The Italian F4 championship is as popular as ever going into its 10th season, and there’s lots to look out for
The oldest of the FIA Formula 4 championships heads into a landmark 10th season this weekend at Imola, and it’s proving to be one of the most popular junior single-seater series in the world once again.
Italian F4’s grids grew so large last year that one round had to feature four races rather than the usual three due to the entry list exceeding the grid capacity, and series organiser ACI has scheduled a fourth race for this weekend too as more cars sign up to start the season.
The now-traditional calendar format of five rounds in Italy and two abroad has been retained, and Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps track is visited for a second time after being added to the series last year while Austria’s Red Bull Ring spends a fifth successive season on the calendar.
At present there are seven Formula 1 juniors set to race in Italian F4 this year, although not all of them for the full season, and they are among the title favourites. Four of them are driving for Prema, which has three other drivers signed up for a year in which it looks incredibly likely to win the teams’ title once again.
Ferrari junior James Wharton is the highest-placed returnee and the driver in Prema’s line-up with the most expectation on them, having already started 2023 by winning the F4 United Arab Emirates title with the Mumbai Falcons team.
The 16-year-old had a solid rookie season in cars with Prema last year, coming fifth in the ADAC, Italian and UAE F4 championships. He claimed four wins in the UAE at the start of 2022, and his place in the standings came despite missing a round, then he claimed a win and two other podiums in ADAC F4 – another part-time campaign – while his primary campaign in Italy was less prolific in terms of podiums (five from 20 races) but still had a return of 166 points.
Wharton’s title-winning F4 UAE campaign this year featured four wins, and he was only off the podium in four of the 15 races. From that campaign he became familiar with several of his team-mates for the season ahead, including Ferrari stablemate Tuukka Taponen.
The Finn also won four races and only took one less podium than Wharton to be championship runner-up, in what was his first campaign in a second-generation F4 car. He spent last year racing at home in Formula Academy Finland, which uses Gen1 machinery, and won all five of the races he contested. In addition to that he starred in karting, coming second in the World championship (which he won in 2021) and third in the WSK Euro Series for OK karts, as well as coming ninth in the World championship and 11th in the European championship for the top-level KZ shifter karts.
Not too far behind that pair in the F4 UAE standings, and racing for Prema there, was McLaren junior Ugo Ugochukwu. He earned five wins and two poles in the Middle East, having come from a rookie season in British F4 with Rodin Carlin in which he claimed pole on debut and came third in the standings after taking a further two poles and two wins. He also contested two Italian rounds with Prema at the Red Bull Ring and Mugello.
Two positions below Ugochukwu in the UAE points table was Red Bull junior Arvid Lindblad, who was being run by Hitech GP. He primarily spent last year karting, with third place in the KZ2 World Cup being the highlight, and debuted in F4 with Prema once he turned 15.
He did the last three Italian rounds and claimed a best finish of seventh, while in the UAE he picked up a win, two third places and a pole position. Lindblad didn’t have to join Prema to get to know his team-mates, having been a staunch rival to several of them in their karting careers.
The last of Prema’s F1-backed talents is Aurelia Nobels, winner of the third edition of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission’s Ferrari Driver Academy-affiliated Girls on Track Rising Stars programme in 2022.
That earned her a spot in the FDA, as well as a paid-for Italian F4 seat with Prema’s sister team Iron Lynx. But instead she will race for the more established single-seater outfit, and has been picking up car racing experience with cameos in Danish and Spanish F4 as well as a four-round campaign in Brazilian F4’s inaugural season. Her best result so far is a seventh place.
In addition to Lindblad, Red Bull will also be represented by Enzo Deligny this weekend, as the Frenchman has signed with AKM Motorsport to make his single-seater debut before he embarks on a full season in Spanish F4 with Campos Racing.
The fourth F1 junior team that will be active in Italian F4 is the Alpine Academy, which has placed Matheus Ferreira with Van Amersfoort Racing for his first year in single-seaters. Last year he was an Alpine affiliate and came 17th in the European championship and WSK Super Master Series for OK karts.
Aside from Wharton, there are not too many drivers returning to Italian F4 this year who have already established themselves in the championship.
The highest-profile returnee is US Racing’s Kacper Sztuka, who came sixth in the 2022 standings with two wins. He started this year by winning the Formula Winter Series, which uses the same Tatuus T-421 car as Italian F4, with a success rate of five wins from six races. Sztuka had aimed to step up the single-seater ladder this year, but lacked the budget to move up.
His team-mate Zachary David – who raced for Sauber in karting – did two Italian F4 rounds last year as a guest driver and came seventh in his last race, as well as finishing fifth in an ADAC F4 cameo. He then embarked on an extensive winter testing programme and made winning appearances in F4 UAE (with R-ace GP) and in the FWinter Series.
ACI Supercorso Federale winner Niko Lacorte also could only compete as a guest in his Italian F4 outings in 2022, and finished 10th on his debut with Iron Lynx. Switching across to Prema, he managed to add some points to his car racing CV in F4 UAE, but only finished in the top 10 twice.
In terms of their placing in the 2022 standings, VAR’s Ivan Domingues and Brando Badoer are the next best-placed returnees after Sztuka. They came 14th and 15th in Italy last year, with Domingues taking pole at the season opener but never finishing higher than seventh, while Badoer took 13 starts before recording his first top-10 finish of the season – a fifth place at the Red Bull Ring – and only scored three more times after that.
Several of the drivers signed up to race in Italian F4 this year also intend to compete in the proposed Euro 4 series.
ACI Sport was expected to announce its plans for Euro 4 last December although there has still been no public confirmation of the new series’ creation. Should it go ahead, Euro 4 seeks to fill the gap left by the demise of ADAC F4 by providing additional race weekends across Europe for teams and drivers who had budgeted for 2023 on the basis of doing the full Italian season plus several ADAC rounds.
Pre-event testing [nine sessions]: 09:00, 09:55, 10:50, 11:45, 14:05, 15:00, 15:55, 16:50 & 17:45
Free practice [two sessions]: 09:00 – 09:40 & 12:55 – 13:35
Qualifying [two sessions]: 17:30 – 17:50 & 18:00 – 18:20
Race 1: 10:55 – 11:20 Race 2: 17:20 – 17:45
Race 3: 09:00 – 09:25 Race 4: 17:00 – 17:25
2023 Italian F4 entries
|Prema||Rashid Al Dhaheri||UAE||Senior karting|
|Niko Lacorte||Italy||NC in Italian F4 (24th in F4 UAE)|
|Arvid Lindblad||GB||Shifter karting (5th in F4 UAE)|
|Aurelia Nobels||Brazil||16th in Brazilian F4, 18th in Danish F4|
|Tuukka Taponen||Finland||6th in FAcademy Finland (2nd in F4 UAE)|
|Ugo Ugochukwu||USA||3rd in British F4 (3rd in F4 UAE)|
|James Wharton||Australia||5th in ADAC & Italian F4 (F4 UAE champion)|
|US Racing||Akshay Bohra||Singapore||29th in Italian F4 (9th in FWinter Series)|
|Zachary David||Malta||15th in ADAC F4 (5th in FWinter Series, 8th in F4 UAE)|
|Ruiqi Liu||China||19th in ADAC F4 (4th in FWinter Series)|
|Gianmarco Pradel||Australia||NC in Spanish F4 (2nd in FWinter Series)|
|Kacper Sztuka||Poland||6th in Italian F4, 10th in ADAC F4 (FWinter Series champion)|
|PHM Racing||Victoria Blokhina||27th in Italian F4 (44th in F4 UAE)|
|Valentin Kluss||Germany||6th in Motorsport Games F4 Cup (10th in F4 UAE)|
|Van Amersfoort Racing||Ismail Akhmed||Uzbekistan||41st in Italian F4 (41st in F4 UAE)|
|Brando Badoer||Italy||15th in Italian F4 (6th in F4 UAE)|
|Jack Beeton||Australia||Junior karting (23rd in F4 UAE)|
|Ivan Domingues||Portugal||14th in Italian F4, 16th in F4 UAE|
|Matheus Ferreira||Brazil||Senior karting|
|R-ace GP||Raphael Narac||France||43rd in Italian F4 (32nd in F4 UAE)|
|Matteo Quintarelli||Italy||Junior karting (34th in F4 UAE)|
|Jenzer Motorsport||Ariel Elkin||Israel||Senior karting|
|Kim Hwarang||South Korea||23rd in Italian F4 (7th in FWinter Series)|
|Ethan Ischer||Switzerland||33rd in Italian F4 (11th in FWinter Series)|
|BVM Racing||Jesse Carrasquedo Jr||Mexico||9th in NACAM F4 (18th in F4 UAE)|
|Andrea Frassineti||Italy||37th in Italian F4|
|Alfio Spina||Italy||17th in ADAC F4|
|AKM Motorsport||Enzo Deligny||France||Senior karting|
|Tina Hausmann||Switzerland||Senior karting (10th in FWinter Series)|
|Davide Larini||Italy||Senior karting|
|Griffin Peebles||Australia||Junior karting|
|AS Motorsport||Manuel Quondamcarlo||Italy||39th in Italian F4|
|Airflow Racing||Guido Luchetti||Italy||unknown|