.855s 35
36 Finn Wiebelhaus AS Motorsport 1m46.627s +2.984s 35
37 Guido Luchetti Airflow Racing 1m47.305s +3.662s 33