Dubai, UAE, March 2, 2019 – Italian driver Matteo Nannini has taken his maiden open-wheeler and circuit racing title after winning the third season of the F4UAE Championship powered by Abarth in Dubai this weekend (March 1-2).
Coming into the final round 55 points ahead of title rival Joshua Dürksen (#27) from Mücke Motorsport, the 15-year-old from Xcel Motorsport only needed to finish the second race of the weekend on Friday to claim the title, but went on to win Race 3 on Saturday as well which was his seventh of the season and the highest tally of any drivers competing.
In the process, Nannini (#15) also sealed the Rookie Championship for his Dubai-based team, which also took honours as the Teams Champions and sealed third outright with Omani driver Shihab Alhabsi (#34). In the battle of the teams, Xcel Motorsport finished well ahead of last year’s victors, Dragon Racing, to secure a triple crown of victories. Taking all three main titles was the team’s best effort in F4UAE competition since joining in 2016.
“Congratulations to Matteo and Xcel Motorsport after their strong success this year in F4UAE,” said Mohamed Ben Sulayem, President of the ATCUAE, Chairman of the Emirates Motor Sport Federation and FIA Vice President for Sport. “The fight for the championship has been very competitive all year between all of the drivers who have won races, and I congratulate them for all of their success while here in the UAE. F4UAE always aims to provide the best training platform to help these young drivers become racing stars of the future and we are very happy to see them being rewarded.
“Also, congratulations to everyone at Xcel Motorsport. Kevin [Day] and his team have been very big supporters of F4UAE over the last three years and it is a wonderful achievement for them as a Dubai team to dominate all three titles after putting in so much hard work,” concluded President.
Championship runner-up Dürksen from Paraguay has been Nannini’s main rival all season, sitting second on the points leaderboard since the first round. Winning a total of five races and appearing on the podium 10 times over 20 races, the rookie racer won the final race of the championship to secure his second place standing in the rookie championship as well.
Thirteen different drivers from 11 countries competed in F4UAE this season, with five different race winners since the championship began back in January at the Dubai Autodrome.
Eleven drivers competed in the final round of F4UAE which was contested on the 3.56km National Circuit of the Dubai Autodrome. Two new drivers joined including Sauber Junior Team driver Roman Stanek for Dragon Racing (#7) and former F4UAE racer Niklas Krütten (#2) for Mücke Motorsport.
Sandstorms again swept through Dubai on Friday morning, along with light rain, to make for challenging conditions which warranted strategic qualifying planning. Krütten and Alhabsi had topped practice on Thursday, but it was Alhabsi who impressed when lap times counted, earning his first pole position with a best time of 1m23.254s; an very close 0.037 seconds head of Nannini. Dragon Racing’s Rashed Ghanem (#9) scored his best every qualifying result in third place.
In Race 1, Alhabsi lead from the start and remained so all race in front of Nannini and Ghanem. From a ninth-place start, Krütten stormed through the field to second place by race’s end however was penalised 10 seconds for taking an advantage from running off track. An incident between Lucas Roy (#8) and Dürksen saw the safety car called, with Roy able to stay with the field however not so Dürksen who only completed four laps. Nannini finished third but was promoted to second after the penalty was applied to Krütten, with Ghanem earning the first podium finish of his short circuit-racing career.
Dragon Racing locked out the front row for Race 2’s reverse grid race, with Stanek on pole position alongside teammate Rui Andrade (#88). Both unfortunately would be at the hands of the stewards, with Andrade penalised for jumping the start, and Stanek penalised for blocking and gaining and unfair racing advantage. Krütten was the eventual winner, with Alhabsi second and Dürksen third.
Race 3 on Saturday morning again saw Alhabsi and Nannini leading from the front row, with Ghanem up to second on the start. Dürksen constantly challenged the front-running group and made it to second place by lap 20 when Roy caused a collision that was deemed by stewards to be avoidable; a 10-second penalty was applied post-race to Roy. Despite Krütten racing up to second by race’s end, the German racer was also later disqualified due to a technical infringement. His Mücke Motorsport teammate Nico Göhler raced hard to stay within striking distance, finishing second overall – his third podium finish of the season – and Alhabsi third.
The final 30-minute race of the season saw Dürksen start off pole position, with his lead constantly challenged by a hard-charging Roy. Dürksen, Roy and Krütten remained top three for most of the race until Krütten took the lead and greeted the chequered flag first, only to be faced by a lengthy stewards hearing which declared his car to be disqualified post-race due to a technical infringement, while Dürksen was awarded the win, with Roy second and Nannini third.
At the end-of-season Gala Awards dinner held on Saturday March 2 in Dubai, the following drivers were congratulated by their teams, peers, officials and category management.
F4UAE Drivers Champions: Matteo Nannini, Xcel Motorsport
F4UAE Runner-Up: Joshua Dürksen, Mücke Motorsport
F4UAE Third Place: Shihab Alhabsi, Xcel Motorsport
F4UAE Rookie Champion: Matteo Nannini, Xcel Motorsport
F4UAE Teams Champions: Xcel Motorsport
F4UAE Sportsmanship Award: Rashed Ghanem, Dragon Racing