Random Series Recap #3 - S48 W5 - F4 Polish Series19.09.2022 -
Polish Formula 4, similarly to other series on this level, is a great starting point for young drivers looking for development in competitive environment and was one of the first steps for few well-known Polish drivers like Jozkow and Hołek. Last season series was dominated by former prime minister Donald Tusk who then, unsurprisingly, ran away to Brussels and competes now in Dutch F4. As Polish infrastructure is not yet capable of hosting 10 race weeks, some of them are currently hosted in neighboring countries.
In the past
First four weeks were enough to clarify who will be fighting for the top. 45-year old Carl Pietrzak won only one race, but with his long time experience and consistency still managed to create 4 point lead over Gilbert Gifford whose 6 race victories were overshadowed by one last place finish due to mechanical failure. Third Jurek Oprych had over 60 points less than the leader and with big pack of drivers behind him had to think about maintaining podium position rather than fighting for higher place.
This week's track
In week 5 Polish F4 visited Wrocław and it's 4,6 km long street track running through bridges of Oder River. Luckily all of the speed cameras were temporarily turned off, as average speed on the track exceeds 130 km/h.
After first few unimpressive qualifying runs, Yoann Oteam set the bar for future competitors with 2:04.737 in his first attempt. When David Spiřík managed to drive 0.2 seconds faster, his chances for pole position looked good, especially with Pietrzak falling behind him after first attempt. Unfortunately for Spiřík, Gifford woke up on Wednesday and chose violence - his first attempt was almost 1.2 seconds faster than Spiřík's and closed any discussions about pole winner. Later, in his second run, Pietrzak managed to improve his time pushing Czech driver to third place.
With surprisingly good reflexes for his age - Pietrzak overtook Gifford on turn 2. Even earlier, Oprych jumped to P4 by overtaking Oteam. Both of those moves didn't stick, as Oteam won his position back just half a lap later and Gifford overtook Pietrzak on lap 2. British driver opened a few seconds gap, and drove to the victory pretty much unbothered by Pietrzak, who came second. Lots of drama happened just behind their backs. Oteam made a huge mistake on lap 5, lost a lot of time, but luckily for him managed to keep his car unscathed, so he could start chasing front four. This Friday race was not one for the superstitious fans, as lap 13 brought tons of bad luck on front drivers. Oprych hit the barriers while driving through the hairpin and just few seconds later Spiřík fell off the track just before the bridge. What was a bad luck for some became a great sign for Oteam, as his previous mistake didn't matter anymore and he easily managed to finish third.
"Slow and steady wins the race" is probably the most ridiculed sentence in the world of motorsport and usually for good reason. This Sunday in Wrocław, fans could however see that fast and aggressive is not always victorious too. With the starting list derived from Friday results, Gifford, Pietrzak and Oteam started at the front, while Oprych and Spiřík had to fight from the back. Once again, Gifford showed an awful start and got overtaken by Pietrzak. Oteam also tried to take advantage of this situation - he rushed in front of Gifford but went into quick right-left sequence of turns 3 and 4 with way too much speed and crashed there. At the back, Oprych showed more pace and aggresiveness than Spiřík, and started to regain positions way faster than Czech youngster. At the start of lap 4 he was already at P5, but it was the beginning of the end of his race. First, he made a mistake while attacking Waldemar Huzarski which resulted in a crash and necessity of pit stop repairs. No amount of repairs could help him two laps later, after his contact with sloppily defending Hieronim Załuska and for the second time this week Oprych didn't finish the race. It left Spiřík pretty uncontested in his fight for third. At the front, situation was quite similar. Gifford, who in qualification and sprint race showed tremendous pace, tried to regain lead after his awful start, but while Pietrzak remained steady in first, British driver started making more and more mistakes. This resulted in him actually losing time to Polish driver, and even almost crashing just two laps before finish line. Luckily for him, his car was able to finish the race and his advantage over Spiřík was big enough to allow him to retain second place.
In week 6, Polish F4 series moves abroad to Latvian Bikernieki Circuit. After his nightmare week, Jurek Oprych fell out of podium place and is now fourth. With a surprising twist of events Ákos Murvai is now third in general standings. This Hungarian driver made race podium only twice in ten attempts, but his regularity may lead him to one last series podium before retirement. Most important fight will happen at the top - Gifford still stays behind Pietrzak, but with only 2 points difference now. His unmatched pace will be a big advantage for him in the second half of the season, however if he doesn't eliminate his mistakes, he may lose way more time through them.
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