February 19, 2024 | News

Formula Winter Series Valencia: Trio score wins as track limits causes tension

Andres Cardenas, Griffin Peebles and Matheus Ferreira took the race victories as track limits and safety cars disrupted a frantic weekend of Formula Winter Series Formula 4 action in Valencia.

Race 1

Track limits became a sore talking point from the start of Saturday morning after scores of violations in the 20-minute session led to a volley of black flags for the majority of the huge field. The session was later decreed null and void, leaving the grid for the opening race to be set somewhat controversially from the best times from the Thursday and Friday test sessions – when track limits were not policed at all.

That left Friday afternoon pacesetter Cardenas on pole position, the Campos driver having only managed the fifth best time in the qualifying session that was scratched from the record books. But the Peruvian absolutely made the most of his unexpected opportunity. Cardenas made a clean start and was never headed, in a race interrupted by two safety car interludes and then brought to a close four minutes early by a red flag when two cars skated off into the gravel in separate incidents.

“It was a difficult race from my point of view,” said Cardenas after his second victory of the 2024 FWS season. “I struggled a little bit with the heat and the pressure you have when you lead. We had a great start, and the safety car restarts were good. We need to work a little more on the pace but other than that, very good. It was weird to get the pole like that, It’s not what I wanted. But it is what it is, it’s the rule, everyone must respect it.”

Juan Cota made a strong start from fourth on the grid to rise to second on the opening lap in his DriveX Tatuus. The Spaniard was left frustrated by the safety cars, one of which was caused by his team-mate Mikel Pedersen who hit a kerb and launched into a gravel trap. “We were unlucky with the safety cars,” said Cota. “I think I had the pace to win.”

Peebles, like Cardenas and Cota a race winner in round one at Jerez, completed the podium, ahead of Maciej Gladysz and Akshay Bohra – the latter starting and finishing fifth after setting the pole time in the deleted qualifying session.

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Race 2

Peebles scored his second victory of the FWS season in a race delayed from morning until lunchtime on Sunday because of confusion over the grid order. Once the race finally got away, Peebles was forced on the defensive into the first corner as Cardenas challenged for the lead, before the first of no less than four safety car interruptions to collect cars from gravel traps severely limited the amount of racing laps.

The final safety car interlude allowed for a single-lap shootout, but Peebles kept his head to complete his victory from Cardenas. “We had a very good start after I got the tyre temperatures up very well,” said MP Motorsport’s winner. “I had to defend a little bit from Cardenas, then built a small gap before the first safety car. I had too many of those to count! Every restart was good, we had the last lap shootout and he couldn’t keep up with me. I just had to be as smooth as possible because we were quite even.”

Gladysz finished third on the road, but a penalty for a grid formation violation dropped the MP Motorsport driver down the order. That promoted Gianmarco Pradel on to the podium, which was well deserved following his fine final-lap pass on Bohra at Turn 2. Cota and Matheus Ferreira completed the top six.

Race 3

A strong start from the front row allowed Ferreira to get the better of Peebles into Turn 2 as the US Racing driver claimed the team’s first FWS win in the final Formula 4 race of a hectic and at times controversial weekend.

Inevitably, Ferreira had to negotiate safety car restarts – only two this time – before he could claim his victory, with Peebles backing up his Race 2 win with a runner-up finish.

“I’m really happy, my first win of the year,” said Brazilian Ferreira. “I did a really good start, went P1 in the first lap, was really fast, managed the gap to the guy behind me and had confidence. Consistency is what you need to win a championship.”

The race was interrupted on the first lap when Savinkov Oleksandr was tapped into a spin at Turn 2 and collected by Lorenzo Castillo. Another safety car interlude to clear a stranded car broke up the action, but the race then ran ‘clean’ for seven laps.

Douwe Dedecker completed the podium for GRS, with Bohra, Cardenas and Pradel completing the top six. That leaves Race 1 winner Cardenas sitting at the top of the FWS standings, but only a couple of points ahead of Peebles, with Ferreira further back in third.