Antonelli bounces back in dominant display: 4 takeaways from Italian F4 at Misano

Having experienced a nightmarish season opener in which he only scored one point, Mercedes junior Andrea Kimi Antonelli got his title goals back on track with a trio of podiums, although his teammate Rafael Câmara was able to spoil a hat trick of wins by the Italian. This was just one storyline to watch, however, as we draw our conclusions from a frantic second round of the Italian F4 season.

By Alexander Studenkov

Antonelli’s rebound

Antonelli took an early hit in the Italian F4 championship as a dose of bad luck at Imola befell the Italian youngster. Taking three wins at Hockenheim in ADAC F4, however, helped Antonelli put the first-round disappointment behind him. After clinching all three pole positions at the Misano World Circuit, he won the opening race thanks to a committed overtake on Câmara and dominated Race 2 from start to finish.

Whilst the first two races helped him make up the ground he lost at Imola, things could have gone even better. With eight minutes of Race 3 remaining, Antonelli found himself three seconds ahead of Câmara when a safety car was called for a collision further down the order. At the restart, Antonelli opted to wait until the final corner to accelerate, making it easy for Câmara behind to take the lead and subsequently the race win.

Onlookers have come to expect excellence from the Mercedes junior, but 68 out of 75 points from an F4 weekend remains a truly special score. Antonelli’s mistake at the safety car restart, however, shows that he is still vulnerable.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli leads Rafael Câmara at the restart in Race 3 | Credit: ACI Sport

Câmara: The example of opportunism

Having gone under the radar thanks to his teammate Antonelli’s supreme performances, Câmara put on a showing that proved his ability to use the chances presented to him in the third race.

Having taken second in the first race after losing out in the wheel-to-wheel battle with Antonelli and fourth place in Race 2, the Ferrari Driver Academy member found himself with a shot at the victory on Sunday after the late-race safety car removed the gap between him and leader Antonelli.

Câmara charged through on the restart, taking the lead with a brave move into Turn 3 having remained on the outside of his rival in the previous turn. The Brazilian won the race and moved himself into a commanding lead in the championship. Despite being lucky on occasion, he has capitalised on opportunities in the most crucial moments.

US Racing deploys warriors

With Prema’s pace going unmatched throughout the weekend, the other teams could only sparingly intervene in the battle for the top positions. Incidentally, the only three drivers who were able to beat the red cars all came from US Racing, those being second-year F4 drivers Alex Dunne, Kacper Sztuka and Marcus Amand.

Though Dunne lost the championship lead after Race 2, in which a start from 33rd place due to the deletion of his best lap time in qualifying and a subsequent retirement cost him valuable points, he came out of the weekend with another impressive showing. In Race 1, a clever double overtake on the battling pair of Charlie Wurz and James Wharton gave the Irishman a fourth podium, and he even hung on to seventh in Race 3 despite losing his front wing in the closing laps.

US Racing’s Marcus Amand keeps the pursuing pack at bay in Race 2 | Credit: ACI Sport

Sztuka had a trickier weekend, retiring after contact in the first race, but he was able to finish fourth in Race 3, taking full advantage of the chaos at the restart to avoid the battling trio of Wurz, Nikita Bedrin and Wharton. With this result, Sztuka hangs on to fourth in the championship, doing yet more to convince potential sponsors to help him complete the full season.

The most stunning comeback drive undoubtedly came from Amand. In the opening third of Race 3, the Frenchman slid off into the gravel, seemingly ending his pursuit of points. Amand, however, had other ideas. By Lap 13 he had clawed his way back into the points, and the melee following the safety car enabled him to charge through to third, securing the second podium of his single-seater career.

‘Kerbing that we see at a local shopping centre’

This is the phrase Italian F4 commentator Ian Salvestrin used to describe the sausage kerbs littered across the Misano track when Ivan Domingues briefly went flying at the final corner early in Race 3.

Following Imola, where Dunne’s car spectacularly took off at Tamburello, Misano showed a more egregious example of their use. Jenzer driver Alex Partyshev went over a sausage kerb during the second qualifying session, causing immediate pain in the Ukrainian’s back. An ambulance took him to the medical centre at the track, and he was then transferred to hospital, where it was discovered that, thankfully, nothing was broken. However, Partyshev was still forced to miss the entire round, adding to a list of drivers injured by sausage kerbs that includes Sophia Flörsch, Alex Peroni, Sean Gelael, Abbie Eaton and Santiago Ramos, whose incident ironically happened at the same track with the same team last year.

Once again, this incident calls into question the usage of sausage kerbs at racetracks, and there will be more cases like Partyshev’s if changes are not implemented soon.

Header photo credit: ACI Sport

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