For various reasons, Wharton’s and Taponen’s results did not match their potential, while Nobels did well on her debut in the opening round of this year’s Formula 4 season.
Imola, 23 April 2023 –The first of the seven rounds of this season’s Italian Formula 4 championship took place at Imola this weekend. The performance level displayed by the three Ferrari Driver Academy students taking part – James Wharton, Tuukka Taponen and Aurelia Nobels – matched expectations, even if their points tally did not. In all three races, Wharton and Taponen had to fight their way up the order, a consequence of some misfortunes in qualifying, while Aurelia Nobels showed promise on her first experience of Italian Formula 4. “I’m reasonably happy, as I came close to points and managed to lead the women’s category,” said the 16 year old Brazilian. “There’s a long way to go, but I’m happy with my debut.”
Qualifying. With no fewer than 37 entries, qualifying was run in two groups. Wharton was quickest for a long time, but found traffic at the crucial moments, while Tuukka’s tyre pressures were not ideal, which left the former sixth in his group and the latter ninth. Nobels did well to be tenth in Group A, showing she has made progress since pre-season testing.
Race-1. The first race featured groups B and C. Wharton started eighth, Taponen ninth and Nobels 13th. James was able to move up to fifth, before having to retire following a collision with Matteo De Palo at Tosa. Taponen finished tenth and Nobels was 21st, having survived a spin at Tosa.
Race-2. This was between groups A and B. Taponen started 12th and did well, overtaking several cars on his way to taking the chequered flag in sixth place. However, the Finn then picked up a 10 second time penalty for a collision in the early stages with Pradel, which dropped him to ninth on the results sheet. Nobels raced well, as she gradually got more used to the car and finished 11th, just two tenths off the points places.
Race-3. The final qualifying race featured groups A and C. There was a big accident immediately at the start, when Ugo Ugochukwu stalled his car. The race resumed after 20 minutes, with Wharton in the seventh place from which he had started, before moving up to sixth by the end of Lap 2. At half distance, James was fifth and that’s where he finished.
Final. The grid for the final race, was based on the results of the three previous ones. Wharton was 12th, Taponen 17th and Nobels 21st. The Safety Car was once again in action, called out three times and during the second one, Tuukka was pushed off the track by a rival while zigzagging to keep the tyres up to temperature. Wharton moved up the order to tenth place, but on the final lap, he got caught out in a scrap at Tosa and dropped three place to 13th, with Nobels 18th.