Campos Racing has made a sensational start to the season by clinching two out of three victories during the Formula 4 Spain Championship curtain-raiser event in Portimão.
With five new halo-shod Tatuus-T021 for Filip Jenić, Georg Kelstrup, Hugh Barter, Nikola Tsolov and Jesse Carrasquedo Jr, the Spanish-based showed how strong its driver line-up is in the 2022 season. Japanese-Australian Barter and Bulgarian Tsolov achieved two wins at the Algarve International Circuit and Serbian Jenić, with a second place in Race 3, added more podiums to their tally.
15-year-old Tsolov dominated the first free practice session on Friday with a lap time of 1m45.755s with his teammate Barter finishing third in the timesheets. In the afternoon, the second free practice session proved the excellent overall pace of the Campos Racing-run cars as Tsolov set the fastest lap of 1m45.599s ahead of his teammates Jenić, Barter and Kelstrup, they all separated by a few tenths.
On Saturday, Tsolov continued stealing the show. In Q1, Tsolov secured the pole position for Race 1 with an unbeatable time of 1m45.192s. The “Bulgarian lion” posted his time in the closing stages of the session improving by more than two tenths Tymoteusz Kurcharczyk’s best attempt. Barter qualified in third place with a lap time of 1m45.676s and Jenić secured 8th place for race 1 also lapping under the 1m46s barrier. Danish Kelstrup set to start from 11th and Carrasquedo Jr. lined up 20th on the grid.
Race 1 took place in the afternoon and unfortunately Tsolov couldn’t take advantage of his pole position. The rookie almost stalled the car when the lights went out and dropped down the order. By the contrary, Barter stormed into the lead by passing Kurcharczyk and Tsolov himself. The Japanese-Australian delivered a fantastic defensive driving keeping Kurcharczyk and Valerio Rinicella at bay for the first eight laps. Kurcharczyk moved past Barter on lap 9 but the latter retook the lead, after several corners running in breathtaking wheel-to-wheel fashion, with two laps to go and led the field until the checkered flag. Jenić finished seventh ahead of Kelstrup and Tsolov, from the very back of the field, moved up to 14th and also set the fastest lap of the race in the process. Carrasquedo Jr. ended up in 23rd place.
Sunday started with Q2 in which Campos Racing drivers put themselves in pole position contention once again. Tsolov finally took second place but missing the pole by a mere 19 thousandths, the difference between Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak and Tsolov’s lap time of 1m45.442s. Kelstrup posted the 4th fastest lap with a time of 1m45.494s securing a second row start. Jenić took fifth place in the timesheets and Barter qualified two places adrift in seventh. Last but not least, Carrasquedo Jr. rounded out the top-ten in which was a fantastic overall performance coming from Campos Racing with their five drivers in the top-ten of a 30-car field.
The second 25-minute + 1 lap race took place at noon. At the start, Jenić moved up to third place ahead of Barter, Tsolov and Kelstrup. Shortly after, Kelstrup moved past Tsolov for fifth and the Bulgarian still lost a few places more as the goal was to avoid any incident in the first laps. The first places changed a lot and Barter was running in second place on lap 5 after overtaking Kurcharczyk and Jenić. The Serbian driver got past Barter, now third, on lap 9 and moved into podium positions once again. Meanwhile, Tsolov was putting another strong recovery drive and overtook both Kelstrup and Christian Ho on lap 10. After 16 laps, Jenić crossed the finish line in second place behind race winner Inthraphuvasak and Barter took fourth securing another valuable points-paying result. Tsolov’s final rush rewarded him with fifth place in the classification. Danish Kelstrup finished ninth. Carrasquedo Jr. finished 16th after losing some places in the early stages but then recovering at the end.
The third and final race, which consisted of 18 minutes plus one lap, brought the curtain down on the weekend in the afternoon. It was another classic action-packed F4 race with plenty of overtakes. When the lights went out, Kurcharczyk took the lead from polesitter Tsolov. However, Tsolov spent less than a lap behind Kurcharczyk after slipstreaming the Polish driver. Barter also made a great getaway and was running third when the safety car was deployed following a three-car pile-up. After four laps the race resumed with Tsolov mastering the restart and pulled away after setting the fastest lap of the race. Unfortunately, another incident involving Vladislav Ryabov and Julien Gael brought out the safety car once again. With just one lap to go the race was green-flagged and Tsolov kept Kurcharczyk at bay to claim his first win in the series on his debut. Barter couldn’t fend Suleiman Zanfari off and finished fourth. Further adrift, Kelstrup finished 11th, two places ahead of Jenić. Carrasquedo Jr. took the checkered flag in 23rd place.
After the first round, Barter sits second on 45 points in the drivers’ standings. Tsolov is fourth with Jenić and Kelstrup sixth and 8th respectively. Besides, Tsolov is currently second in the rookies’ championship on 51 points. Finally, Campos Racing is second in the teams’ standings on 71 points.
The second round of the season will take place later this month, on 28-29 May, at Circuito de Jerez.