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Ugo Ugochukwu’s flying start to 2023 – and why he’s set to keep winning

Written by Juan Arroyo, Edited by Simran Kanthi

Ugo Ugochukwu has dominated this year’s edition of Formula 4 UAE so far, taking four wins in nine to top the standings. Ugochukwu’s consistency has led him to become a mainstay on the podium, tied for most of the field in 2023.

A commanding opening round at Dubai saw the McLaren protégé claim two wins and a third-place finish, helping mark his territory early on against potential rivals down the field. While the following rounds have proved tougher, Ugochukwu has maintained a solid championship lead by taking more podiums.

The 15-year-old is currently in a tense title fight with James Wharton. Only 11 points separate the two drivers, both of whom will race with Prema later in the year. Wharton has stayed on Ugochukwu’s heels throughout the season, the McLaren junior edging him out through race wins. The pair can frequently be found battling it out on track for wins having stood on the podium four times together so far.

Ugochukwu’s ability to stay out of trouble and avoid mistakes has been key in his efforts to stay on top of the field. Race 1 at the latest round in Kuwait Motor Town demonstrated his mastery in safety car restarts, repeatedly managing to keep Wharton behind despite his best efforts to overtake the Prema car.

Qualifying is also one of the McLaren junior’s strengths, frequently appearing in the top 5 of every starting grid if not in pole position. Ugochukwu has two pole positions to his name this year, both of which he defended firmly on the starting lap. As mentioned previously, keeping opponents behind is one of the strong points of the American’s.

A continued run in his form would likely see him take the F4 UAE title. However, with Wharton on his heels and Rinicella not far behind, no one can say with certainty who will come out on top. As unpredictable as the series can be down the field, Ugochukwu has managed to be one of the most consistent on the grid and has been duly rewarded.

McLaren added Ugochukwu to its Young Driver Programme in 2021 after strong performances in karting at the national and European levels. Joining at only 13, the move is reminiscent of Lewis Hamilton’s signing by Ron Dennis at the time. CEO Zak Brown said, “We’ve been watching Ugo’s progress with interest, so when the opportunity to sign an agreement with him became available, we had no hesitation moving on it.”

Ugochukwu made his single-seater debut in April of last year with Carlin in British F4. He turned 15 — the minimum age to compete in the series — on the day of free practice for the first round. It took him no time to get adjusted as he took pole position in his first-ever attempt, later converting it into a podium. The McLaren junior finished third in the standings with two wins to his name.

A strong campaign in Britain was followed by guest appearances in the German and Italian F4 championships, this time around with Prema. Ugochukwu started off with multiple points finishes, slowly picking up the pace until his first podium in Italian F4 at the Red Bull Ring. The 15-year-old featured in the top three in all races that weekend, and more podiums followed at the Nürburgring and Mugello, respectively.

Following his winter campaign, Ugochukwu is set for a full-time Formula 4 ride with Prema in 2023. Having shown a lot of potential early, the 15-year-old will likely be placed into Italian Formula 4, a series which Prema drivers, the likes of Gabriele Minì, Kimi Antonelli, and more, have dominated in previous years. Ugochukwu has proven he has the necessary ingredients to succeed in motorsport, but results will now have to come for him to climb to the top.


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