F4 UAE | Round 3: Matteo Nannini pulls through and extends championship lead
From car damage to a sandstorm, here is the roundup of all the challenges Nannini had to face in Dubai, in order to keep his championship lead.
It is a wrap for the third round of the F4 UAE Championship and Matteo Nannini is on a roll, after securing the lead on the chart once again amid several difficulties. This week the F4 circus moved back to Dubai following an action-packed round at Yas Marina, which featured two night races. The title contention turned out to be a two-way business between Matteo Nannini of Xcel Motorsport and Joshua Durksen from the Muecke Motorsport squad, with the two being separated by mere 4 points.
The Italian had the upper hand at qualifying, snatching pole by 0.307s from runner-up Alhabsi, who stalled at the start of Race 1, while Nannini managed to keep the lead as the lights went out. At the first corner, Durksen had already recovered from P4 to P2, getting right behind the Forlì-based racer but a sudden red flag interrupted the race due to a major crash involving five drivers. Only 6 made it to the restart following the carnage, with Nannini successfully maintaining P1 until his teammate Alhabsi caught him and overtook him for the win. The Omani driver opted for a different strategy and therefore had fresher tyres, whereas Nannini had chosen to use his qualifying tyres for Race 1. Xcel Motorsport flamboyantly conquered the entire podium in the first racing session of four, as Tijmen van der Helm crossed the line in 3rd behind Alhabsi and Nannini.
The reversed grid system in Race 2 had Matteo in P5 for the start. The Italian pondered a similar stategy to the previous one, being totally aware of the fact that the race was going to be tough. In fact, Nannini finished in P5, after a hard-fought battle against his teammates and Muecke’s duo at the front. Joshua Durksen won ahead of Gohler and Alhabsi, while van der Helm and Nannini had to settle for P4 and P5.
Race 3 was completely different, above all with the sandstorm that hit Dubai right in the middle of the session. Nannini started from pole, three places ahead of Durksen. The Italian managed the race at the front on a fresh set of tyres, although he was pressured and vexed by Alhabsi throughout the 15 laps, with the two finding themselves on the verge of colliding. It was a very emotional win for the Xcel driver, after the struggles in Race 2 and the challenge his teammate gave him. Furthermore, Durksen closed in P6, allowing Nannini to increase the gap in the standings.
In Race 4, Nannini’s car suffered some damage on the rear wing after Nico Gohler hit him. Obviously, that cost Nannini some performance, but that did not stop him from attacking Durksen and Roy, resurging from P5 to P3. The Italian yielded another podium finish, behind Tijmen van der Helm, who earned his maiden win, and Alhabsi, gifting Xcel with its second 1-2-3 in the same event.
Owing to the results in Round 3, Matteo Nannini elongates his championship lead from 4 to 17 points. Alhabsi fully benefits from his 6-podium-streak and overtakes Roy for P3 in the standings, but the Omani driver remains far from the two title contenders.
Round 4 is right behind the corner, starting on February 21st at Yas Marina. Pressure mounts up, as it will stand for a make-it-or-break-it occasion for Nannini to confirm his championship chances before the final rush in two weeks’ time.