Super Formula resumed its season at Fuji last weekend, while Formula Regional European Championship, EuroFormula Open and Italian Formula 4 all raced at the Red Bull Ring.
Super Formula – Fuji
Alex Palou mastered difficult conditions at Fuji to claim his first Super Formula victory of his career and the first win in the series for TCS Nakajima Racing since 2010.
The Spaniard had dominated the weekend up to then, topping free practice and taking his maiden pole position, and despite a few scares never really looked under threat for the win, taking the chequered flag 13.359 seconds to the good ahead of Sho Tsuboi of JMS P.mu/cerumo-INGING, who claimed his first podium finish of the year in second.
“It was an amazing day,” said Palou, who moves up to third in the championship as a result of his win. “The car was incredible and we had a great pace all weekend.
“Thanks to my team for the great job and for giving me such a good car! I had to manage the pace and the fuel during the race because we did not pit for fuel and tyres. Our strategy paid off and I am extremely happy about my first win in Super Formula!”
The race began behind the safety car due to the conditions at Fuji, and Palou was able to pull away from the 2018 Japanese Formula 3 champion at the restart, while Nick Cassidy made a decisive move not long after the restart to take third for Vantelin Team TOM’S. He attacked Tsuboi for second as the track dried late on but was forced to settle for third.
After losing out to Cassidy, Team Mugen’s Tomoki Nojiri claimed fourth ahead of the second TOM’S car of Kazuki Nakajima, despite the former Williams F1 Team racer making a late error.
Kamui Kobayashi, another driver on the grid with Formula 1 experience, climbed from the back row of the grid to take sixth for carrozzeria Team KCMG, with the second INGING driver, Hiroaki Ishiura seventh ahead of the final points scorer Yuhi Sekiguchi of Team Impul.
Championship leader Naoki Yamamoto was only eleventh for DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing having suffered a spin at the GR Supra corner, the Japanese racer enduring his worst result since 2017, finishing behind former GP3 Series racer Nirei Fukuzumi and former FIA Formula 2 race winner Tadasuke Makino.
Series debutant Patricio O’Ward, placed by Red Bull into the Team Mugen seat vacated by the deposed Daniel Ticktum, took the chequered flag down in fourteenth, two places ahead of British racer Harrison Newey, while Artem Markelov was a lowly nineteenth for UOMO Sunoco Team LeMans after losing significant time pitting for a new front wing after an incident.
Formula Regional European Championship – Red Bull Ring
Frederik Vesti’s march towards the championship continued at the Red Bull Ring with two more victories, while the final win went the way of Igor Fraga for his first triumph of 2019.
Frederik Vesti took a fifth consecutive victory in race one at the Red Bull Ring, but the Dane was made to work for it after dropping to third from pole position by the time they had reached turn four on lap one.
The Prema Powerteam driver had seen team-mate Enzo Fittipaldi assume the lead heading into turn three before he dropped behind DR Formula by RP Motorsport’s Igor Fraga into turn four to run third.
Fraga made life difficult for Vesti but the Dane finally worked his way ahead of the Brazilian on lap six, and not long afterwards, the safety car was needed after Alexandre Bardinon stopped on track after he suffered a wheel failure whilst running at high speed.
This nullified the advantage Fittipaldi had at the front of the field, and on the restart Vesti capitalised on his team-mate touching the gravel at the exit of turn four to take over the lead. Soon after, Fittipaldi tangled with Fraga and dropped back to fifth, although this became fourth as Marcos Siebert went off at turn four in a similar incident as he battled US Racing team-mate David Schumacher.
Schumacher was able to retain his position and held on to the final spot on the podium behind Vesti and Fraga, while Fittipaldi’s podium run since the beginning of the season ended with a fourth place result ahead of DR Formula by RP Motorsport’s Raul Guzman and Van Amersfoort Racing’s Sophia Flörsch.
Flörsch had started at the back of the grid after failing to set a time in Qualifying, but she made good ground during the race to end on Guzman’s tail, while Olli Caldwell claimed a lowly seventh in the third of the Prema entries as he struggled to match the pace of his team-mates Vesti and Fittipaldi.
Despite a sluggish start, Matteo Nannini, making his second appearance of the season for Scuderia DF Corse by Corbetta, took eighth, with the Italian able to claim the points this time around having turned sixteen prior to the event. His first outing at Vallelunga saw him finish inside the top ten but because he wasn’t the required age for the championship, he was unable to claim the points on offer back then, but this time he had no such issues.
Tom Beckhauser took ninth for Technorace, with the final point going the way of Isac Blomqvist of KIC Motorsport, who finished just ahead of the delayed Siebert and team-mate Konsta Lappalainen.
Vesti made it six in a row in race two, but much like race one, he was made to work hard for it as he was forced to fight back from seventh position after being hit by Fraga on lap one at turn four as the duo battled for the lead.
Schumacher inherited the lead as a result and Fraga was handed a drive-through penalty for causing a collision, but all eyes were on Vesti, who gained three places on consecutive laps despite running with damage to his diffuser as a result of his opening lap incident.
The safety car was needed when Caldwell retired from a podium place at turn three, promoting Vesti up into third, before the Dane took over second when Fraga took his penalty. He then caught up with race leader Schumacher and made the decisive move on the German to take over the lead, ultimately winning by 1.401 seconds.
Lappalainen enjoyed his best race of the season so far to take his first top three finish in third, with Siebert fourth ahead of Fittipaldi. The Brazilian had taken evasive action around the Vesti/Fraga incident on lap one and dropped to eleventh but climbed back up to fifth ahead of Flörsch and Beckhauser.
Nannini spun on lap one at turn one but was still able to claim eighth for a second consecutive race, while Fraga took ninth after his drive-through penalty. The final point went the way of ScoRace Team’s Sharon Scolari as she was the final finisher, with retirements for Guzman, Bardinon and Blomqvist alongside the unfortunate Caldwell.
Fraga denied Vesti a hat trick of victories in race three, with the Brazilian claiming a maiden triumph for him and a first victory of 2019 for his DR Formula by RP Motorsport squad.
Vesti had started on pole position but Fraga made the better start to lead into turn one, and although the two switched positions on lap three, they switched again on lap four, with Fraga then remaining up front until the chequered flag.
Vesti was also to lose second place to Fittipaldi as he found himself boxed in as he battled for the lead, but the Dane has a fifty-five-point advantage over his Brazilian team-mate with four rounds and thirteen races of the season remaining.
Guzman recovered from his race two retirement to claim fourth after Nannini slowed on the final lap to drop to eleventh, while Flörsch took fifth despite once again starting at the rear of the field, remnants of her Qualifying misfortune.
Schumacher was sixth ahead of Caldwell, while KIC Motorsport duo Blomqvist and Lappalainen took eighth and ninth ahead of final points scorer Siebert.
“I’m very happy with the three poles we scored again, and the two wins and a third place are very very good for the championship,” said Vesti. “I’m delighted, the car felt great for the whole weekend.
“In race 3 I had to deal with a bit of understeer, I was in second place on the last lap. I tried to move on the leader who pushed me a little wide, and eventually, I lost the position to Enzo. We finished P3, but we still got a lot of points so it’s all good.”
EuroFormula Open – Red Bull Ring
Marino Sato continues to exert his dominance on the EuroFormula Open championship as he took two more victories at the Red Bull Ring, his seventh and eighth triumphs of the season to date.
The week after the grid raced at the Hungaroring in Hungary, the EuroFormula Open field reassembled in Austria, although there were a few notable absentees as a clash with the FIA Formula 3 Championship saw Motopark duo Liam Lawson and Yuki Tsunoda, as well as Carlin Motorsport’s Teppei Natori all prioritise Silverstone over the Red Bull Ring.
Motopark attempted to bring in Norwegian racer Dennis Hauger to fill in one of their vacant seats but this request was denied due to the Red Bull Junior’s commitments in the Italian Formula 4 championship, which was racing alongside EuroFormula Open and Formula Regional European Championship in Austria. Hauger is expected to debut in the series in the next round at Silverstone in September.
All this led to was for Marino Sato to take his fifth pole position of the season, with Motopark locking out the front row, German Julian Hanses joining his team-mate on the front row. It was Hanses who would lead into the first turn, but only courtesy of a jump start, which he was justifiably penalised for with a drive-through penalty.
When he took his penalty, Sato inherited the lead he would not relinquish, with the Japanese racer securing his seventh win of the year by just over six-tenths of a second from Double R Racing’s Jack Doohan, who overcame a first lap incident with team-mate Linus Lundqvist and a battle with Fortec Motorsport’s Calan Williams for his equal-best result of 2019.
Despite a five-second time penalty for track limit violations, the podium places were completed by Teo Martin Motorsport’s Lukas Dunner, while Williams claimed his best result of his EuroFormula Open career in fourth, well clear of the those battling behind. It was also Fortec’s best result since Jannes Fittje claimed a podium finish at Silverstone all the way back in September 2017!
Despite being spun around by Doohan on lap one and after a further trip through the gravel trap at turn five, Lundqvist secured an excellent fifth, with sixth going the way of RP Motorsport’s Javier Gonzalez, the Mexican besting his best result of the year so far.
After his drive-through penalty, Hanses could only manage seventh, but he was embroiled in a battle for that place that was only decided late on against Aldo Festante of Teo Martin Motorsport and Carlin Motorsport’s Billy Monger.
Hanses and Festante battled into turn three on the penultimate lap, with the former attempting to make the pass on the Italian only to run off track in doing so. When he re-joined the track, Festante made a reactive move to avoid the German, only to collect Monger, who had attempted to dive up the inside of both in a bid to gain two places. The contact damaged Monger’s suspension and ended his race on the spot, while Festante lost ground to Hanses over the final lap and a half.
Monger had already been hit on the opening lap by team-mate Christian Hahn, with the Brazilian coming off worse and then going through the gravel trap. He pitted as a result and finished a lap down in tenth, behind Motopark’s Cameron Das. Monger was classified eleventh despite failing to finish.
Sato once again took pole position for Sunday’s finale, with the Japanese racer leading into turn one ahead of Hanses, with the Motopark duo unchallenged throughout.
The gap grew to around three seconds early before Hanses attempted to fight back, but Sato had enough in hand to close out the weekend with his eighth victory of the season, and his sixth consecutive win to leave him with a one-hundred and eight point advantage in the championship standings.
The final spot on the podium was a much closer affair however, with Lundqvist claiming his first outright top three finish of the season after overcoming a battle with Dunner. Dunner did find a way passed at one point, going around the outside of turn three, but the stewards deemed the move illegal as he went off track to do so, with the German being told to relinquish the place back to his Swedish rival.
Williams ended his most impressive weekend to date with fifth place, while Monger climbed from the back of the grid to finish sixth for his first points since the opening round at Spa-Francorchamps in June, six races ago.
Gonzalez took seventh ahead of Das, while Carlin duo of Nicolai Kjærgaard and Hahn completed the points scorers, the latter surviving a few wild moments to secure the final point at the expense of Festante and Drivex School racer Rui Andrade.
The final finisher was Doohan, who was forced to pit for a new front wing assembly on lap two after running wide exiting the final turn on the first lap. He was able to stay on the lead lap but was too far adrift of the field to make any moves forward.
Italian Formula 4 – Red Bull Ring
Three drivers representing three different teams took the victories in Austria, with Paul Aron, Dennis Hauger and Giorgio Carrara all triumphant at the Red Bull Ring.
Paul Aron secured his maiden Italian Formula 4 victory in race one, but the newest Mercedes-Benz Junior was made to work for it, with pressure coming from behind from Niklas Krütten throughout the nineteen-lap race.
Sauber Junior Roman Staněk had started from pole position but found himself down to third on the first lap, with Krütten leading into turn one. However, at turn four, Aron made a move to take the lead at Krütten’s expense, while Staněk made a mistake and went through the gravel trap to drop out of contention.
The leading pair were nose to tail throughout the remainder of the race, and the Prema Powerteam driver held on to defeat the Van Amersfoort Racing driver by just 0.768 seconds, which was about as big as the gap between them ever was during the race.
Mücke Motorsport duo Joshua Dürksen and William Alatalo took third and fourth respectively, thanks mainly to a collision between Jenzer Motorsport’s Giorgio Carrara and Bhaitech’s Mikhael Belov that brought out a mid-race safety car, and thanks to a slow restart from Prema’s Alessandro Famularo.
Dennis Hauger also found his way ahead of Famularo to take fifth and was able to close the gap in the championship battle to Prema’ Gianluca Petecof, who could only muster an eighth-place finish behind Van Amersfoort’s Ido Cohen.
However, Petecof was handed a penalty post-race to drop to eleventh, with the points-paying positions being completed by R-ace GP’s Gregoire Saucy, Jenzer Motorsport’s Jonny Edgar and Prema’s Oliver Rasmussen.
Hauger made further ground in the championship battle in round two as the Norwegian climbed from ninth on the grid to lead a Van Amersfoort Racing one-two ahead of Krütten.
The race was neutralised early as multiple cars went off on the opening lap, with Krütten leading away from pole position. On the restart, Carrera and Edgar both ran wide at turn one to allow both Hauger and DRZ Benelli driver Jesse Salmenautio through into second and third, with the duo then switching places heading into turn three.
Hauger was the man on the move as drizzle set in at the Red Bull Ring, with a move swiftly made on Salmenautio to regain second place before instantly catching and passing Krütten for the lead, just before the safety car was required a second time as Mücke Motorsport team-mates Dürksen and Erwin Zanotti collided at the final corner.
The safety car was out longer than expected as Nicola Marinangeli crashed out as the rain worsened, and there was only a solitary lap remaining when the racing resumed, and Hauger held on to take his fourth victory of the season ahead of Krütten and Salmenautio, who upset the form book by taking his maiden top three finish and only his second top ten result of the year.
A great final lap saw Saucy claim an excellent fourth ahead of Alatalo and Cohen, while Edgar and Carrera claimed seventh and eighth ahead of Petecof and Famularo. Race one winner Aron was down in twenty-third after a disappointing race that also saw him penalised for hitting Dürksen.
For the first time in 2019, Jenzer Motorsport were victorious, with Carrara taking his maiden Italian Formula 4 victory after jumping pole sitter Stanek on the opening lap during Sunday’s final race at the Red Bull Ring.
Carrara held off the challenge from Hauger to claim the spoils, with the pair ending just 0.386 seconds apart at the chequered flag, with the leading duo finishing clear of Aron, who completed the podium ahead of Petecof, who started eighth and made a late attack on his team-mate, only to come up short.
Despite starting from pole, Stanek slipped to fifth at the end, although he was well clear of Alatalo, who beat Famularo to the line by just over seven-tenths of a second for sixth, with Dürksen, Saucy and Belov completing the points scorers.
The positions as they were at the chequered flag sees Petecof remain at the top of the championship standings, but the Brazilian is now just four points ahead of Hauger heading into the summer break.