FRANCESCO PIZZI CROWNED 2020 F4UAE CHAMPION IN DUBAI
Italian rookie Francesco Pizzi sealed the 2020 F4UAE Championship powered by Abarth with one race to go at the final round held in Dubai over the weekend, while also clinching the Rookie Champion title and helping his team Xcel Motorsport claim Team Champion honours.
Fifteen year old Pizzi - who has lead the championship standings all year - somewhat struggled early on with tyres and pace, only able to finish fourth in the opening race and fifth in Saturday morning’s Race 2; a race which could have sealed him the title if his nearest rival had not taken victory. With 50 points up for grabs in the final two 30-minute races, and 31 points his margin, Pizzi’s second-place finish in Race 3 was enough to seal the title at the Dubai Autodrome; the same track where he started his open-wheeler campaign back in January.
Pizzi’s impressive season saw him make his open-wheeler debut at the opening round held as a support the famed Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai, and since has amassed eight race wins, one pole position, and 10 podiums, leading home his teammate Lorenzo Fluxa in both the outright and rooking standings by year’s end.
“It’s an emotional win for sure because of a lot of work that we’ve done in the last year with testing to prepare for my first championship,” said Pizzi. “I was expecting the other drivers to be faster than me but we had the pace in the first round, and with the support of my team we were able to keep going with more wins.
“It was a challenging weekend in the beginning, and even though we had a good qualifying the first two races were not so good for the results because we could have won the championship earlier. In Race 3 I started from pole but my teammate got in front and I stayed in P2 all race. We didn’t get a race win this weekend which is what I wanted, but to get the championship trophy is what we have been working hard all year for so I’m very happy and hopefully it is the beginning of more wins in Europe.”
The weekend saw three different drivers claim victory at the Dubai Autodrome, with Pizzi’s teammate Fluxa - who finished second outright in both the drivers and rookie championships - took victory in Race 3; his second career victory. BWT Mücke Motorsport’s Nico Göhler won Race 2 and finished third outright in the overall standings, while Abu Dhabi Racing’s Hamda Al Qubaisi won the first and last races of the round to take her season tally to three victories.
Dubai-based Xcel Motorsport were the team to beat all year, eventually winning the triple crown of titles for a second year in a row which included Teams Champion honours after scoring a total of 11 championship race victories among their drivers and 32 race podiums.
At the end-of-season Gala Awards dinner held in Dubai, the following drivers were congratulated by their teams, peers, officials and category management.
F4UAE Drivers Champions: Francesco Pizzi, Xcel Motorsport
F4UAE Runner-Up: Lorenzo Fluxa, Xcel Motorsport
F4UAE Third Place: Nico Göhler, BWT Mücke Motorsport
F4UAE Rookie Champion: Francesco Pizzi, Xcel Motorsport
F4UAE Teams Champions: Xcel Motorsport
F4UAE Sportsmanship Award: Hamda Al Qubaisi, Abu Dhabi Racing
Full weekend report to follow on www.f4uae.com
The F4UAE Championship powered by Abarth has had one of its strongest seasons to date, with new events, history-making race wins, and more drivers from the MENA region than ever before. With four races remaining in 2020, let's look at the story and numbers of Season #4 and what to expect for this weekend in Dubai.
Starting back in 2016, the F4UAE Championship has been a chosen platform for winter racing where junior drivers from all over the globe are able to hone their race craft straight out of karting, prior to making the leap into competitive open-wheeler racing in Europe. Despite small grids in the launch season, six former F4UAE drivers are now set to compete in the 2020 FIA F3 Championship which is proof that the category is starting to make inroads when it coms to grooming future racing stars on the road to F1.
This year’s season began with a stellar Trophy Round supporting the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November 2019 - a first for the category - where drivers raced in front of their F1 heroes for bragging rights and Abu Dhabi Racing's Hamda Al Qubaisi became the first Arab female racer to win in single-seaters; irrespective of it being a non-championship race. Alex Connor - who cut his teeth karting at the Dubai Kartdrome for Xcel Motorsport in his younger years - also scored a victory.
Then five point-scoring championship rounds were scheduled in 2020, with the opening round in January supporting the famed Hankook Dubai 24 Hours at the Dubai Autodrome. Current championship leader Francesco Pizzi from Italy took a hat trick of race victories in his first weekend racing formula cars, and has been the driver to beat all season. Also leading the rookie standings, he and his teammates have worked hard to also help Xcel Motorsport be the team to beat into the final roud of 2020 ahead of second-placed German squad BWT Mücke Motorsport.
Over the last four rounds, six different drivers have claimed race wins out of a possible 15 races with Pizzi claiming the most with eight victories. German racer Nico Göhler has won three races, with other single-race winners including Nicola Marinangeli from Italy, rookie Erick Zuniga from Mexico, Mallorcan rookie Lorenzo Fluxa and local Emirati racer Hamda Al Qubaisi who won her first open wheeler race in F4UAE at Round 3 in Abu Dhabi; another first for women in the sport. Al Qubaisi has also scored the most number of podiums, with 10 so far ahead of the two Italian racers Pizzi and Marinangeli (both on nine).
This year’s championship has also seen a record number of competitive GCC drivers with three being part of the grid. They include Al Qubaisi who has impressed not just with her race victory but by also scoring three out of four possible pole positions so far, while KSA’s Reema Juffali for Dragon Racing scored her best race result of fifth place last round, and the UAE’s Abdulrahman Al Bloushi for Dream Racing has impressed with massively improved times in his rookie season. Add in Merhbod Shameli from Iran, that brings the total MENA region drivers to four.
This weekend sees the fifth and final round of the 2020 F4UAE Championship back at the Dubai Autodrome (March 6-7, 2020). Isack Hadjar returns for 3Y Technology, while Shameli is unfortunately unable to compete due to travel restrictions in place between Iran and the UAE. Ontrack activity starts with Motorsport Weednesdays private testing on Wednesday March 4; public testing is on Thursday March 5; official practice, qualifying and Race 1 is on Saturday March 6; and the final three races of 2020 will be held on Saturday March 7. Entry to the Dubai Autodrome is free all weekend, with food stalls available onsite.
STATS IN REVIEW:
RACE WINNERS: Out of 15 races, there have been six different race winners. Pizzi (8), Göhler (3), Zuniga (1), Marinangeli (1), Al Qubaisi (1) and Fluxa (1)
POLE POSITIONS: out of four qualifying sessions in 2020, Hamda Al Qubaisi was one three and Pizzi has won one.
PODIUMS: out of a potential 45 podium places, seven different drivers have stood on the podium. Al Qubaisi (10x), Pizzi (9x), Marinangeli (9), Gohler (7x), Fluxa (7x), Zuniga (2x) and Chovanec (1x)
FLUXA TAKES MAIDEN WIN AS PIZZI EXTENDS F4UAE TITLE LEAD
Dubai-based Xcel Motorsport has dominated Round 4 of the F4UAE Championship powered by Abarth with three victories out of four, including a maiden win by Lorenzo Fluxa, while teammate Francesco Pizzi extended his championship points lead with just one round remaining in 2020.
Fifteen-year-old Fluxa’s win in Race 1 was his first career victory out of karting, and his sixth podium to date in 2020. He went on to claim another podium in Race 3 and completed every race over the weekend inside the top five.
While Pizzi – who has scored six race wins prior to the weekend – took victory in Races 2 and 3, and now leads the title chase by 49 points heading into the final round which will be held again at the Dubai Autodrome from March 6-7.
“It’s always nice to win, especially when it’s a first in a single-seater and I hope it’s a first of many,” said Fluxa. “Pulling up near the podium and seeing my dad so emotional and happy, and my mum is also here this weekend, it was quite a moment for me.
“Although I wanted to overtake Nico [Göhler] in the race and I knew I had the pace to, the team told me it wasn’t necessary because he got a penalty for a jump start so he would finish behind me at the end of the race anyway. I’ve had the pace for the whole championship but I feel much more confident now that I’ve already won a race and feel like I can go for more. F4UAE has been a very good pre-season campaign, and I think it’s helped me a lot to get ready for racing in Europe this year.”
BWT Mücke Motorsport’s Nico Göhler took the final race victory on Saturday afternoon, and sits second in the outright championship points. Xcel Motorsport – the reigning drivers, rookie and teams champions – are on track for another potential hat-trick of titles thanks to Pizzi’s success, leading all three points ladders with just four races remaining in 2020.
Pizzi (#51) is one of six drivers to have tasted victory this season, and the only driver other than Göhler (#2) to win multiple races. Other drivers who’ve won a single race each include Fluxa (#7), the UAE’s Hamda Al Qubaisi (#88), Italian Nicola Marinangeli (#14) and Mexican racer Erick Zuniga (#23); all of which fill the top six places in the championship fight respectively.
Twelve drivers contested Round 4 of the F4UAE Championship, with the only change from last round being the return of Constantin Reisch (#52) for 3y Technology, in place of Isack Hadjar.
After dominating the first three rounds in qualifying, Hamda Al Qubaisi was unable to claim a fourth pole position, with the accolade going to Pizzi for the first time this season; a maiden pole position for him in single seaters. Pizzi put in a time of 1m38.404s which was the fastest of the weekend.
Fluxa qualified in second place just 0.101 seconds behind Pizzi, giving Xcel Motorsport their first 1-2 qualification result in 2020. Al Qubaisi managed third fastest.
Prior to the race starting, a three-place grid penalty was given to both Al Qubaisi and Reema Juffali (#18), which were carried over from hearings concerning racing incidents at Round 3.
Pizzi stalled on the start and Göhler jumped to the front ahead a Fluxa; a move that was deemed by stewards during the race to be a jump start. The German and Mallorcan racers battled within half a second of each other on track, but final results reflected Fluxa’s victory after a five-second penalty was applied to Göhler. His BWT Mücke Motorsport teammate Zuniga was also given the same penalty. Al Qubaisi finished third.
While regular race weekends see only one 30-minute race on Fridays, Round 4 saw two races scheduled, with the second being the reversed-grid just prior to sunset. BWT Mücke Motorsport’s Josef Knopp (#4) stalled on the startline, and while drivers scrambled to avoid the Czech racer it was his teammate Göhler who was unable to find enough room around. With broken suspension in the collision, the #2 racer pulled to the side of the front straight and returned to pitlane while safety car was called to retrieve the race car. Knopp circulated around once and retired to pitlane.
On the restart, Pizzi lead the field and extended his margin over his rivals, eventually finishing ahead of teammate Nicola Marinangeli in second and Al Qubaisi in third again.
Saturday morning’s Race 3 would be an important one for the title chase, with Göhler and Marinangeli both tied on equal points for second place outright behind Pizzi on the points ladder.
Al Qubaisi got the better start, but on lap two was overtaken by Pizzi and later by Fluxa; moving her back to third where she finished at race's end. Marinangeli’s stall on the start gave the points advantage to Göhler who finished the race in fourth place. The lacklustre result for Marinangeli meant that the Italian moved from equal second on points to fifth outright.
In the final reverse-grid race, it was Xcel Motorsport’s Zdenek Chovanec (#6) who started from pole with Knopp alongside in P2. Needing to watch their mirrors, the more experienced Göhler and Al Qubaisi started behind on row two.
Göhler – known for his quick starts – took the lead into turn one and never yielded, closely followed by the Emirati youngster. A safety car was called on lap one when Juffali collided with Constantin Reisch (#4), ending both of their races and giving the Saudi a three-place grid penalty to be applied next round for causing an avoidable collision.
Having started in ninth, Marinangeli made up six places at the chequered flag to finish behind Al Qubaisi in second and Göhler in first; the win being his third race victory of 2020. Al Qubaisi took her ninth podium in the last 10 races, and was the only driver to finish all four races on the podium.
After 15 races contested in four rounds, Francesco Pizzi leads the drivers and rookie championship standings by 49 points over Nico Göhler in second, while Lorenzo Fluxa’s race victory assisted his move up the ladder to third outright with one round to go. Xcel Motorsport continues to dominate the teams standings.
Round 5 of the F4UAE Championship powered by Abarth, the grand finale of the 2020 season, will return to the Dubai Autodrome from March 6-7, 2020 with free entry for all.