Martins Off to Flying Start as New Era Dawns

by Connor Jackson

In last weekends opening round of the French F4 Championship, rookie driver Victor Martins came away with two wins having lead away from pole position for both victories. Elsewhere, Javier Gonzalez won the reverse grid event at the Nogaro Circuit.

Going into the new season, drivers all had to get use to the new cars as the championship moved onto the next generation Formula Renault Signatech 1.6L cars. With a shake up of the established calendar as well, advantage would be with those drivers who could best adapt.

Race One

After making a one-off appearance at the back-end of last season, karting graduate Martins would take the first pole position of the season, breaking away by half a second on first lap.

The 15-year-old had made a clean start, with 2016 race winners Pierre-Alexandre Jean and Arthur Rougier maintaining their second and third positions. Martins would set the fastest lap early on and despite Jean’s best efforts, would go on to claim a comfortable victory.

The #49 of Florian Venturi had been a podium contender after qualifying, but dropped back on the opening lap as Rougier lead queue of four cars for the majority of the encounter.

Despite consistent pressure, the chasing pack of Charles Milesi, in his first single-seater race, Marvin Klein and Jean-Baptise Mela were forced to settle without a trophy.

Gonzalez collects his trophy in the reverse grid feature (Credit: FFSA)

Race Two

The first race had not been plain sailing for the experienced Casper Roes, who had spun in the early stages. The Danish driver recovered to take tenth and thus pole for race two, but his luck continued to falter as he was given a drive through penalty, dropping to the back.

Roes’ penalty allowed Mexican rookie Javier Gonzalez to take the lead. Second place Hugo Chevalier knew a opportinity to steal the race victory was in sight, but had already lost too much ground in the opening laps, eventually settling for second.

Further behind, the battle for third once again threw up the biggest excitement as the experienced Mela led a train of two newcomers to the series. Milesi proved to be the only driver to make it past the #4 though, eventually racing off to finish just 0.5 seconds behind Chevalier.

Christian Munoz also spent the race chasing an off-the-pace Mela, attempting to follow Milesi’s overtaking line. Mela was wise to the move though, edging the Colombian off the circuit and dropping him behind Rougier in the final classifications.

Race Three

Having spent the second race fairly anonymously out of the points, Martins was back at the front for the final encounter. The WSK European Karting champion proved why he is one of France’s most exciting young talents winning by almost ten seconds after running away from pole position.

Just like the first race, it was Jean who took second place, but the former race winner will be determined to not let Martins’ advantage grow too far over the coming rounds. The 16-year-old though, did find himself under significant pressure from Venturi who closely followed him over the line.

It had been a strong start from Venturi, leapfrogging Milesi early on. While Milesi will be frustrated to have missed out on a podium, his consistent results have kept him in the championship hunt. Behind them, Klein and the Roes completed the top six.

Martins said; “I was confident for the race, and that’s what allows me to win with a comfortable lead to Pierre.”

French F4 Standings after Round 1

129Victor Martins (J)255
25Pierre-Alexandre Jean38
36Charles Milesi34
487Arthur Rougier27
513Marvin Klien20
68Javier Gonzalez118
72Hugo Chevalier16
84Jean-Baptise Mela16
949Florian Venturi16
1092Christian Munoz14
111Casper Roes9
1251Aldo Festante2
137Thomas Drouet0
143Stuart White (J)0
1527Ugo De Wilde (J)0
1611Amaury Cordeel (J)0
*(J) = Junior Championship

*The winner of Race one and three receive full FIA points down to tenth place, while the reverse race winner will collect 15 points, the rest being allocated to the top eight. Pole position for race one and three collects one point each, with fastest lap also adding another point.

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