Home Formula 4Chinese F4 The Formula 4 title battles you might have missed in 2022

The Formula 4 title battles you might have missed in 2022

by Ida Wood

Photos: YACademy Winter Series

Formula 4 once again kick-started the careers of a large number of drivers this year, in series across the globe. Ida Wood runs through the FIA series, and some of the lesser-known championships too

Most of the plaudits in Formula 4 this year went to the dominators of the three most high-profile series. Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 junior Andrea Kimi Antonelli crushed the opposition in ADAC and Italian F4, Alex Dunne took British F4 honours despite missing the final round and Fernando Alonso protege Nikola Tsolov, a car racing debutant, dominated Spanish F4.

Another junior who took a big title win was Honda’s Syun Koide. He won nine races out of 14 in Japanese F4, and has been rewarded with drives in Super Formula Lights and Super GT300 for 2023.

Fellow Honda junior Yusuke Mitsui left the opening round (which attracted 42 cars) as championship leader with a victory and a second place despite starting no higher than sixth. Koide took pole for race one, but contact with team-mate Kazuma Nishimura led to a spin and retirement.

That put Koide on the back foot, but he responded by winning the next five races at Fuji Speedway and Suzuka to take the points lead. He got pole in round three at Fuji based on topping free practice, as qualifying was cancelled due to fog.

Mitsui reclaimed the lead on the return to Suzuka with two wins and two poles, despite feeling ill pre-event, while Koide had to pull off some brave overtakes to finish second twice.

Toyota junior Jin Nakamura was the star driver at Sportsland SUGO, finishing second in race one behind Koide who retook the points lead. Nakamura claimed pole for race two, although lost the lead on lap one to team-mate Rikuto Kobayashi.

The safety car then came out, and Koide passed Nakamura for second before the restart which resulted in a drive-through penalty. He did assume the lead for a while as Kobayashi locked up several times and fell down the order, and only after taking his penalty did Nakamura inherit first place and the win. Mitsui finished second, and moved back ahead in the championship.

Photo: Japanese F4

Koide bounced back with a near-perfect Autopolis weekend, and went into the final round 14 points ahead.

Kobayashi set the qualifying pace at the Twin Ring Motegi finale, with Koide on the front row for both races. He converted pole into an assured first win in race one, with Koide in second and Mitsui fourth.

A huge crash meant the title decider was neutralised almost instantly, and once racing resumed the top two broke away. Koide took several attempts before passing Kobayashi, and victory secured him the title.

Kobayashi meanwhile lost further ground, making contact with Mitsui on the last lap and finishing sixth. Behind the winner were Arakawa, Miyashita, Mitsui and Nakamura.

Even more dominant was Chinese F4 champion Gerrard Xie, who won 12 races out of 14. In most races he was simply untouchable, even the reversed-grid ones. Crashing out of the fourth race at Ningbo was his first non-win, and the next was the Macau Grand Prix where the 16-year-old finished second to the vastly more experienced Andy Chang.

His title success should have earned him a scholarship to race in Formula Regional Middle East, but that hadn’t been finalised by mid-December and it is yet to be announced if he will indeed be on the FRegional grid next month.

He also won the Formula Renault Super Challenge series in China, although his crowning is yet to be confirmed as the final round was cancelled and a replacement round then remained perpetually in the works.

This year the United States added another F4 series to its already expansive list, but some continued to have huge grids.

The national championship had an average entry list size of 21 cars, and the title was won by Jay Howard Driver Development’s Lochie Hughes.

Photo: Gavin Baker Photography

Multiple drivers fought for victory in the opening race at NOLA Motorsports Park, and 2019 Australian F4 runner-up Hughes won. Bryson Morris hunted down then pulled away from Matt Christensen to win race two, and F4 returnee Nicholas Rivers handled two safety car restarts and being passed by Noah Ping in race three on his route to victory.

At Road America, Hughes and Christensen fought hard for the race one win and the latter took the lead for the final time with around the outside at the penultimate corner of the race. He repeated that triumph in race two, then Ping won race three.

Morris won the opener at Mid-Ohio, with Hughes claiming the next race but denying himself a double by spinning in race three. He minimised the points loss by finishing fifth, helped by further drama among the lead group of seven, and Ping passed Morris to win.

There was another victory-costing error for Hughes at New Jersey Motorsports Park. He looked to have converted pole into victory in race one, but he was handed a five-second post-race penalty as was deemed to have accelerated too early on a rolling restart which came about when the race was red flagged following a crash between Ping and Gabriel Fonseca. Hughes redeemed himself by winning the next two.

Morris took a small bite out of Hughes’ points lead at Virginia International Raceway, where the big story was that two of the races only counted for half-points due to a lack of racing under green flag conditions.

The top two were close going into the final round at Circuit of the Americas, but a penalty for Morris in race one – won by Ping – put the ball in Hughes’ court for the final two races. He made the most of it, winning both to become champion.

Rivalling US F4 was USF Juniors, the new Anderson Promotions series created to be a feeder series to USF2000. The 2021 US F4 runner-up Mac Clark shuffled across and promptly won the first four races and the title, with Velocity Racing Development’s Sam Corry and Nikita Johnson being his closest rivals across the season.

Jack Holmes won F4 Western and Jack Zheng won its winter series, while Johnson won the YACademy Winter Series at the start of the year. US F4 also launched a sister Formula Development series aimed at 14-year-olds, but it usually only attracted one car: JHDD’s Eric Wisniewski.

Like Formula Race Promotion’s short-lived F4 Eastern, Parella Motorsports Holdings has not commented on if FDevelopment will run for a second year.

Down in Mexico, Juan Felipe Pedraza comfortably won the NACAM F4 championship as the series returned after a year spent entirely running non-championship events. Four of the six rounds were at the Mexico City F1 track, although Pedraza won just as many races elsewhere. After the season, there was also a non-championship event in Mexico City where Pedro Juan Moreno won all three races. The results only listed three cars taking part, although those present said there were more.

Even further south in the Americas, Brazilian F4 was launched (and the only American series to use a Gen2 F4 car) while Argentinian F4 came to an unexplained end after just one season of action that had been many years in the planning.

The Brazilian series looks like it has a far securer future thanks to its relationship with the popular Stock Car Brasil series, and its inaugral season was won by the prodigious Pedro Clerot. Despite cars being rotated between drivers as an equality measure, Clerot was simply unmatchable through much of the campaign and he won seven races.

His rivals included champion karters Lucas Staico and Vinícius Tessaro, ex-F1 driver Rubens Barrichello’s son Fernando and nephew Felipe, and recently signed Ferrari junior Aurelia Nobels.

Hugh Barter was the most successful driver in French F4 this year, but the Australian’s parralel campaign in Spanish F4 meant he was ineligible to score at Spa-Francorchamps and Valencia, where he claimed four wins, two poles and five fastest laps. He claimed six wins elsewhere, while champion Alessandro Giusti only netted two wins but was consistently on the podium.

Photo: Ida Wood

Honda junior Souta Arao was a title outsider for some time and came third in the standings, and along with Barter and Romain Andriolo was one of the winners on the streets of Pau. French F4 was the only series to use Mygale’s new Gen2 car.

The Danish F4 title probably would have gone to Formula 5 driver Mads Hoe once again if he had wanted to do the full season, but instead the series veteran – who is now focusing on web development as well as running his own team – skipped two rounds and still came third in the standings with six wins.

Runner-up Sebastian Gravlund also missed a round as he doubled up in Spanish F4, so rookie Julius Dinesen ended up becoming champion with four race wins through the season. Another particularly impressive driver was 14-year-old South African Mika Arabhams, who missed the first races but went on to take two wins and come fourth in the standings.

Further north, fellow first-generation F4 series Formula Academy Finland continued to share its grids with old Formula 3 cars and it had a small but talented grid of drivers.

Leevi Vappula emerged from the opening event at Kemora as championship leader, having shared the wins at Alexi Jalava and Iker Oikarinen. Having made a cameo in the series in 2021, World Karting champion Tuukka Taponen joined for round two at Botniaring and he won all three races.

The next event was cancelled, and round three eventually took place at Alastaro at the end of August. Taponen took pole and dominated both races, but then didn’t appear again.

A week later the rest of the field was back in action at the same track, with Oikarinen heading Vappula in qualifying. Jalava came through to win the opening race, then Oikarinen struck back in race two and took an assured 6.274-second win in race three.

The title fight ebbed and flowed, and Vappula emerged on top in the Ahvenisto finale. Jalava took pole, and beat the F3 cars to take overall victory in the first race, then Oikarinen was the top F4 driver in race two. Jalava won again in the final race, and therefore came second in the Formula Open Finland standings (Jalava 227 points, Oikarinen 206, Vappula 205). However taking the F3 cars out of the picture, and still using the Finnish points system rather than the regular FIA one, then the Academy standings had a different look.

There’s no doubt Taponen would have swept the floor had he done the full season, and as another new Ferrari junior he’s now off to Italian F4 with Prema.

2022 FAcademy Finland standings
Pos Driver Team Wins Poles FL Points
1 Leevi Vappula Koiranen Kemppi Motorsport 1 279
2 Alexi Jalava Koiranen Kemppi Motorsport 4 1 5 277
3 Iker Oikarinen 4 2 2 261
4 Joonas Jaaskelainen J.O.E Racing Team 186
5 Nestori Virtala 126
6 Tuukka Taponen Koiranen Kemppi Motorsport 5 2 4 125

Central Europe’s ACCR F4 series was launched this year, but wasn’t realised in the form quite envisaged due to delays in deliveries of the new Tatuus T-421 car and a lack of interest from drivers with older cars.

JMT Racing’s Vojtech Birgus and Lema Racing’s Tommaso Lovati won the non-championship races at the Red Bull Ring in June, then the series rearranged itself to become a trophy only for first-generation F4 chassis.

Nine cars took part in the season opener at Grobnik in Croatia, with Zeno Kovacs actually appearing in a T-421. G Motorsport’s Salvatore Liotti won, but race two was then called off following the death of a marshal at the circuit.

Next up was the Slovakiaring in August, and Procar Motorsport’s Patrick Schober won both races. Kovacs, in his newer car, was the driver to beat in qualifying and he was also the only entrant for the final round at Brno where he won twice.

Kovacs’ results also won him the scarcely contested FIA Central European Zone F4 Cup and Austrian F4 Cup.

ACCR had for some time planned to partner up with Italian racing bill Formula X’s Pro Series for Gen1 cars, but scrapped that idea, and in the Italian series Andrea Bodellini was champion ahead of Tommaso Lovati.