Season Preview: 2022 Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine
The 2022 Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine season gets underway this weekend at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, and with a large field full of talented drivers, it could be the start of a fantastic year for the category.
2022 marks the second season of the championship following the merger of Formula Regional European Championship with Formula Renault Eurocup, after a great 2021 where Swiss racer Grégoire Saucy took the crown, this year has all the markings of a competitive year.
High-profile Returning Drivers!
Saucy, as well as the likes of previous race winners David Vidales, Isack Hadjar, Zane Maloney and Franco Colapinto, have all departed Formula Regional in 2022 to race in FIA Formula 3, but last year’s series runner-up, Hadrien David, is amongst a host of names returning for another crack at the title.
David, who became an affiliate driver of the BWT Alpine F1 Team in the off-season, stays with the R-ace GP team that took him to two race victories last year, but he is not the only previous winner to be coming back.
Paul Aron, a member of the Mercedes-Benz junior team, also stays with the same team as he raced for last year in Prema Racing, while Michael Belov, a race winner with G4 Racing in 2021, moves to MP Motorsport for a full campaign having raced only a partial campaign last year.
Both Aron and Belov should be contenders for the title, but you cannot rule out a couple of outstanding rookies from last year either, with Gabriele Mini staying on with ART Grand Prix and Dino Beganovic likewise with Prema Racing.
David will have two new team-mates for 2022, with the Frenchman being joined by Brazilian Gabriel Bortoleto and Spaniard Lorenzo Fluxá, while Edoardo Barrichello makes the switch to Arden Motorsport after spending his rookie campaign with JD Motorsport.
Also returning but switching teams is Dutchman Kas Haverkort, who moves to Van Amersfoort Racing, and Mari Boya, who joins Mini at ART Grand Prix. Race Performance Motorsport, who have taken over the entry of DR Formula for 2022, have signed highly rated Pietro Delli Guanti, while G4 Racing have re-signed Axel Gnos for a second season.
Two drivers who raced as wild cards last year will also make the full-time jump up to FRECA at MP Motorsport, with Sami Meguetounif and Dilano van ‘t Hoff joining Belov at the Dutch team.
Also making a return, albeit on a partial basis, will be female racer Belén García, who will again combine her commitments in W Series with several race outings with G4 Racing.
High-profile Rookie Drivers!
There are no fewer than twenty-one drivers on the grid who will be rookies in 2022, including Meguetounif, who did not compete in enough races to lose his rookie status for this season. And no fewer than four teams will have an all-rookie line-up!
Two of those rookies will be at Prema Racing, with Sebastián Montoya, the son of Formula 1, IndyCar and NASCAR legend Juan-Pablo Montoya, stepping up from two seasons in ADAC and Italian Formula 4. He and team-mates Aron and Beganovic will be joined by United Arab Emirates racer Hamda Al Qubaisi, who becomes the second confirmed female racer for the 2022 season.
ART Grand Prix, who took Saucy to the title last year, will also have a rookie on their books this year, with teenager Laurens van Hoepen joining Mini and Boya for the 2022 campaign. Van Amersfoort Racing also only have one rookie in the team in ADAC F4 race winner Joshua Dufek, although Hungarian Levente Révész also makes his FRECA debut in 2022 alongside the Swiss racer and Haverkort having stepped up from Italian F4.
Perhaps a team with more to learn in 2022 is Trident, with the Italian outfit having taken over the entry of JD Motorsport for this season. They go into the year with a trio of rookies, with GB3 Championship race winner Roman Bilinski, ADAC F4 runner-up Tim Tramnitz and ADAC F4 race winner Leonardo Fornaroli all stepping up to Formula 3 machinery for the first time.
Monolite Racing have expanded their line-up for 2022 having raced most of last year with only two entries. They too have an all-rookie line-up, with French F4 race winner Macéo Capietto and Italian F4 racers Pietro Armanni and Cenyu Han all moving into FRECA.
Another all-rookie line-up is at FA Racing, with French F4 Champion Esteban Masson, ADAC F4 race winner Victor Bernier and Italian F4 racer Nicolás Baptiste forming their three-driver squad, while KIC Motorsport have brought in ADAC F4 racers Piotr Wiśnicki and Francesco Braschi as well as Spanish F4 podium finisher Santiago Ramos.
Gnos is the only full-time returnee at G4 Racing, with the other two new drivers at the squad both rookies. Matías Zagazeta steps up from finishing runner-up in British F4, while Owen Tangavelou makes the move from French F4.
Arden Motorsport have perhaps one of the more high-profile rookies in the field in the form of the Red Bull Junior Team backed Mexican Noel León, while he’ll be joined at the team by Paraguayan Joshua Dürksen, who steps up from winning races in ADAC Formula 4.
Ten Rounds in Eight Countries
Every weekend will see two races, again set in their own Qualifying sessions (aside from Monaco), with FRECA using the same points scoring system as Formula 1. Twenty-five points will be awarded to the race winner, eighteen for second, fifteen for third, all the way down to a single point for tenth place.
The season kicks off this weekend at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, the first of three rounds to be held in Italy in 2022, with the second round also taking place in the country at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari (Imola) on 7-8 May.
Round three will see the cars once again tackling the streets of Monaco as support to Formula 1 across the weekend of 28-29 May, although Qualifying around the principality is likely to be one to watch as grid numbers will be limited meaning drivers could find themselves watching from the side-lines if they are not fast enough.
Just a week later and just up the coast, the Circuit Paul Ricard will host round four, while the Dutch Circuit Zandvoort hosts round five on 18-19 June. The Hungaroring will host the sixth round on 9-10 July, before the Circuit Spa-Francorchamps returns for round seven on 28-29 July.
After the summer break, the final three rounds begins with a trip to the Red Bull Ring on 10-11 September, before the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on 15-16 October and the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello on 22-23 October to close out the season.
What Happened in Pre-Season Testing?
ART Grand Prix and Gabriele Mini were fastest on day one of the opening pre-season test in Barcelona in March, with his fellow sophomore driver Dino Beganovic showing good pace as well for Prema Racing in second ahead of Van Amersfoort Racing’s Kas Haverkort.
Mini was again quickest on day two ahead of Haverkort, with G4 Racing’s Matías Zagazeta completing the top three. Forty drivers took to the track, with the unconfirmed Keith Donegan and Juju Noda testing for Race Performance Motorsport, Lena Buhler with R-ace GP and Abbi Pulling with MP Motorsport.
Testing then went to Paul Ricard, and Mini was again the man to beat on day one, the Italian ending ahead of MP Motorsport’s Michael Belov and Prema Racing’s Paul Aron. R-ace GP’s Gabriel Bortoleto broke Mini’s stranglehold on top spot on day two ahead of Zagazeta and Van Amersfoort Racing’s Joshua Dufek.
The final pre-season test took place at Monza, and Belov hit the front on day one ahead of Haverkort, while Arden Motorsport’s Edoardo Barrichello was an encouraging third. The second and final day saw a Prema one-two, with Beganovic ahead of Aron, with Monolite Racing’s Macéo Capietto third.
The returning drivers have been quick in pre-season testing, but with how close the field spread was across all six days of running, it is difficult to predict just what will happen in 2022.
Gabriele Mini was quick all through testing, and the 2020 Italian F4 champion will be one to watch, as will his fellow 2021 rookie Dino Beganovic. It would not surprise me if the 2022 champion was one of those two drivers, but at the same time, you cannot rule out the R-ace GP duo of Hadrien David or Gabriel Bortoleto, both of which had strong 2021’s and are with a team who know how to win races.
Likewise, Paul Aron at Prema Racing cannot be overlooked, nor ART’s Mari Boya. And if testing is any indication, Kas Haverkort at Van Amersfoort Racing could be one of the front runners.
In the rookies, it could be any number of drivers who shine through, with the likes of Matías Zagazeta, Roman Bilinski, Joshua Dufek, Tim Tramnitz, Esteban Masson, Dilano van ‘t Hoff and Sami Meguetounif all used to winning races in Formula 4.
It could be an extremely close and exciting season ahead.