Dubai, UAE, January 29, 2017 - Team Motopark’s Jonathan Aberdein has won two from three races at Round 3 of the 2016/17 Formula 4 UAE Championship this weekend, but it was his Venezuelan teammate Sebastian Wahbeh who became the first new driver to claim victory in the inaugural season of the Middle East’s newest open-wheeler championship.
For the first two championship rounds, the experienced German F4 team had claimed victory in all seven previous races thanks to South African, Aberdein (#21), but Motopark’s expansion from a two-car to four-car operation at the Dubai Autodrome round saw added competition among the field.
Wahbeh – who competed fulltime in the Italian F4 Championship last year with one race win and pole position to his credit – finished second in his first race on Friday evening before the 16-year-old claimed honours in the reverse grid Race 9 on Saturday morning.
“Sebastian showed good results, strong pace, he had two front-row qualifying results, a second place finish and one win, so it’s all positive for his development as a racing driver,” said Team Motopark principal Timo Rumpfkeil.
“He has already done his winter testing in Europe but this was the first time he has driven the German F4-spec car. With his plans to race again in Italy in a few months time, it was really important for him to get back into racing mode and we’re happy with how he has competed against everyone and also worked with the team.
“For Jonathan, there has been a lot of pressure on him this year, especially with his teammate Logan [Sargeant] pushing him the whole season. He was unlucky not to get that win but it is unrealistic to win everything. These results are still good preparation for European racing which starts in a few months time,” concluded Rumpfkeil.
Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of ATCUAE and Emirates Motor Sports Foundation, added his praise for all competitors as the season heads towards its final two rounds.
“I would like to congratulate all of our competitors for their sportsmanship and passion in developping their racing careers here in the UAE. We are very happy to see everyone improving their results, especially our drivers from the GCC, and we wish everyone all the best as we end the year at Yas Marina Circuit in the next two months,” said Ben Sulayem.
PRACTICE & QUALIFYING SUMMARY
Sixteen-year-old Wahbeh (#7) and circuit racing debutant Charles Weerts (#25) from Belgium both impressed for Team Motpark early in the weekend, never sitting outside the top four positions in official practice and qualifying.
Wahbeh was the first driver to lap the Dubai circuit in the 1m37s bracket, until Aberdein topped qualifying for the third straight event with a best lap of 1m37.591s. Dubai-based Sean Babington (#4) from Energy Dubai F4 Racing Team qualified fastest of the local drivers in fifth, behind the four Team Motopark competitors.
Aberdein lead from pole position to his eighth race win of the championship, while his full-season teammate and leading rookie Sargeant stalled off the startline. Wahbeh benefitted, moving from third to second place, where he remained until the end of the 20mins session.
Australian Oscar Piastri (88) from Dragon F4 and Babington maintained third and fourth positions respectively for most of the first race, until Sargeant carved through the field to overtake both by the chequered flag, and taking the final step on the podium.
An eventful reverse grid Race 9 on Saturday morning saw Rasgaira Motorsport’s David Malukas (#79) from the USA take the lead on lap one, holding off the majority of the field until Wahbeh charged from the last row to first place by the completion of the race. Holding out the remaining hungry Team Motopark drivers, Malukas claimed second outright, his second podium finish for the season, ahead of Aberdein in third.
First lap incidents in Saturday morning’s Race 9 saw Sargeant and Weerts both suffering front-end damage; Sargeant by out-braking himself at turn one and meeting the tyre barriers, while Weerts collided with Qatar’s Ahmad Al Muhannadi.
Piastri and Babington again finished fourth and fifth in Race 9, with Piastri’s results being his highest to date after only having made his circuit-racing debut at the last round in Abu Dhabi.
With Race 10’s starting grid decided by each driver’s second-fastest qualifying lap, Team Motopark had the advantage from the get-go with Aberdein and Sargeant back on the top two steps of the podium, Babington claimed his sixth third-place finish for the season, while Wahbeh finished seventh after being given a drive-through penalty for a starting infringement.
GCC NATIONS TROPHY
In the battle of the GCC competitors, QMMF F4 Team’s Abdulrahman Tolefat (#20) showed consistent improvement on his previous lap times after having benefitted from extended pre-event testing. However, Qatar teammate Ahmad Al Muhannadi (#22) was able to qualify fastest and finish first across all three races.
With the weekend seeing F4UAE promoters introducing the new GCC Nations Trophy plate – awarded to the highest-placed finishing GCC driver for every race of the season moving forward – Al Muhannadi was awarded the GCC honours, and leads the points standings for the outright GCC Nations Cup title set to be awarded at season's end; a big achievement considering the 2016/17 F4UAE season is his first in circuit racing.
South African Jonathan Aberdein maintains his driver’s championship points lead ahead of Sargeant – who also leads the rookie standings – with Babington sitting third outright, leading the locally based drivers.
The penultimate round of the 2016/17 F4UAE Championship, round four, will be held at the Home of F4UAE, Yas Marina Circuit from February 10-11. The Abu Dhabi circuit will host Races 11 to 14 of the season, along with the season finale in early March.
Sebastian Wahbeh (VEN), Team Motopark (#7): “I’m feeling very happy and even if it was a different weekend with some good results, it was good to start the year with some positivity. Jonathan already has one year in F4 like me and Logan has some racing experience but it was fun battling with them and to go from last to first. We started on the last row and I enjoyed passing all the cars. For sure I want to get more confidence with these [Hankook] tyres and improve the driving next time.”
David Malukas (USA), Rasgaira Motorsports (#79): “There’s definitely a lot to improve after jumping into these cars from karting, like the clutch is still very new to me and I have to learn to manoeuvre more and get past people better. But other than that, I was really happy with second place. I started third and moved to first in one corner and I had a good gap to Aberdein and Wahbeh. We had the safety car and they got right back on me, and then Sebastian got me on the restart, but overall it was good to hold second position and finish on a high.”
Ahmad Al Muhannadi (QAT), QMMF F4 Team (#22): “Before in the season, I not understand the car and how I was to best use the brakes and how to race with other drivers. But now I am feeling more confident and this weekend was very fun. Winning the GCC trophy was very good for me and it makes me feel motivated to continue to learn in my racing career. I am very proud for QMMF to be on the podium, they give me everything to be racing and now I can give back with this trophy.”