5 takeaways from a frantic 2022 FRAC season opener

The FIA winter series have begun and with it, the newly renamed Formula Regional Asian Championship (FRAC) enters a new era of competition. The first round of FRAC saw some intense racing and great action taking place at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. With that in mind, here are five points of interest to take away from the results of Round 1.

By Tyler Foster

Marvellous Montoya

Being the son of a former F1 great always brings expectation by the bucket load, but it seems at the age of just 16 that Colombia’s Sebastián Montoya is coping just fine. The son of Juan Pablo Montoya signed with Mumbai Falcons for FRAC after he managed nine podiums in Italian F4 last year, finishing fourth in the standings and scoring a further three podiums in ADAC F4 from just six races. 

Despite being the youngest driver in the team (Dino Beganovic is 18 and Arthur Leclerc is 21), Montoya  showed his raw speed and talent all weekend long with an outstanding pole position in the first qualifying session on Friday. Not content with just that, he went on to convert pole with a lights-to-flag victory in race one, confirming his presence among the best on the grid. 

With two further points finishes, including fourth in the reverse grid race, he’s currently third in the standings. Unfortunately, he’ll only be racing in the first three rounds of the series with British driver Ollie Bearman taking his place for the final two.

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The halo once again proves its worth

Since its introduction into motorsport, the halo has worked wonders as a safety device. So much so that it’s easy to already take its role for granted. However, after a big incident at the start of race three, the halo once again succeeded in protecting a driver. 

At lights out, Evans GP driver and F2 2022 rookie Cem Bölükbaşı stalled on the grid. With many unsighted drivers behind speeding away off the line, it was the unfortunate Amna Al Qubaisi that hit the stricken Evans GP car. The collision also collected the passing car of Salih Yoluç. The incident was serious enough to bring out the red flag and stop proceedings for almost half an hour. 

While the crash structures of the car protected both Bölükbaşı and Al Qubaisi, with the Evans GP car being heavily damaged in the process, it was Salih Yoluç who experienced the greatest risk with the wheel of Bölukbaşı’s car lifting off the ground and catching the top of his car’s halo. 

Yoluç posted a photo on Twitter showing the extent of the hit on his halo and once again we’re left wondering just what might have been if not for the useful safety structure. All three drivers are safe and uninjured. A quick reminder for all motorsport fans just how useful this safety feature is at all levels.

Hitech’s Mini leads the Championship

Despite being a Formula 2 team, Hitech struggled last year in this championship, finishing fifth out of seven teams. It’s clear that this year they’ve stepped up their game. It also helps when you have a driver like Gabriele Mini racing for you. 

At the age of just 15, the Italian youngster won the Italian F4 championship in 2020. In 2021, Mini had an impressive rookie season in FRECA and has clearly carried his momentum into 2022. He was quickest in practice, fourth in first qualifying and managed pole in the second qualifying. 

In race one, he overtook Arthur Leclerc with an excellent move that saw him finish second. He unfortunately retired from race two after a collision with Dino Beganovic. In the final race, he converted pole and won the race but was very lucky after he also stalled off the line at the start, only for the race to be red flagged immediately due to the collisions behind him. He now leads the championship by three points but will only compete in the first two rounds of the series.

Mumbai Falcons show their strength

When you’re supported by Prema and have Ferrari academy drivers racing for you, you mean business. The Indian team Mumbai Falcons are looking to break through this year and have certainly started as they wish to continue. 

With arguably the strongest driver line-up on the grid of Sebastián Montoya, Arthur Leclerc, Dino Beganovic and Ollie Bearman, the Falcons were expected to be strong. They were quick in qualifying, claiming one of the poles with Montoya while Leclerc and Beganovic have shown consistency throughout. 

In Round 1 they achieved three podiums including a race win and now find their drivers second, third and tenth in the standings. Arthur Leclerc looks to be a strong contender for the drivers’ championship as the Falcons set the mark as the team to beat. With Ollie Bearman also coming into play in the final two rounds, they are the team to watch. 

COVID thwarts two drivers

Unfortunately, two drivers on the entry list for this weekend weren’t able to compete as they received positive COVID results prior to qualifying and could not take part. 

Both Pinnacle Motorsport’s Dilano van’t Hoff and BlackArts’ Ido Cohen missed out on Round 1, but will hopefully return next weekend for action at the Dubai Autodrome for Round 2. Dutchman van’t Hoff is the reigning Spanish F4 Champion and is a highly anticipated prospect, while Israeli driver Cohen struggled in FIA F3 in 2021 and is looking to regain some momentum.

Header photo credit: Formula Regional Asian Championship

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