The F4 UAE series got underway at the Dubai circuit. Tuukka Taponen picked up two second places on his single-seater debut. James Wharton also did well, with one podium finish.
There were no fewer than 39 cars on the grid at the Dubai circuit for the first of the five round 2023 Formula 4 UAE series. The Ferrari Driver Academy students, Tuukka Taponen and James Wharton were front runners throughout the weekend. It was a particularly important event for the 16-year-old Finn, making his single-seater debut after a successful time in international karting.
Up to expectations. Taponen immediately lived up to expectations, qualifying third and second for Races 1 and 3 respectively. Showing some lack of experience, he then lost a few places at the start of the first race, but still managed to score points, finishing ninth and setting the fastest race lap, to secure pole position for Race 2. He dropped to second at the first corner and kept that position to the flag. The Finn then repeated that performance, running second from start to finish in the last race of the Dubai event, which ended behind the Safety Car. “It went really well, because I finally took part in my first Formula 4 weekend and I’m very pleased with how it went,” commented Taponen. “In Race 1, I struggled a bit, but in the second, I gave it my all, finishing second overall and best rookie. Race 3 wasn’t much fun, given that there were only three racing laps, with the rest of the time spent behind the Safety Car, but I had no problems in the short time I was racing. Now, I have some work to do along with the group at the Ferrari Driver Academy and then it will already be time to head for Kuwait. I can’t wait to get back in the car.”
Third in the standings. Tuukka’s good start sees him lie third in the standings on 38 points, 11 more than James Wharton, who is fifth. The Australian showed good potential over the weekend, staging an impressive climb up the order in Race 1, after starting from tenth because of problems with traffic during qualifying. Wharton managed to work his way all the way up to third at the flag. Unfortunately, James stalled at the start of Race 2, dropping from fourth to 39th place, before he fought back to be 17th past the chequered flag. James had a better time in the last race, going from seventh on the grid to fourth at the finish, disappointed with how much time was spent behind the Safety Car, which meant he was unable to fight for a podium finish.
Next round. The Formula 4 UAE championship is back on track in two weeks’ time at the Kuwait Motor Town, the new venue which hosts rounds two and three.