The fifth round of the Italian F.4 Championship took place last weekend at Paul Ricard Circuit in Le Castellet, marking the second foreign event on the 2023 season schedule. The iconic French circuit, home to the Formula 1 Grand Prix, returned to the calendar of the youth series promoted by ACI Sport and WSK Promotion after a one-year stop. After the round, the situation at the top of the standings still sees Arvid Lindblad, the Red Bull junior driver of Prema Racing, maintaining his dominance with a total score of 245.5 points. Lindblad earned 24 points from the event, which, for the first time this season, didn't see him on the podium. The London-born driver secured the 8th position in the first race of the weekend, while the most favorable result came in Race 2, where he narrowly missed the podium, finishing fourth. In Race 3, Lindblad engaged in another intense battle and finished in 6th place. Although his margin from the closest competitors remains comfortable, the advantage has now reduced from 78.5 points after Round 4 to 59.5 points after the Paul Ricard event.
Ugo Ugochukwu, the American driver of Prema Racing with McLaren affiliation, maintained his second position in the standings. His weekend was again extremely favorable, as he scored 43 points from the three races with two podium finishes. Ugochukwu secured the second position in Race 1 and the third position in Race 2. In Race 3, he finished fifth, managing to narrow the gap from the top of the standings, consistently finishing ahead of his rival. His total score has now risen to 186 points.
There was a change in the third position, with Kacper Sztuka's outstanding performance propelling him one spot up the standings, surpassing Wharton. The Polish driver of US Racing dominated the weekend, starting with an excellent performance in qualifying, allowing him to start from pole position once and from the front row twice. He perfectly capitalized on this advantage in the three races at Le Castellet. Sztuka etched his name into the history books as one of the few who managed to win all three races in a single weekend, securing the first-ever triple win for the Gerhard Ungar and Ralf Schumacher Team. With a perfect haul of 75 points from the round, Sztuka now holds the third position in the standings with a total of 183 points.
James Wharton, the Ferrari Driver Academy of Prema Racing, moved to the fourth position after a round that saw him on the podium twice. The Australian driver faced unfortunate car issues in two races, firstly in Race 2 when he had to make a pit-in due to car problems showing up already at the start, resulting in a retirement. Then again in Race 3, he secured the second position, just a step away from victory, but a loss of power caused by a fuel pump malfunction dashed his chances. With a third-place finish in Race 1, Wharton collected 33 points from the event.
Returning to the top 5 is the Finnish driver Tuukka Taponen, Ferrari Driver Academy representing Prema Racing, contributing to the Italian Team's unstoppable success. Taponen was already in the top 5 after the first rounds of the season but was later overtaken by Italian Brando Badoer of Van Amersfoort Racing, who now stands in sixth position. Taponen achieved his current position thanks to 45 points earned at Paul Ricard, the second-highest score after Sztuka's perfect haul. Taponen finished fourth in Race 1 and secured two podium finishes, coming in second and third place. Additionally, he was the top Rookie driver in three races, completing the Rookie class triple win.
With 150 points still up for grabs, two rounds and 6 races remain before crowning the winner, leaving room for potential changes in the rankings. The series will resume after the summer break with the sixth round, the penultimate of the season, at Mugello Circuit on the weekend of October 1st.