With the 2022 racing season coming to a close, all eyes are on the new year for many feeder series stars. However, in the case of the F4 UAE Championship, 2023 starts now. Supporting the Formula 1 finale, F4 UAE kicks off its season early with the non-championship Trophy Race at the Yas Marina Circuit. There are no points on offer for what’s been dubbed the curtain raiser for the F1 weekend, but there’s still a lot to look forward to.
By George Brabner
Before drivers gear up for the main campaign in early 2023, the Trophy Race brings teams together on a stage more global than usual, with extra exposure courtesy of Formula 1’s presence – a great perk of the round that can easily be overlooked.
Despite that enticing offer, the grid is only at a third of its presumed size: 11 drivers will participate in the Trophy Race. However, by the time the series returns in January, that number is expected to grow to around 30, matching 2022’s figures.
Contrary to the three races per weekend that will be standard during the full season, the non-championship round will consist of two races. Both will be 23 minutes plus one lap long, but a unique format will decide the second race’s grid.
Kicking off the action on Friday will be a 45-minute practice session, in which drivers can acclimatise themselves to both the circuit and the Tatuus F4 T-421 chassis, ahead of a 30-minute qualifying session later in the day.
The results of qualifying will set the grid for Race 1, but they won’t have any effect on the grid for Race 2. Instead, the fastest lap recorded by each driver in Race 1 will set the starting line-up for Sunday’s action – something that isn’t all too common in European and Asian single-seater series but is more prevalent in the United States. The ruling will place less emphasis on qualifying and more on a driver’s ability to put in laps of an equal calibre in a race environment.
Teams and drivers
Here’s the complete entry list for this weekend:
- Hitech GP: Alex Dunne
- Hitech GP: William Macintyre
- Hitech GP: Kanato Le
- Hitech GP: Jimmy Piszcyk
- Carlin: Louis Sharp
- Carlin: Costa Toparis
- Xcel Motorsport: Victoria Blokhina
- Xcel Motorsport: Sebastian Murray
- Xcel Motorsport: Federico Rifai
- Yas Heat Racing Academy: Keanu Al Azhari
- Yas Heat Racing Academy: Matteo Quintarelli
There will be five drivers making their single-seater debuts this weekend, as Keanu Al Azhari, Matteo Quintarelli, Federico Rifai, Sebastian Murray and Kanato Le all make their first steps into Formula 4.
Amongst a four-team line-up, Emirati team Yas Heat Racing Academy are eyeing up their on-track debut, fielding two single-seater rookies. Supported by the Yas Marina Circuit, the team aim to support UAE talent on an international stage.
Meanwhile, Carlin have struck a deal with Xcel Motorsport, working alongside the well-acquainted local team who’ve entered three drivers themselves. Viktoria Blokhina returns to the series for a second year and is joined by local karters Rifai and Murray. Under their own name, Carlin have British F4 race winner Louis Sharp on board alongside Costa Toparis, who recently had his first taste of F4 machinery at the FIA Motorsport Games.
Reigning British F4 champion Alex Dunne will complete a four-car line-up for Hitech Grand Prix this weekend despite confirming that the Trophy Race will be nothing more than a one-off appearance as he looks ahead to a 2023 campaign in GB3. Nevertheless, he’ll be a great benchmark for his Hitech teammates – Le, Will Macintyre and Jimmy Piszcyk – and the rest of the field.
Whilst the Trophy Race will give us an early indication of what’s to come, a lot is set to change in F4 UAE before Round 1 at the Dubai Autodrome on January 13.
Teams and drivers are set to confirm their entries over the coming weeks too. The likes of reigning teams’ champion Prema Racing remain absent from the Trophy Race despite a 2023 entry; currently, James Wharton is set to make his return to the series with the Italian outfit.
Header photo credit: F4 UAE Championship
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