A tactical masterstroke gave Alessandro Famularo (15, Venezuela, Prema Powerteam) a maiden ADAC Formula 4 win. The first of three races at Circuit Zandvoort set amid the Dutch North Sea dunes was much affected by the weather and by safety car deployments, but the 15-year-old Venezuelan, who is mentored by Formula 1 legend Juan Pablo Montoya, managed to fend off late attacks from Arthur Leclerc (18, Monaco, US Racing CHRS), the younger brother of Formula 1 star Charles Leclerc, and Théo Pourchaire (15, France, US Racing CHRS). Pourchaire currently occupies first place in the championship standings while Arthur Leclerc is second, and these were the two who completed the podium party.
"I'm just mega happy and proud of the team," said Famularo. "We did an awesome job during the race. The weekend has been very hard up until now. The two practice sessions and qualifying were very tough indeed, so I'm all the more delighted with my maiden victory in the ADAC Formula 4. This is a success we can build on."
Roman Stanek (15, Czech Republic, US Racing CHRS) was Best Rookie on the day. He finished fourth ahead of Gianluca Petecof (16, Brazil, Prema Powerteam) and Michael Belov (17, Russia, R-ace GP).
In the overall standings, Pourchaire is on 117 points, now only eight points clear of Leclerc on 109 after his fourth podium finish. Dennis Hauger (16, Norway, Van Amersfoort Racing) is next with 85 points. Petecof on 84 points is in fourth place. He will start the second race from pole position on Sunday morning.
Things were extremely hectic even before the race got under way, as it had begun to rain five minutes before the green light. The stewards decided to postpone the start for a while to allow teams to change to full wets. Famularo was the only driver in the 19-strong field to remain on slicks, which turned out to be precisely the right choice, because the rain stopped immediately after the start behind the safety car. Half of the field came into the pits after the first lap, but Famularo, who had been 15th on the grid, gained one position after another to take the lead after about seven minutes of racing.
"We took a chance, but fortune favours the brave," said Famularo. "The track was still really wet in parts on the first lap, but then the sun came out, and I knew we had taken the right decision."
After four laps, the Prema Powerteam driver had already increased his lead over his closest pursuer, Leclerc, to 28 seconds, but then the race swung the other way. Lucas Alecco Roy (22, Germany, Van Amersfoort Racing) ran into the rear of Sebastian Estner (17, Germany, Van Amersfoort Racing) and had to retire his car, which resulted in the second safety car deployment of the race. The field immediately bunched up behind Famularo, whose big lead vanished as a result.
"Things got very tight again," added Famularo. "Previously, I'd had a 28-second lead, and then, all of a sudden, it was down to one. I had to go on the defensive and was starting to get a bit worried, but fortunately, we hung on to the lead through to the finish line."
The race was restarted on Lap 9 with seven minutes remaining. Famularo skilfully fended off the attacks from his rivals led by Leclerc and remained in P1. Further down the field, guest starter Hadrien David (15, France, R-ace GP) lost control of his car and spun off track, leading to another safety car deployment at the Circuit Zandvoort. The safety car did not come in until the penultimate lap. Leclerc and overall championship leader Pourchaire tried everything they could over the final 4.3 kilometres, but Famularo kept them in check to celebrate a maiden victory in the tenth race of the ADAC High-Speed Academy campaign.
The tenth and eleventh races of the season will be contested on Sunday, with the lights on the gantry going out at 09:50 CEST and 17:00 CEST respectively. The outcome will decide which of the youngsters will be heading for the Nürburgring with the unofficial title of 'half-time champion'.
SPORT1 is showing the ADAC Formula 4 races on TV and online at www.SPORT1.de. The races can also be watched on the livestream services of adac.de/motorsport, the Facebook page of the ADAC Formula 4 and on youtube.com/adac, with both German and English commentaries.
Further comments on Saturday's ADAC Formula 4 race
Arthur Leclerc (P2, US Racing CHRS): "It was a great race, and the team once again did a great job. They brought me into the pits at just the right moment, and they also gave me the perfect car. After the restart, I came close to taking the lead. But I didn't want to risk everything, so I'm very happy to settle for the points."
Théo Pourchaire (P3, US Racing CHRS): "Third place is not bad in championship terms, of course. But I was leading the race, and we didn't handle the pit stop well, which cost me three places. It wasn't easy, however, as the pit lane was extremely busy. Third place is a very good result, but ultimately, I am a bit disappointed."
Roman Stanek (Best Rookie, US Racing CHRS): "That was a crazy race. It was the first time that I've ever had to change tyres during a race. I think you can only learn from such situations. The conditions may be tough, but they are the same for everyone."