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    Formula 4: a show of strength from Wharton

    James Wharton conquered Spa-Francorchamps taking his first two wins in the Italian F4 championship. Tuukka Taponen was less successful.

    Spa-Francorchamps 30 maggio 2023

    James Wharton conquered Spa-Francorchamps taking his first two wins in the Italian F4 championship. Tuukka Taponen was less successful. 

    James Wharton was simply outstanding in last weekend’s round of the Italian Formula 4 championship held at Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps circuit. The 16 year old Australian Ferrari Driver Academy student came away with two wins in the first two races, followed by a third place in the last one. He started off by securing two pole positions and this puts him fourth in the championship on 95.5 points. “It was a solid weekend,” commented Wharton. “I took my first pole position and first two wins in this series. We came away with a good points haul and now I can’t wait for the next round in Monza.” It was a difficult weekend for fellow FDA driver Tuukka Taponen who paid a very high price for a mistake in qualifying. “I’ve not got much to say about this weekend,” explained the Finn. “I have to say luck wasn’t on my side. I have work to do with the team before Monza, because the overall performance did not live up to our expectations.”

    Race-1. Wharton led into turn 1 from pole and then he defended down the long Kemmel straight, fending off his pursuers who were able to slipstream him. By the end of the opening lap, James had a second and a half lead, but on lap 3, a heavy collision between Guido Luchetti and Viktoria Blokhina brought out the red flags. The race resumed after 30 minutes with a rolling start and James controlled it well again building up an advantage. With just two and a half minutes to go the race was red flagged again and not restarted when Ruiqi Liu’s car caught fire. From ninth on the grid, Taponen moved up to seventh in the initial part of the race and that is where he finished.

    Race-2. Wharton again started from pole, while, because of his mistake in qualifying, Taponen lined up in 29th place. James repeated his race 1 performance off the line, again keeping everyone behind him on the Kemmel straight. After a safety car period, James comfortably controlled the situation, but there was yet another red flag on lap 6 after an incident involving several cars. The race was not restarted because of work needed to repair the barrier at the exit to the Raidillon corner with the classification based on the order at the end of lap 5, giving Wharton his second win of the weekend, although it was only worth half points. Taponen had managed to get back up to 18th place.

    Race-3. The third and final race in Belgium saw Wharton start from third on the grid and Taponen from 11th. James held that position on the opening lap while Tuukka moved up to seventh. There were two laps behind the Safety Car after which there were no changes of position on the way to the chequered flag.