French F4 2022
Round 4

Arao closes in on French F4 lead on trip to Spa-Francorchamps

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Arao closes in on French F4 lead on trip to Belgium Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, whilst Honda’s Red Bull protégé Souta Arao was the top scorer in the first international round

Arao closes in on French F4 lead on trip to Spa-Francorchamps

The first of the French Formula 4 championship’s two international rounds took place this weekend at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in the hills of eastern Belgium, and the famous grand prix venue proved to be a rewarding one for Honda’s junior single-seater stars once again.

In 2020 it was Ayumu Iwasa and Ren Sato who won all three French F4 races at the circuit, and this year Honda Racing School (HRS) scholars Souta Arao and Yuto Nomura were representing Honda's young driver development programme Honda Formula Dream Project (HFDP) and the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team which also supports the young pair’s careers and invited them to its headquarters during the summer break.

On Arao’s first visit to Spa he was over a second faster than anyone else in the free practice session on Thursday, although later in the day he was pipped to pole for the weekend’s first and third races by just over a tenth of a second as Nomura qualified fifth and sixth.

Despite a strong launch off the line, Arao was unable to convert his front row start into a podium finish in race one on Friday, as after the opening corner he lost several places and ran in fifth before a penalty for another driver promoted him to fourth. A grid penalty put Nomura further down the order at the start, and he finished seventh.

Nomura and Arao were sixth and ninth on the reversed grid of race two, and the latter rose two places before a double move on the final lap earned him fifth place. Nomura had a quieter run to 10th place, but was only four-and-a-half seconds away from the race leader by the chequered flag.

The drivers returned to the track on Saturday morning for their third and final race, and this time Arao could keep his second place through the first lap and then was in a position to fight for the race win. But two safety car periods, one which the race ended under, unfortunately gave him little time to go for the lead. However securing the runner-up spot ensured Arao was the highest scorer of the round, as the race winner was ineligible for points due to previous circuit experience, and he has rapidly closed in on the championship lead.

Nomura finished the weekend with a sixth place to add to his points haul, and he is sixth in the standings ahead of the final three rounds.

Yuto Nomura
Yuto Nomura 15
I enjoyed Spa! But I wasn't feeling very well at the practice stage. However, I was able to improve with each run and was in the top five in qualifying.

Race one I started in eighth place with a penalty from the previous race. I was able to move up to sixth place at the start. However, in the restart after the safety car, I was late and was overtaken by two cars. Although I was 8th place at the chequered flag, I finished seventh due to the penalty of the driver ahead.” 

For race two I started sixth on the reversed grid in the top 10 from qualifying. The start wasn't bad, but the race pace was bad and I dropped some places. The result was 10th place, and it was a race with remaining challenges.

In race three I started in sixth place from the second best time in qualifying. I started well and moved up to fifth at the exit of the first corner, but I couldn't use the slipstream and was retaken in front of Eau Rouge. After that, the safety car came out twice and I finished in sixth place without racing properly.

Souta Arao
Souta Arao 33
I enjoyed Spa. In qualifying I had confidence, but I made a lot of mistakes. I lost time a lot. My mistake lost me pole position, but I was able to gain confidence in my speed. I need to focus more in qualifying.
I got good start in race one. Right after the start, I almost made contact with another car and when I tried to avoid it, I got stuck on the banana kerb and dropped to fifth. After that, I had engine trouble and stalled out on the straights, but I was happy that I managed to finish the race.

I knew my pace was good in race two. I got a good start, but when I came to overtake from the outside at turn seven, I locked up a little and lost a position. But my pace was relatively good and I was able to catch up from ninth to fifth.

In race three I changed the setting drastically. My grid spot was a little wet at the start, so I had a lot of wheelspin, but I kept my position. I think my pace was good right after the start, but the safety car came out twice and it was a sprint race of two laps in total.

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