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Wharton becomes F4 UAE champion after crash with title rival Taponen

by Ida Wood

Photo: F4 UAE

James Wharton became Formula 4 United Arab Emirates champion after an opening lap crash with his Mumbai Falcons team-mate and title rival Tuukka Taponen in the season finale.

Wharton and Taponen lined up first and third on the grid at Yas Marina Circuit, and Wharton immediately swept to the inside off the line to defend the lead while Arvid Lindblad dropped to the back from sixth on the grid.

Taponen tried going around the outside of Wharton at the opening corner, and that gave space for Prema’s front row starter Ugo Ugochukwu to briefly get his nose in on the inside of Wharton.

Despite running well wide exiting the corner, Taponen managed to take second and was able to attack Wharton again into Turn 12 (of the grand prix configuration, as F4 uses the support paddock pitlane and grid). However both ran off track and then collided as they rejoined the track for the direction change at Turn 13.

Wharton’s suspension broke and he was out of the race on the spot, while Taponen was able to creep back to the pits. The safety car was called out, and remained on track until the end of lap four as Kai Daryanani’s car needed to be recovered from the opening corner and Lindblad had stopped beside the track before even reaching that point.

As Taponen then did not reappear from the pitlane, it meant the title was Wharton’s but not in the style he would have wanted to secure it in.

Race-winning honours went to Ugochukwu, who had led the championship early in the season, as he inherited the lead once the pair ahead crashed.

When racing resumed on lap five he leapt away, while Noah Lisle spun down to 18th from third place.

Ugochukwu was unchallenged through the rest of the race, which ended under red flag conditions.

A crash between Bianca Bustamante and Nandhavud Bhirombhakdi at the opening corner, in which the pair went either side of Alexander Abkhazava before Bustamante got loose and careered into Bhirombhakdi then hit him again once they were off-track, led to a second safety car period and follwing that there were two laps of racing to go.

On the final lap Federico Rifai lost fifth to Brando Badoer, then spun at Turn 13 and was collected by Hamda Al Qubaisi. With their damaged cars stuck there, race control opted to end proceedings instantly.

Ugochukwu won ahead of Valerio Rinicella and Keanu Al Azhari, Pedro Clerot was fourth and Rifai was reinstated in fifth place until a 10-second penalty was issued post-race for the collion and he dropped to 20th.

Race results (10 laps)

Pos Driver Team Time
1 Ugo Ugochukwu Prema 24m25.683s
2 Valerio Rinicella MP Motorsport +0.800s
3 Keanu Al Azhari Yas Heat +1.432s
4 Pedro Clerot MP Motorsport +2.496s
5 Brando Badoer Pinnacle VAR +2.844s
6 Theophile Nael Sainteloc Racing +3.171s
7 Hamda Al Qubaisi Yas Heat +3.828s
8 Niko Lacorte Prema +4.428s
9 Noah Stromsted PHM Racing +4.729s
10 James Piszcyk Hitech GP +6.453s
11 William Macintyre Hitech GP +6.547s
12 Akshay Bohra PHM Racing +7.069s
13 Valentin Kluss PHM Racing +7.377s
14 Noah Lisle Xcel Motorsport +9.240s
15 Lena Buhler R2Race +9.628s
16 Muhammad Ibrahim Mumbai Falcons +9.707s
17 Raphael Narac R-ace GP +9.898s
18 Jesse Carrasquedo Jr R-ace GP +10.171s
19 Jack Beeton Pinnacle VAR +12.575s
20 Federico Rifai Xcel Motorsport +2.616s
21 Alexander Abkhazava R-ace GP +13.076s
22 Matteo Quintarelli Yas Heat +13.536s
23 Ismail Akhmed MP Motorsport +14.872s
24 Luciano Morano Sainteloc Racing +15.202s
25 Sebastian Murray Cram Motorsport +15.243s
26 Dion Gowda Carlin +15.302s
27 Theodor Jensen Sainteloc Racing +16.366s
28 Victoria Blokhina R2Race +16.699s
29 Kanato Le Hitech GP +17.326s
30 George Zhuravskiy Xcel Motorsport +17.732s
31 Flavio Olivieri Cram Motorsport +11.480s
32 Alexander Bolduev Xcel Motorsport +15.310s
Ret Zachary David R-ace GP
Ret Nandhavud Bhrombhakdi PHM Racing
Ret Bianca Bustamante Prema
Ret Fernando Barrichello Carlin
Ret Tuukka Taponen Mumbai Falcons
Ret James Wharton Mumbai Falcons
Ret Arvid Lindblad Hitech GP
Ret Kai Daryanani Pinnacle VAR
Fastest lap: Ugochukwu, 1m57.633s

Championship standings
1 Wharton 232   2 Taponen 212   3 Ugochukwu 185   4 Rinicella 171   5 Lindblad 107   6 Badoer 69   7 Al Azhari 63   8 David 59   9 Stromsted 55   10 Kluss 50