French F4 finale preview: Will Barter pip Giusti in the final round?

After six rounds in France, Belgium and Spain, the FFSA F4 season is finally coming to an end this weekend at the Circuit Paul Ricard. The title fight between Alessandro Giusti and Hugh Barter is heating up, and it’s all to play for further down the championship table.

By Perceval Wolff

With Caio Collet, Hadrien David and Ayumu Iwasa crowned in French F4 in the last few years, there was a lot of tension around the championship’s title battle in 2021. It all ended in tears with the collision between title contenders Esteban Masson and Macéo Capietto, giving the latter the title before he was disqualified for the whole meeting by the race stewards. The relationship between the two young Frenchmen had deteriorated during the whole season, finally reaching its peak intensity on the last lap of the final race of the year at Magny-Cours.

Hopefully, that won’t be the case this time at Le Castellet. The protagonists and the dynamics of their seasons are completely different. Unlike Masson and Capietto, they have never clashed this year, on or off track.

Barter vs. Giusti: who for the title?

Barter has clearly been the most dominant man on track in this championship. Despite grabbing 11 wins, the Aussie is not the leader in the standings. Runner-up in 2021, Barter decided to run both the Spanish and French F4 championships this year. But from the beginning of the season, Barter knew he wouldn’t score points in two of the seven rounds of French F4. The regulations make a driver ineligible to score any points in a round if they have raced at the same circuit in a different series that year. Spanish F4 went to Spa-Francorchamps and Valencia before French F4 did, so even though Barter still raced at both venues, he always knew he was going to come away from them with zero points no matter how well he did.

A real shame for Barter then as he scored four wins on these two tracks. Four wins, but zero points. Barter was the only driver dominating for the first half of the season, but things changed after the summer break. Barter has now found himself a championship rival in Giusti, as these two spent the Lédenon and Valencia rounds in a league of their own compared to the rest of the field.

Before Lédenon, points behind Barter were shared nearly equally among Giusti, Souta Arao and Elliott Vayron. But Giusti improved greatly in the latter half of the season, clinching 112 of the 140 points available in the last two rounds, scoring the last four pole positions and overtaking Barter for the championship lead in the process.

The 2021 Junior class champion, who celebrated his 16th birthday in September, now holds a 32-point margin on Barter and has one hand on the champion’s trophy. Even if his Australian rival scores maximum points, the Frenchman could calmly finish each race in P2 to secure the title, but it would be unfair to think Barter and Giusti are alone. The French F4 field is filled with talent, and the other drivers will do everything they can to disturb this battle.

Who else is in the mix?

Red Bull Junior driver Arao is unlikely to reproduce Iwasa’s success story of 2020. Though 67 points off the lead, the Japanese driver is still mathematically in contention for the title but would need to score maximum points with Giusti finishing no better than P8 and Barter coming away from the weekend without a single podium. It’s a similar target for Vayron, fourth in the standings. Seven points behind Arao, the FEED Racing finalist will at least have his eyes set on third overall in the championship.

A bit further behind in the standings, a handful of drivers would need a miracle to finish as champion, but all are in contention to be on the final podium spot come season award time. French rookie Enzo Peugeot, currently fifth with two wins on reverse-grid races, has constantly improved throughout the year. Challenging the front-runners in qualifications and in standard races should be the next step for him. The Colombian Jeronimo Berrío is only eighth in the standings, but he has already managed to battle with Giusti and Barter at Magny-Cours and Spa-Francorchamps.

Super Licence points

One of the other main battles in the overall standings will be for the top seven positions, which award FIA Super Licence points. The top five drivers are some way off the rest of the field, which leaves those between sixth and tenth to scrap it out for the final two Super License positions. Red Bull junior Yuto Nomura in sixth has had a difficult season and is likely to be dropped by the Austrian team’s programme next year. He had shown glimpses of brilliance at the start of the year with two reverse-grid race wins, but a poor second half of the season has seen him drop down the order.

Swiss-Spanish-Ukrainian Dario Cabanelas is not having a year that has matched his own high expectations following a 2021 season in which he fought with Giusti for the Junior title. Sitting in seventh, Cabanelas seems to have finally found some performance since the summer break. Colombian rookie Berrío is one of the biggest surprises of the season, with three podiums and an impressive progression, considering he came away from the first round in a lowly P15. 

French-Luxembourger driver Pierre-Alexandre Provost is having a troubled season, alternating meetings with podiums and rounds with zero points. Then, Winfield protégé Romain Andriolo had the strongest weekend of his season at Valencia and will be keen to continue this progression.

Further down, drivers like Edgar Pierre, Lorens Lecertua, Louis Pelet and Max Reis have struggled to find consistency but have shown glimpses of their speed on good days. 

The 14th to the 16th of October is the final opportunity for the 24 drivers to demonstrate their racecraft at Le Castellet before post-season testing begins, with the chance to attract the attention of top teams from FRECA, Spanish F4 and Italian F4.

Header photo credit: Marc de Mattia / DPPI

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