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F4 UAE Round 4: Taponen hat-trick of wins, Wharton takes championship lead

Written by Juan Arroyo, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Credit: Formula 4 UAE / Top Speed

Tuuka Taponen had his best weekend yet in Round 4 of F4 UAE at Dubai, taking three out of three wins to put himself further in contention for the championship. Taponen snatched pole position for race one and led Mumbai Falcons’ James Wharton, the Ferrari junior consistently behind the Finn throughout the weekend.

Wharton, another FDA protégé, leaves Dubai leading the championship by just six points ahead of Taponen, who has been consistently improving since the first round in January. Ugo Ugochukwu, now tied with Valerio Rinicella for third, lost out on a big haul of points in what was by far the American’s worst weekend in F4 UAE.

Race one saw Taponen and Wharton dominate, while an entertaining battle for third between Hitech’s Arvid Lindblad and Yas Heat Racing Academy’s Keanu Al Azhari was ended when Lindblad spun his car and was duly collected by Al Azhari, thus promoting VAR Pinnacle’s Brando Badoer into third.

Taponen said: “I don’t think about the championship. I go race by race. In this race I had a really good start and won the race and all the time everything was under control, so stretch or think about the championship. I had a good restart. I was able to get some gap to the back immediately, and after that the pace was good and I was able to pull away a little.”

Further down the grid, a rule deciding that the fastest laps in race one determine the grid for race two made R-ace GP call Jesse Carrasquedo Jr. into the pits while running behind the safety car, a long way away from the points. The Mexican rejoined and took the fastest lap in race one, to start on pole for the following race.

Carrasquedo led the opening lap in race two from Taponen and Wharton, while problems further back saw Ugo Ugochukwu clip Aleksandr Bolduev’s car, ending both drivers’ race and severely hurting the American’s championship aspirations. The safety car was brought out, and drivers had to cross the start-finish line through the pit-lane. Carrasquedo mistakenly stayed out and was consequently handed out a five-second penalty, promoting Taponen into first place.

Taponen again started from pole position in race three, leaving Wharton to battle it out for third with Lindblad while he and Al Azhari led away. Wharton quickly disposed of Lindblad on lap three and started closing in on the leading pair. Al Azhari was forced to defend from the Australian, briefly allowing Taponen to build a gap. The trio were separated by less than a second by the end of the race, and Taponen duly took his third victory of the weekend.

Taponen said this following race 3: “For sure I had pressure the whole race. It wasn’t easy at all. [Yas Heat Racing Academy] had a really good car to stay and follow really close. I needed to look the whole time to the back and try to lead the race, as when you have to follow, it’s not easy to overtake. [Winning three races out of three] is not every day coming like this – it’s also making it a perfect weekend with two times pole position and three race wins”

F4 UAE heads to Yas Marina Circuit next, where a four-way title decider will see Wharton, Taponen, Ugochukwu and Rinicella battle it out for the championship trophy. Taponen will head to Abu Dhabi with his head held high, while Wharton will be likely to drive conservatively, in order to protect his lead. Ugochukwu and Rinicella, on the other hand, will have to be open to taking risks, the pair having fallen to 37 points behind after the weekend at Dubai.


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