Dubai, UAE, 13 January 2019: The 2019 F4UAE Championship powered by Abarth began its third season in anger this past weekend, with four different race winners – all first-time F4 victors – topping the podium at the opening round held at the Dubai Autodrome (10-12 January 2019).
Supporting the famed Hankook 24H Dubai endurance event, Round 1 of F4UAE welcomed a solid grid of 10 young drivers from Europe and the Middle East as they attacked the four 25-minute races around the 5.39km Grand Prix circuit layout.
Making his open-wheeler debut, Matteo Nannini from Italy (#15) topped the first qualifying session of the season and converted that into a race one win for Xcel Motorsport on Friday morning (formerly known as Energy Dubai).
Dragon Racing’s Lucas Roy (#8) – who finished fifth outright in the 2017-18 F4UAE Championship – won Friday’s reverse-grid race two, followed by Omani driver Shihab Al Habsi (#34) and Paraguay’s Joshua Dürksen (#27) who won a race each on Saturday.
“Congratulations to all of our winners who drove exceptionally well this weekend and we are very pleased to see so many young enthusiastic drivers on the podium,” said Mohamed Ben Sulayem, President of ATCUAE and Emirates Motor Sport Federation, and FIA Vice President for Sport.
“To have the future champions of the sport come to the UAE and get their first race victories here is a very proud moment not just of their career but of the history of F4UAE, and we look forward to seeing more of their success again at Round 2 in a few weeks.”
Six and a half hours of sanctioned testing and official practice was held during the lead-up to the event, giving the newcomers ample track time to become acquainted with the internationally recognised circuit. Four rookies made their official transition from karting (or limited F4 testing) to the Abarth-powered Tatuus F4UAE racecars including Nannini, Dürksen and his Mücke Motorsport teammate Nico Göhler (#22) plus Dragon Racing’s Rashed Ghanem (#9).
First pole position of the 2019 season went to Nannini, giving Xcel Motorsport the first P1 race start at an opening round of F4UAE, with a time of 2m01.835s and the only driver in the 2m01s bracket.
Race 1 was dominated by Nannini who led from start to finish, battling race-long with Roy in second place who moved up two places from a fourth-place start. Despite initially falling back, Dürksen recovered to third place at the chequered flag to claim his first open-wheeler podium finish.
Race 2’s reverse grid saw Rui Andrade (#88) start off pole position, only to be overtaken by frontrunners Roy and Nannini on the opening lap. The three held their positions for the entire 13-lap race, while Al Habsi and Italian rookie Nicola Marinangeli (#14) came together in a racing incident mid-race.
For Saturday’s Race 3, where starting positions were determined by a driver’s second-fastest lap in qualifying, the front row saw Nannini and Al Habsi battle neck-and-neck off the line respectively. Dürksen also pressured during the race but the 15-year-old Omani driver held his own and took the chequered flag, making his victory the first of any Middle East driver to win in three years of F4UAE.
Mücke Motorsport’s Nico Göhler started Race 4 in prime position, before being challenged by Roy and Dürksen who took the lead on lap two and held place until race’s end. Andrade moved from fifth to second by lap three, and Göhler continued to battle lap-after-lap with Al Habsi. Finishing third, Göhler made it a double-podium result for Mücke Motorsport.
Report & Photos: Driven Productions (edited)