French F4 has recently seen the emergence rival to Hugh Barter’s dominance in 16-year-old Alessandro Giusti. F1 Feeder Series sat with the young Frenchman to talk about his progression this year, the title fight, and his future in FRECA.
By Perceval Wolff
After the first half of the season, Hugh Barter seemed to be easily cruising towards the French F4 title, thanks to a 67-points gap on his nearest rival Souta Arao. Reigning Junior champion, Alessandro Giusti was only third, 69 points adrift of the Australian.
Three rounds later and everything has changed for the Frenchman Guisti, he will enter the final round as the new championship leader, a first in his single-seater career. Giusti is boosted with confidence before the Paul-Ricard meeting next week.
“I don’t feel any special pressure because I’m leading a championship. We have a solid gap of 32 points on Barter, and it’s clearly more comfortable to be 32 points ahead than behind. Last year, the round at Paul-Ricard was one of my best ones. I did P2 with the fastest lap of the race, and I nearly got pole. I really like this track; tests went well, I’m in a good rhythm. I scored the last two pole positions… all good things come in threes as we say!” he explained.
Giusti has made great progress over the season, taking the championship lead at Valencia. Giusti has been helped somewhat by championship regulations that forbid drivers who have previously raced on French F4 tracks in other series to score any points. As Hugh Barter has taken the decision to race in French and Spanish F4 with Campos, he knew at the start of the season he would be ineligible for points at Spa-Francorchamps and Valencia in French F4. F1 Feeder Series asked Giusti if he feels this ruling is fair on Barter:
“Fair… I don’t know, French F4 rules have always been like this. But what is certain is that he got so much more track time compared to all the other drivers of the championship. He has so much more experience and that helps him to arrive confident at literally every track. I have done something like 10 days of testing, it’s much less compared to him. It clearly gave him an advantage, especially at the start of the year.
“Nobody was really confident at the beginning at Nogaro for example. There have also been big gaps in the calendar, such as between Magny-Cours and Spa-Francorchamps. We didn’t run much between these two and a half months, while he did three Spanish F4 meetings. He is always in the rhythm, it makes a real difference, for sure” develops Giusti.
A tense finish to the season
It would be unfair to say Giusti is only leading the championship thanks to Barter’s ineligibility to score points in two rounds. The Australian seemed to be in a league of his own at the start of the season, as he dominated the first four rounds. But at Lédenon and Valencia, everything changed with Giusti joining him at the sharp end of the grid. Four pole positions out of four, one win, three P2, always in the top 5, Giusti’s consistency went a long way to closing the gap on Barter.
“At Valencia, I should, or could, have won at least once, in Race 1. But I knew Barter was very aggressive with me. If we had collided together, it would have been so stupid from myself to lose 25 points like this. So at Valencia, I managed my races to collect the maximum amount of points. I could have gotten more wins, but I’m still happy with myself.”
Has Giusti found something special in the understanding of the car, in his driving style? “I’m not sure, but at Lédenon, I was really feeling the car, I was so confident, much more than at the start of the year.
“I don’t think it’s a problem of adapting to the Gen2 car, because I was the fastest driver at the pre-season testing in Le Mans. But I got a mechanical problem at Nogaro qualifying, and in Pau’s streets I got stuck in the traffic. So I wouldn’t say I struggled to adapt, but maybe I was not as confident with the car as I am now” reveals Alessandro Giusti.
It may be only Giusti’s second season in F4, but once again he will finish the season on a high. In 2021, despite being the youngest driver of the field, he completed the year at the same level as title contenders Esteban Masson, Macéo Capietto… and Hugh Barter.
“To be honest, I have no idea why I struggle so much at the start. Well, last year, it was quite logical, I was only 14 years old, I was not physically ready, or even mentally. I know that a click happened at Monza when I told myself “it’s all or nothing,” and I scored pole. It gave me so much confidence in myself.”
“This year… I knew I would be fast at Lédenon, but in Valencia, it was really difficult for me in the two days of testing we did on this track in June, so I thought it would be hard for me. I was like one second behind the leader in the tests, but at the end of the day, in qualifying, I put seven tenths to Barter, and nine tenths to all other drivers.”
“I’m not here to finish second”
With his title rival ineligible for two of the seven rounds what are the Frenchman’s thoughts on potentially winning the French F4 championship? “A title is a title, whatever the conditions. Even if it should have been the opposite in my opinion, Verstappen was crowned World Champion last year and will stay forever, whatever happened” he explains.
“Of course, behind this F4 title, there is also a prize money that is clearly not negligible to step up to FRECA in 2023. And my progression throughout the season is something that we can’t remove from my year. We did the last 4 pole positions (for Race 1 and Race 3), we have the speed, so that’s the most important for me.”
With a 32-point gap, Giusti knows he can win the title finishing P2 at every race, even if Barter wins all remaining races. However, that’s not his strategy. “My main objective is to do both pole positions and to win the 1st race. After that, I will be calmer, the hardest part will be done. I’m not here to finish second. This gap is comfortable, but I also want to win in style.”
FRECA, Olympians and Land of the Rising Sun
As we are approaching the post-season testing part of the year, Giusti’s management is already preparing the upcoming season. “We should sign soon, and for sure, I’m going to have a busy Fall! I can’t wait for my first tests with my new team. But for the moment, I’m not thinking about it, all my focus is on F4.”
Giusti’s managers are not new to the world of sport. The young Frenchman can count on the mentorship of Olympians Teddy Riner (judo) and Tony Parker (basketball) to advise and guide him on his way to success. “Unfortunately, I don’t meet them very often because they move quite a lot. But I sometimes have them on the phone, I can ask them any question I have, they are really available for me. They really follow my results, and I have to say they are a real help to find sponsors too.”
As Giusti’s future seems already secure, the future FRECA driver has revealed he won’t participate to the first post-season tests as he will be sent by his national federation to Japan.
“Unfortunately, I won’t be at the first FRECA post-season testing in Mugello (following the final round). The FFSA (French Federation) is continuing its partnership with the Japanese Automobile Federation (JAF), as the 1st and 2nd best French drivers of the championship will go to Japan just after Paul-Ricard. We will stay there for 8 days, so I won’t be able to be at the Mugello track.”
In 2019, Isack Hadjar and Victor Bernier were sent to Japan by the FFSA, alongside two young French kart drivers including Macéo Capietto. This cooperation has continued with French F4 receiving Ayumu Iwasa and Ren Sato in 2020, and Souta Arao and Yuto Nomura this year.
Header photo credit: FFSA Academy
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