The 2024 UAE F4 Championship saw multiple names topping the time sheets, with only hundredths of a second separating the drivers.

 

Two days of pre-season testing saw teams testing tyres, various setups, race pace, and qualifying laps.

 

Several drivers continuously reached the top of the time sheets, with PHM AIX Racing’s Nikita Bedrin going fastest in three out of the six sessions. PREMA driver Al Dhaheri also showed competitive pace, topping the time sheets for sessions three and five. Mumbai Falcon’s Freddie Slater ended off testing at the top, showing a consistently competitive pace over testing. Meanwhile, Dion Gowda, Alex Powell, Keanu Al Azhari, Kean Nakamura-Berta, and Deagen Fairclough weren’t far behind in terms of pace and consistency.

Day 1 of testing saw the teams using the GP circuit layout of the Yas Marina race track, the configuration most commonly used for single-seater racing, including the annual Formula 1 Grand Prix. Day 2 followed the Corkscrew layout, which combines the South and part of the North circuits, featuring 21 corners and a unique hairpin bend beneath the W Hoel. Round 1 of the championship will have teams racing on the unique Corkscrew layout, and will be the only round of the season to use this configuration. Rounds 2 and 4 at Yas Marina will follow the GP circuit format.

 

Round 1 of the 2024 UAE F4 Championship kicked off on Friday with the first test session. The pack were extremely competitive, with the top 13 drivers all within 1 second of each other. Slater topped the time sheets with a 1:48.02. The Mumbai Falcons showed their dominance as a team, occupying P1, P4, P5, and P10, with Slater, Kean Nakamura-Berta, Alex Powell, and Dion Gowda, respectively.

 

HITECH’s Deagen Fairclough claimed P2 and PREMA’s Rashid Al Dhaheri rounded out the top three in P3, with a staggering 0.001 seconds separating the two drivers.

The second testing session saw Abu Dhabi-local Al Azhari clock an impressive 1:47.01, the closest any driver had gotten to breaking into the 1:46s. The Mumbai Falcons continued to impress, with Slater, Nakamura-Berta, and Powell claiming P3, P4, and P5, respectively.

 

Al Dhaheri fell short of P1, recording a 1:47.286 and falling over 2-tenths behind Al Azhari. Slater completed the top three with a 1:47.316, only 0.03 seconds behind Al Azhari.

 

The only free practice session of the weekend had Fairclough topping the time sheets with a 1:47.581. Al Azhari continued to show his consistently competitive pace with a 1:47.641, falling only 0.06 seconds short of P1. Bedrin returned to the front of the pack with a 1:47.818.

 

The first of two qualifying sessions kicked off on Saturday morning to set the grid for Race 1 later that day. Al Azhari continued to dominate the time sheets with an impressive 1:46.791. The Yas Heat racer was the only driver to break into the 1:46s and claimed Race 1 pole position with a staggering 0.354 difference to Nakamura-Berta in P2.

The rest of the grid was closely positioned, with all four Mumbai Falcons claiming the next four positions. Nakamura-Berta, slater, Powell, and Gowda finished P2, P3, P4, and P5, respectively. Al Dhaheri was close behind, with only 0.018 seconds separating him from the Mumbai Falcons squad.

 

Qualifying 2 began shortly after to set the grid for Race 3 on Sunday. Al Azhari consistently put in top times, showing his prowess around his local circuit by beating his previous time and claiming yet another pole position with a 1:46.623. Slater wasn’t far behind this time, breaking into the 1:46s and closing in on P1 with a 1:46.896. Al Dhaheri secured P3 with a 1:46.967.

 

PHM AIX driver Maksimilian Popov failed to qualify, putting him at the back of the grid for Sunday’s race.

 

Race 1 saw disappointment for pole-sitter Al Azhari when he had a slow start that saw three of the Mumbai Falcons overtake him into turn 1. Nakamura-Berta secured P1 and showed incredible race pace, pulling ahead by over 5.6 seconds by the chequered flag and maintaining his lead for the entire race.

Local favourite Al Azhari was able to recover from his poor start as he climbed back up to P2, where he was forced to defend his position from the fast-approaching Freddie Slater.

 

HITECH’s Gabriel Stilp also got off to a poor start where he jumped the lights several seconds too early, resulting in a 10-second time penalty that took him from P9 to P17. Meanwhile, R-ace GP’s Raphael Narac received a 5-second time penalty for a minor jump start that took him from P18 to P21.

 

The final podium saw Nakamura-Berta claim the top spot, with Al Azhari and Slater following behind in P2 and P3, respectively.

 

Race 2 saw a completely new podium lineup thanks to the reverse grid that affected the top 12 finishers of Race 1. The remaining drivers had their starting position decided by their Race 1 finishing position. The reverse grid saw AGI Sport’s Jack Beeton on pole, with Sainteloc Racing’s Matteo Quintarelli in P2 and XCEL Motorsport’s Alvise Rodella in P3.

 

Sainteloc Racing’s Yevan David stalled on the formation lap taking him out of P14 and forcing him to start his race from the pit lane.

 

Beeton dominated the race, maintaining his lead until the second-last lap where second-place Bedrin put the pressure on. With Beeton’s tyres falling off, Bedrin had the perfect opportunity and took it to snatch away P1. Fairclough remained close behind the two squabbling, looking for the right moment to take advantage of Beeton’s failing tyres. On the final lap, Beeton was passed by Fairclough to finish P3, a disappointing result after having P1 for the majority of the race. The final podium saw Bedrin on top, followed by Fairclough, then Beeton.

In a fight for P7, Nakamaru-Berta tangled with Al Azhari, causing Al Azhari to lose to rear wing and suspension and forcing him to retire his car.

 

PREMA driver Dorian Pin, who had shown consistent top-10 pace all weekend, suffered from an incident with Al Dhaheri, giving her a 10-second time penalty for causing a collision, ultimately causing her to fall from P12 to P20. Al Dhaheri fell to the back of the pack as a result of their incident but was able to regain places to finish P18.

 

R-ace GP Raphael Narac suffered from crash damage at turn 16, forcing him to retire on lap 5, while his teammate Enzo Yeh lost part of his front wing and retired on lap 3. Mumbai Falcon’s Dion Gowda, who started P7, was unable to make it past lap 1 after he suffered from a technical failure with his car.

 

Race 3 saw explosive action at the start, with PHM AIX Racing’s Evertt Stack and Sainteloc Racing’s Maximiliano Restrepo both suffering from race-ending damage in dramatic collisions at turn 1.

 

Pole-sitter Al Azhari was bested by Slater into turn 1 and fell to P2 before taking P1 back before the safety car came out for the T1 incident. Al Azhari was later instructed to give the position back to Slater, as the stewards judged that he had gained an unfair advantage.

The pack was incredibly close, and even a single penalty could completely eliminate a driver from the points.

 

Stilp felt this reality when he was rewarded a 10-second time penalty for causing a collision in an incident with Gowda, ultimately taking him from P8 to a disappointing P24. The pair were battling before Stilp turned into Gowda, causing damage to the Mumbai Falcons car and forcing Gowda to retire for the second time that weekend.

 

Similarly, R-ace GP’s Jules Caranta also received a 10-second time penalty for causing a collision when he had an incident with Pinnacle Motorsport’s Kai Daryanani, sending Daryanani into the barriers and eliminating him from the race. Caranta suffered the consequences of his actions, falling from P19 to P28.

 

Finally, Powell received a 5-second time penalty for causing a collision, dropping him from P6 to P14.

 

The final classification saw Slater claim victory ahead of the original pole sitter Al Azhari, who failed to claim a victory this weekend despite having two poles. Al Dhaheri closed out the podium, with Fairclough just 0.7 behind in P4.    

With three different race winners in three races, the 2024 season of the UAE F4 Championships looks to be the most competitive yet.

 

After an action-packed opening race weekend, fans eagerly await the next round at the Yas Marina circuit, where teams will battle it out on the renowned GP configuration. Round 2 of the 2024 UAE F4 Championship will take place on the 19-21st of January, and will be live-streamed on the official UAE F4 YouTube channel.

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