Paul Aron is back: 5 takeaways from FRAC Round 4 at Dubai

With just one weekend of FRAC remaining, we are seeing some drivers turn their fortunes around. Arthur Leclerc maintains his consistency and extends his championship lead over Spanish rookie Pepe Martí. Meanwhile, the Mumbai Falcons continue to look quick and motor towards their inaugural teams’ championship. With Round 4 being the final time that we’ll see FRAC race at the Dubai Autodrome this season, here are five points of interest from the weekend’s action.

By Tyler Foster

Aron dominates qualifying

Coming into Round 4, Paul Aron had only scored three points finishes, with his highest finish being sixth. However, the Estonian driver finally illustrated his talent with a dominant performance in qualifying, managing to score both pole positions in the qualifying sessions, a feat which no one else has achieved so far this year.

One of the Prema engineers stated that with these F3 cars, the key to setup is linked to the rear suspension geometry. It was this change for Aron and his team that made the difference to their qualifying pace and it proved pivotal, as previously the Abu Dhabi Racing by Prema driver had previously struggled in qualifying.

Unfortunately for the Estonian, he failed to convert either pole and finished second in both Race 1 and Race 3. Despite this missed opportunity, Aron may finally have turned a corner and with points finishes in all three races in the weekend, he has moved up to tenth in the championship. He will be looking to end the winter series on another high in Abu Dhabi next weekend.

Bearman the bulldog

Mumbai Falcons have the privilege of being able to bring in FDA member and 2021 ADAC F4 and Italian F4 Champion, Ollie Bearman, with two rounds remaining. Taking the place of Sebastián Montoya, Bearman has already been announced as an F3 driver with Prema for 2022. These two rounds allow Bearman to test himself against strong competition while racing in Formula 3 machinery for the first time.

With a lot of expectation on his shoulders coming into Round 4, Bearman had a decent qualifying. Finishing sixth in both sessions meant that he was just behind his two teammates for his FRAC debut.

In Race 1, a tussle between the Brit and teammate Dino Beganovic left the Swede stranded on the side of the track. After some good battling, Bearman finished seventh. This meant that he started fourth for Race 2. After a good start, the Brit sat second with half the race gone. Jak Crawford made his way to third and then the battle for second began. The two drivers were contesting for multiple laps with Crawford looking the quicker of the two, but Bearman holding his ground with some brilliant defensive manoeuvres. Ultimately, the two raced side-by-side out of the final corner on the last lap, with the American snatching second at the flag.

Bearman struggled in Race 3 but will have the opportunity to improve in the final round next weekend, now with some experience under his belt. Compared to his two teammates, he clearly had the pace to contend for most of the weekend and his continuous battling was one of the highlights of this round.

Mini returns

Italian prodigy Gabriele Mini was the championship leader after the first round but was only scheduled to participate in the first two rounds of FRAC with Hitech GP. After missing Round 3, it was announced that Hitech would be bringing Mini back for the final two rounds. 

The 16-year-old will be racing in FRECA for the second consecutive season with ART GP later this year after finishing seventh as a rookie. He came into FRAC this year as one of the most exciting drivers and proved his raw talent straight away with two podiums (including a win) in Round 1.

For his returning week, he didn’t excel but instead was consistent and improved over the course of the weekend. He qualified seventh and fifth and would have scored a podium in Race 3 if it wasn’t for receiving a post-race penalty for failing to hand back a place having gained an advantage by exceeding track limits. 

He will be looking to finish his FRAC campaign strongly before shifting his focus solely to FRECA, which starts in April. 

Hadjar finally scores a victory

Being a member of the Red Bull Junior Team means that pressure is a given. French-Algerian driver Isack Hadjar has continuously risen to this and did so again this weekend, scoring his first win of the series. With three prior podiums this year, Hadjar has been consistently battling towards the front but had a poor third round last weekend.

The Hitech driver started the weekend strongly with a great qualifying, finishing second and fourth in the two sessions. In Race 1, Hadjar started on the front row alongside pole sitter Paul Aron. Going into the first turn, the pair were side by side with Hadjar getting the slightly better start off the line. With a wonderful move round the outside of Aron, Hadjar took and kept the lead from the Estonian to get his first FRAC win. 

While this could have set him up for a good weekend, he only scored one point over the next two races. In Race 2, he started tenth but suffered from clutch problems. In Race 3, starting fourth he was involved in numerous battles until his tyres unexpectedly went off in the final laps, resulting in Hadjar dropping to tenth where he finished. 

Ultimately, it’s a mixed weekend for Hadjar but he has moved up to third in the championship.

Pasma gives Evans GP first win

Finnish driver Patrik Pasma joined the series for Round 3 with Evans GP after competing with the team in F3 Asia last year. After managing a fifth-place finish last weekend, he struggled in qualifying. He started eighteenth for Race 1 but scythed his way through the field, eventually scoring points and finishing ninth after a couple of post-race penalties ahead of him. 

Starting in second for Race 2, Pasma overtook pole sitter Francesco Braschi into turn one and led the field. Following a safety car, Pasma had British phenom Ollie Bearman chasing his tail, however he never really looked troubled. He extended his lead and ended up winning the race by over seven seconds.

The Finn scored points in all three races. This performance is a massive contribution to Evans GP who have struggled as a team in comparison to last year. This is their team’s first victory this year in FRAC.

Header photo credit: Formula Regional Asian Championship

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