Push-to-pass and lots of traffic: 5 takeaways from FRECA pre-season testing

The Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine has officially kicked off its 2022 season at Barcelona on the 23rd of March. After 6 days of testing at Montmeló, Le Castellet and Monza, we are now able to go through the main takeaways of this preseason testing, before advancing to the opening round at Monza on the 22nd of April.

By Perceval Wolff

Traffic, traffic everywhere

The main problem of having an ultra-attractive championship is that everybody wants to join it. With 39 or 40 cars during testing and at least 36, 37 drivers doing the whole season, drivers and teams have (re)discovered the importance of managing the traffic to get a clean lap. 

“I only got one clean lap because of the traffic, and it was my first one when the tyres were still a bit cold. Even if a driver is only P20 to P25 in testing, he may have been impeded, so we cannot draw conclusions from the standings”, MP Motorsport driver Sami Meguetounif explained at Le Castellet.

Because of the number of cars this season, the FRECA organisers have decided to devvide the field into two groups during qualifying, so there will be less cars on track at the same time. “I think it’s important for drivers to know how to manage traffic, to prepare them for F3 where there are 30 cars. But this year, we think it’s necessary to make groups so that qualifying goes smoothly and sets representative starting grids for the races”, explained FRECA coordinator Pascal Eyraud.

Hadrien David FRECA
Hadrien David (R-ace GP) during pre-season testing at Barcelona | Credit: FRECA

Push-to-pass not up to the expectations?

The push-to-pass introduction was one of the biggest talking points of pre-season testing, especially in Barcelona. This new system can be used up to five times per race and will give a power boost which lasts up to 15 seconds per use. It has been introduced to facilitate overtaking, which was one the major issues last season.

All drivers got to use it during testing. However, most of the drivers were not convinced. “It doesn’t seem to be that useful”, explained Axel Gnos (G4 Racing) to F1 Feeder Series. “The cars are still the same, they are still very heavy and hard to drive. Even if you don’t use the push-to-pass, I think you can be able to successfully defend your position if you do it aggressively.” His teammate Owen Tangavelou feels the same: “I didn’t have the feeling that push-to-pass was bringing much difference.”

Is Gabriele Minì about to do a Grégoire Saucy?

An ART GP driver in his 2nd season with the team, taking the crown with nearly no opposition despite some highly-rated rivals. This was the fairytale of Grégoire Saucy last season. And Gabriele Minì is surely eager to reproduce this kind of domination. 

Three tenths, two tenths, four tenths. These were the notable gaps between Gabriele Minì and the driver in second position during the first three days of testing. Moreover, he has consistently been in the top positions on the other days. Even though these standings should be taken with a grain of salt as it is only testing, the Italian driver seemed to be flying. 

Returning drivers look to be the only ones who can stop the protégé of Nicolas Todt. Drivers like Gabriel Bortoleto (R-ace GP), Michael Belov (MP), Dino Beganovic (Prema) and Kas Haverkort (Van Amersfoort Racing) showed good pace. And even though they were quite discrete during these last few days, it seems obvious that the drivers who finished P2 and P3 in the standings last year (Hadrien David and Paul Aron) will battle at the front.

Tim Tramnitz FRECA
Tim Tramnitz (Trident) during pre-season testing at Monza | Credit: FRECA

Trident in the mix

Nobody quite new what to expect from Trident, who joined the championship this year. After taking over JD Motorsport, who finished 11th in the standings without scoring points last season, the Italian squad had a busy winter reorganizing the team. Hiring three rookies was also a risk, even though Tim Tramnitz, Roman Bilinski and Leonardo Fornaroli have already shown how talented they are in F4.

However, Trident definitely looks on the right path. They have constantly placed one car in the top 12 of each session, and their drivers seem to be in contention for the top positions of the Rookie standings. The atmosphere is positive, the drivers and the engineers are working well together to improve themselves. Trident did not face any major issues and looks set for a great maiden season in FRECA.

Few crashes and wiser drivers?

Compared to last year there were very few crashes and red flags. “Drivers looked much more cautious this year in testing. I think they understand the importance of track experience to prepare for the season. However, when we will come to qualifying in a few weeks, drivers will push to the absolute limit”, says Pascal Eyraud. 

One of last year’s problems was the number of safety cars during the races and the crashes in qualifying by backmarkers which prevented frontrunners from fighting for pole position. The new rule that splits the field in two qualifying groups could reduce this.

Header photo credit: FRECA

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