PIZZI OUTPERFORMS AT 2020 F4UAE CHAMPIONSHIP OPENER IN DUBAI
Italian rookie racer Francesco Pizzi has starred in the opening point-scoring round of the 2020 F4UAE Championship powered by Abarth, after winning all three races at Dubai Autodrome, where the category was once again a support to the famed Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai (January 8-10).
A field of 12 drivers from 10 countries competed, including three drivers from the GCC region, namely Abu Dhabi Racing's Hamda Al Qubaisi (UAE), Dream Racing's Abdulrahman Al Bloushi (UAE) and Dragon Racing's Reema Juffali (KSA).
Having set the fastest times in pre-event testing, Pizzi in the #51 Tatuus racer qualified second fastest on Friday before charging on to the three race victories which included a hard-fought win in the reverse-grid Race 2. The Xcel Motorsport new recruit scored his maiden single-seater race wins after having only ever competed in karting previously.
“This year’s field of drivers is certainly our strongest line-up to date, with the top five in qualifying being less than one second apart and majority of the field consistently less than two,” said category technical delegate Craig Thompson. “When you consider that half of the field are rookies, it’s impressive to see the caliber of drivers this season and such strong pace early on. It bodes well for a great season ahead.
“Congratulations to Francesco Pizzi for being the standout driver of the weekend, and to our reigning champions Xcel Motorsport for again having a selection of drivers who continually raise the benchmark. We can’t wait to see how the competition grows at Round 2 next week in Abu Dhabi,” concluded Thompson.
Having raced that the non-championship Trophy Round in November, UAE youngster Hamda Al Qubaisi (#88) lead the way in opening practice and continued strong form into qualifying where she claimed her first ever pole position with a time of 2m0.813s; 0.191 seconds ahead of Pizzi.
This isn’t the first time a woman has taken pole position in F4UAE, with her older sister Amna scoring the fastest qualifying time at the non-championship Trophy Round supporting the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix six weeks ago.
Pizzi’s Xcel Motorsport teammates filled the rest of the top five including Lorenzo Fluxa (#7) in third, Scottish racer Dexter Patterson (#11) in fourth and Zdenek Chovanec (#6) from Venezuela in fifth.
Hamda Al Qubaisi led the field in Race 1 from pole position however despite Pizzi making a slow start, recovered to take the lead into turn two on the opening lap. Fluxa slotted into second ahead of Al Qubaisi and the top three maintained their position for majority of the first half of the race.
The next battle group of Nicola Marinangeli (#14), Nico Göhler (#2) and rookie Dexter Patterson (#11) swapped places mid race until Marinangeli pressured Al Qubaisi to move up to third place; both Patterson and Göhler also moved through with Al Qubaisi finishing sixth in race one. The gap between Pizzi and Fluxa at the finishline was just 0.201 seconds, with Xcel Motorsport claiming positions one to four and claiming their first complete podium of 2020.
3Y Technology’s Constantin Reisch (#52) was a non-starter due to technical issues which surfaced in qualifying.
Race 2’s reverse grid race saw Al Qubaisi back on pole, with Göhler alongside on the front row. Pizzi started from position six. Four drivers jumped the start including Göhler, Chovanec, Marinangeli and Reisch who were all given a five-second penalty post-race for a false start. Göhler did lead the pack on track until being spun around mid-race by Fluxa; the latter being given a 10-second penalty due for causing an avoidable collision.
Pizzi inherited the lead and and victory as a result, while continuing tyre struggles hampered Al Qubaisi who managed to hold on for second place; claiming her first podium finish in single-seaters and becoming the first Emirati to do so in a point-scoring championship race in F4UAE. While Chovanec and Fluxa crossed the line in third and fourth respectively, their time penalties meant that Marinangeli was promoted up onto the podium. Juffali completed just five laps and failed to finish due to throttle sensor issue.
With wet weather conditions affecting Friday’s racing, Race 3 took place on a drying track with Al Qubaisi on pole. Despite leading at the start, spinning on the opening lap caused chaos further afield as she collided with Chovanec who tried to avoid her. A safety car intervention was called and Al Qubaisi retired to pitlane.
Pizzi moved into the lead and made a strong restart, being unchallenged until the chequered flag, as Fluxa, Göhler and Marinangeli battled for second place. A last corner pass by Marinangeli earned him runner-up honours, with Fluxa beating Göhler and Juffali to finish third.
Due to Race 3 being delayed on Friday because of the wet weather, Race 4 was cancelled.
Pizzi now leads the driver's and rookie championship while his team Xcel Motorsport - which claimed eight of the possible nine podium places available - leads the team's championship.
The F4UAE Championship powered by Abarth begins its point-scoring championship season in January, as a support to the Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai; the first event of a five-round season based within the United Arab Emirates. For more information head to www.f4uae.com