Antonelli takes commanding lead after 2022 F4 UAE season opener

The opening round of the F4 UAE championship kicked off at the Yas Marina Circuit where both Prema and penalties dominated the weekend, let’s go through the events of the first racing weekend of 2022.

By Charlie Parker

Qualifying

In the first of two qualifying sessions, it was MP Motorsport’s Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak who set the timing screens ablaze, setting a quick lap early and then dominating the session from there on. Inthraphuvasak’s time was a tenth quicker than second place Aiden Neate with Andrea Kimi Antonelli putting his Prema third for race one and two.

In qualifying two, it was Antonelli who this time dominated the timing screens, even more than Inthraphuvasak did. Antonelli’s time of a 1:54.923 was three and a half tenths quicker than second placed James Wharton with Inthraphuvasak placing his MP in third for race three.

Race 1

It was a tense race one where Antonelli won by three thousandths of a second from Neate with Wharton finishing right up against the gearbox of his fellow Prema’s.

Inthraphuvasak, who was on pole, stalled at the start, costing him a points finish with Neate taking the lead. Suleiman Zanfari, Brando Badoer and Jamie Day then collided, forcing a safety car. The safety car stayed out for over 15 minutes. 

On the eventual restart, Antonelli got the better start, challenging Neate for the win. The battle allowed the Australian of Wharton to catch up and make a three wide Prema lineup. But it was Antonelli who won the photo finish.

Multiple cars were given a three-place penalty for the next race for taking the chequered flag twice.

Race 2

In a shortened race, Antonelli and Neate once again battled for the win, with the Italian, once again winning the race. 

Ollie Gray took the lead after lap one, being chased by Inthraphuvasak and Antonelli and they both overtook Gray. The Prema driver would eventually take off, gaining a lead of two seconds and completing the fastest lap of the whole weekend. Neate tried to close Antonelli down but could not get within the five second gap needed to take the win, after a blend line infringement gave the Italian a five second penalty. 

Race 3

Antonelli, starting on pole, pulled a one second gap quickly, but a Nikita Bedrin crash brought out a safety car. It was a Prema one, two, three and four on the restart with Antonelli once again, pulling away from the pack. It was cruising for the Mercedes junior driver from there.

Antonelli would come home for another win, with Neate in second after Wharton’s car stopped on the final lap. Inthraphuvasak battled Charlie Wurz to the very end to take, what he thought was, third.

The official race results came out with Inthraphuvasak as the winner after 11 cars, including Antonelli and Neate, were found to have infringed the blend line. That gave Wurz a second place and Antonelli third.

Race 4

In the final race of the weekend, Antonelli wrapped up his fantastic weekend by finishing second after starting on reverse grid 12th, while also setting the fastest lap. Meanwhile, Taylor Barnard took the first victory for new team PHM Racing. With Xcel Motorsport’s Jamie Day finishing in third.

Ivan Domingues, starting on reverse grid pole, started off slow and allowed Zanfari to take the lead and Barnard to second. The two would fight for the lead just a minute later, with the British driver overtaking the Portuguese for the lead. Zanfari would quickly fall behind Day, Miron Pingasov and Inthraphuvasak. 

Meanwhile, Antonelli had already made his way to seventh and an audacious, three-wide move moved him up to fifth. Antonelli hunted down Pingasov while Barnard stretched his lead to two seconds.

Another brilliant three-wide manoeuvre around Inthraphuvasak and Day pushed Antonelli up to second but the six second advantage Barnard now had was too much for the Italian. F4 UAE next heads to the Dubai Autodrome on the 28th January.

Header photo credit: F4 UAE / Adriano Coutinho

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