The Italian F4 Championship kicked off last weekend with the first round at Misano, where Sebastian Fernandez Wahbeh took all three wins. It was a dominant weekend for the Venezuelan who had had a spectacular end to the 2016 season.
Coming into the year, a number of rule changes had been implemented. Most notably though, the reverse grid race was scrapped so the results were more conductive to drivers actual pace. The grid for the third race was instead formed from the drivers second best times in both qualifying’s.
Pre-Season testing had seen a surge in dominance from the BhaiTech team, with Fernandez coming into the season off the back of a number of promising results. Coupled with the fact that he’s been active in UAE Formula 4 Championship over the winter, as well as a win in the final meeting at Monza last year, meant that he was race ready coming into Misano.
Leaving the weekend, Fernandez, who had started the first two races on pole collected the full 75 points and has a twenty-eight point gap to his nearest competitor Lorenzo Colombo. The rookie championship runner-up from 2016 was Fernandez’s closest competition all weekend and recorded two second places and a pole position.
In the rookie standings, Enzo Fittipaldi took the final two wins of the weekend and thusly leads the standings with 68 points. His perfect weekend was only spoiled by the exploits of Lorenzo Lorandi, who took the rookie win in his first race, only to finish behind the Brazilian in the following two encounters.
After qualifying, championship returnee Mauro Auricchio pulled out of the weekend and possibly the whole season due to his lack of performance. As the only driver for the ADM Motorsport driver, the team also resigned from the series.
The first race saw an all Bhaitech front row, as Fernandez made a clean start to maintain his lead over Colombo. From there Fernandez was almost untouchable, only losing his lead when the safety car was brought out with six minutes to go.
A fairly clean race for most drivers came to an end when Kush Maini attempted to force his way past Juan Manuel Correa only for the two to touch. Maini’s move down the inside of turn eight was far too ambitious, resulting in the Jenzer Motorsport driver clipping the side of Correa, flipping him twice.
Both walked away, but the resulting pause in proceedings allowed the chasing pack to catch Fernandez. Artem Petrov had worked his way up from ninth in qualifying, running side by side along the back straight until he eventually forfeited the move to protect his podium standing.
Juri Vips would follow them home in third, hanging on to his podium place as both Colombo and Marcus Armstrong hounded the Estonian during the five car scrap for the lead.
Once again it was the story of Fernandez and the BhaiTech crew, as the Venezuelan and Colombo stormed off into the distance. The team, which has shown its dominance during testing was not about to let their advantage slip, winning by over three seconds from their nearest rival.
Colombo kept his compatriot honest, but was forced to settle for second while Ferrari Driver Academy member Armstrong claimed his maiden podium in the series. Armstrong will know the importance of the result, especially after holding off team-mate Juri Vips during the second half.
It turned out to be a race of two teams though. It was another pairing who took fifth and sixth, yet neither Kami Laliberte or Felipe Drugovich made an impact on the breakaway four. With both of the Van Amersfoort Racing drivers also ineligible for championship points, the weekend acted as more of a warm-up prior to their ADAC Formula 4 campaigns.
The final race of the weekend would be a true test for Fernandez, who did not have the luxury of starting from the front, as his BhaiTech teammates of Colombo and Lorandi sat ahead.
Unfortunately for the Italian outfit, it was not a dream start, with only Fernandez emerging from the first corner unscathed. Colombo’s half-stall dropped him back to eighth on the first lap, while Lorandi was sandwiched into the first corner, losing his front wing to Vips, who later retired.
This allowed Fernandez to once again break away, only to be chased by Drugovich. The Brazilian though was later penalised for track limits violations, handing second place back to Colombo.
Behind them, Petrov recovered for his second podium of the weekend ahead of Drugovich and rookie winner Fittipaldi. Retirements for Vips and Armstrong; after a clash with Maini, handed Job van Uitert sixth place and bumping him up to fourth in the overall standings.