The 15 year old finished on the podium, with a third place in Race-1 in Abu Dhabi, on his very first weekend racing single-seaters.
First race, first podium. James Wharton could not have asked for a better start, as he made his debut in the UAE Formula 4 championship at the Yas Marina circuit. The Australian Ferrari Driver Academy student was making his single-seater debut, having ended his time in karts last year and was one of 10 rookies in a field of 27.
Always in front. Wharton was always in the group fighting for the podium places, adapting quickly to this new challenge. He came away from the four races at Yas Marina with a third, a fifth and a ninth place, posting a retirement in Race 3 because of an electrical problem on the final lap when he was lying second. Wharton scored 27 points, putting him sixth overall in the standings, as well as being the leading rookie. “I learned a lot this weekend,” commented James. “I got my first single-seater podium and three wins in the rookie category. I’d say that’s a good start to the season but it is only the start and I’m looking forward to being back on track next weekend in Dubai.”
Race-1. Wharton was quick right from the start of free practice and in qualifying he was fourth and second in the two sessions. At the start of Race-1, the Australian immediately moved up to third before the Safety Car came out because of two incidents. The green flag was only waved five minutes before the chequered one and the last two laps were very exciting, with Wharton maintaining third place, just one tenth off the winner, Andrea Kimi Antonelli.
Race-2. Wharton started from seventh on the grid and immediately moved up to sixth. By half distance he was fifth, running at a strong enough pace to catch the leaders in the closing stages, although by then it was too late to move any further up the order.
Race-3. James had high hopes in this race, as he was starting from the front row in second place. The Australian made the most of it, tucking in behind Antonelli. The Safety Car came out after 10 of the 30 minutes and when the race resumed, Wharton did a very good job of managing the situation, fending off potential attacks. Unfortunately, on the final lap, he had to park at the side of the track with an electrical problem, thus missing out on what had seemed a certain second place.
Race-4. The fact Wharton retired in the third race meant he had to start from all the way back in 24th spot. But he got a great start and drove an impeccable opening lap, which took him all the way to 13th. James continued to move up the order, taking the chequered flag in ninth place, scoring more points and rounding off a memorable weekend.