Freddie Slater Crowned 2024 F4 UAE Champion After Epic Dubai Finale

Published on Monday, February 19, 2024

Freddie Slater Crowned 2024 F4 UAE Champion After Epic Dubai Finale

United Arab Emirates - Freddie Slater was crowned at the end of a thrilling 2024 Formula 4 UAE Championship (F4 UAE) title decider at Dubai Autodrome, during which fortunes ebbed and flowed between the 15-year-old Briton, his Mumbai Falcons Racing team-mate Kean Nakamura-Berta and Yas Heat Racing Academy’s pre-weekend points leader Keanu Al Azhari.

The weekend rounded out another hugely successful season for the championship, which continues to power the development of motorsport in the region. Commented H.E. Khalid Bin Sulayem, EMSO President, said: “The F4 UAE Championship has grown leaps and bounds since its launch in 2016. The EMSO’s work with Top Speed has produced amazing results so far, and we are confident that the series will continue to reach new heights. This season’s title was decided at the Dubai Autodrome, after an exciting fourth round at the Yas Marina Circuit which saw three new names on the steps of the podium."

“When it comes to motorsport, the UAE plays an important role in the MENA Region, and with the F4 UAE Championship, we are seeing young local talent thriving. Emirati youngster Rashid Al Dhaheri recently won his first F4 race, going on to take victory in the final race of the F4 UAE season, while elsewhere the Al Qubaisi sisters, Amna and Hamda, are making their mark on a more international level following their success in F4."

Alpine Formula 1 protégé Nakamura-Berta and Rashid Al Dhaheri were the form men over the weekend, each taking a race win with the other in hot pursuit. The 16-year-old Anglo-Japanese-Slovakian Nakamura-Berta held off Prema Racing’s 15-year-old Abu Dhabi racer Al Dhaheri for victory in the opening race. Mercedes F1-backed Jamaican-American Alex Powell was third in his Mumbai Falcons car, meaning a podium lock-out for Prema-run drivers.

Prospects had not looked good for Slater after qualifying. He was down in 13thon the grid for race one, but stormed through to fifth. Al Azhari’s finishing position of ninth also helped begin to swing things Slater’s way. Then, in the reversed-grid second race, Slater was on the charge again, snatching fourth position away from Al Azhari literally as they crossed the finish line. Up front, 15-year-old French Red Bull Junior Enzo Deligny took victory for R-ace GP ahead of Prema-run Latvian Tomass Štolcermanis and Hitech Pulse-Eight’s British hope Deagen Fairclough, whose tenacious defence of third place from Al Azhari allowed Slater to pounce on the Dubai racer at the chequered flag.

In the finale, Nakamura-Berta lost his pole position advantage to Al Dhaheri at the start as Slater moved into third. If Nakamura-Berta got into the lead, the title would be his, but Al Dhaheri held firm, Nakamura-Berta was second, and Slater was a championship-winning third. It was enough for Slater to defeat Nakamura-Berta by four points, with Al Azhari dropping to third, a further four points adrift. Nakamura-Berta gained some consolation by being crowned Rookie champion. He took two category wins in Dubai – Štolcermanis claimed the other – to defeat Powell by 78 points, with R-ace GP’s French youngster Jules Caranta taking third place. Mumbai Falcons completed a hat-trick of championships by adding the Teams’ title to Slater’s overall honours and Nakamura-Berta’s Rookie crown.

 

Race 1

Kean Nakamura-Berta’s bid for a late-season charge to the title picked up impetus when he topped qualifying for race one, with outside title contender Rashid Al Dhaheri joining him on the front row. Of the top two in the points, Keanu Al Azhari lined up in fifth place, and a challenging session consigned Freddie Slater to 13th on the grid.

Nakamura-Berta led away at the start from Al Dhaheri and Alex Powell, and this trio kept the leading three positions throughout the race. Al Dhaheri kept Nakamura-Berta under pressure, but the leader showed mastery of two safety-car restarts – each caution called so that marshals could retrieve debris from the circuit. Nakamura-Berta kept everything under control until a couple of lock-ups on the final lap, which allowed Al Dhaheri to trim the gap to 0.524 seconds by the chequered flag. Powell was not far adrift in third to keep his own slim title chances flickering.

If it was status quo at the front, it certainly wasn’t behind. Al Azhari dropped to sixth on the opening lap, then ran wide at Turn 1 next time around and had to take to the escape road, dropping him to 10th position. Crucially, title rival Slater was now in front of him after soaring from 13th to seventh over the first two laps, only to be repassed by Enzo Deligny shortly afterwards and fall to eighth.

Following the first safety car, Slater latched onto the battle for sixth between Deagen Fairclough and Deligny. On the seventh lap, Deligny dived inside Fairclough at Turn 10, and that allowed Slater the momentum to also pass his fellow Briton at Turn 12. Down to Turn 1 they raced, and Slater got down the inside of Deligny to snatch sixth position.

The second safety car allowed Slater to catch the group in front, and just after the restart on lap 11, he dispatched Enzo Yeh smartly at Turn 10 for fifth. Slater now caught up Jack Beeton, but the Australian defended valiantly over the final laps. Slater drew alongside on the run to the finish line, but AGI Sport’s Australian ace Beeton just held onto fourth, with Chinese Taipei talent Yeh (R-ace GP) also right in their wheel tracks. Yeh completed the leading Rookie trio behind Nakamura-Berta and Powell.

A ferocious battle for seventh went the way of Deligny at the chequered flag, with Jules Caranta, Fairclough, and Al Azhari right behind, and Tomass Štolcermanis and Yevan David just dropping away a touch in the closing stages. But both Deligny and David were given five-second penalties after the race for not using the Turn 2 escape road after running off track at Turn 1. Deligny’s relegation to 11th promoted Caranta to seventh, Fairclough to eighth, Al Azhari to ninth and Štolcermanis to 10th. It also meant Al Azhari retained a two-point championship advantage going into Sunday, with Nakamura-Berta now in the runner-up slot and Slater five points behind in third. David’s penalty unfortunately cost the Sri Lankan pole for the reversed-grid race two, with Luka Sammalisto moving up to replace him.

 

Race 2

Enzo Deligny’s penalty from race one had a silver lining – it handed him a front-row starting position for the reversed grid, and he used it perfectly to beat poleman and R-ace GP team-mate Luka Sammalisto away at the start. Finnish racer Sammalisto also lost out to Tomass Štolcermanis, while an audacious move from Deagen Fairclough at Turn 1 sent him around the outside of both Sammalisto and Keanu Al Azhari and into third place. Al Azhari then dived inside Sammalisto at Turn 9 to grab fourth spot.

Deligny stayed out in front for the entire race. By the sixth lap of 15, he had inched his margin to Štolcermanis out to a second, and there were only minor fluctuations in this to the chequered flag, with the Red Bull Junior emerging victorious.

Both these top two drivers missed the early rounds of the F4 UAE series, so their battle at the front had no impact upon the title battle. But the fight for third had major repercussions. Al Azhari had lost a bit of time early on. He passed Fairclough for third at Turn 12, only for the Briton to fight back at Turn 14, and Al Azhari’s wide line through the following corners dropped him back behind Sammalisto, before he dispatched the R-ace GP driver for good at Turn 1.

Freddie Slater, meanwhile, had it all to do from eighth on the grid, but got past Jack Beeton for seventh on lap two, and then deprived Jules Caranta of sixth place the next time around. Now Slater set his sights upon Sammalisto. Bit by bit he gained, and finally it was a dive at Turn 14 that got him into fifth position. But by now it was lap 12, just over three tours remained, and surely Fairclough and Al Azhari were too far in front for Slater to catch them.

But then Al Azhari redoubled his efforts to pass Fairclough for third. On the penultimate lap, he appeared to have got the deal done at Turn 10, but the redoubtable Fairclough fought back and snatched the position back as they exited Turn 12. Into the final lap, another bid from Al Azhari sent him wide at Turn 1 and he conceded the position to Fairclough. Still Al Azhari pressed on, but Fairclough’s defence had brought Slater right into their midst. With two corners to go, Slater was right onto Al Azhari’s rear end. He went to the outside into the final Turn 16, but then seemed to hang back to focus on getting a superior exit speed. It worked. Slater got a run on Al Azhari to the chequered flag, and pipped him by 0.023 seconds. He was back up to second in the standings, and would now enter the final race just three points behind Al Azhari.

Sammalisto completed a strong race in sixth, while Caranta held off Rashid Al Dhaheri and Kean Nakamura-Berta for seventh, the Frenchman also rounding out the top three Rookie class contenders behind Štolcermanis and Sammalisto. Beeton was 10th, and Alex Powell fended off Dion Gowda for 11th. While Al Dhaheri and Powell were now out of the picture for the championship, Nakamura-Berta’s ninth place kept him very much involved; he was back down to third in the standings, but just 10 points behind Al Azhari and seven adrift of Slater.

 

Race 3

Kean Nakamura-Berta was dominant in the second qualifying session to earn pole position for the final race of the F4 UAE season by 0.665 seconds. With Freddie Slater fourth on the grid and Keanu Al Azhari 10th, a processional race with no changes of position would allow Nakamura-Berta to leapfrog both to become champion.

But such is not the way of F4 UAE. Instead, Rashid Al Dhaheri got a better launch from the other front-row position to grab the lead from Nakamura-Berta into Turn 1. And with Alex Powell, third on the grid, suffering a problem at the lights that put him out of the race, Slater was already up to third. Now Slater was in the theoretical title-winning position, but that did not stop him throwing everything into trying to pass Nakamura-Berta over the course of the opening lap. That allowed Al Dhaheri to extend a nice margin at the front of the field, only for the safety car – followed by a red flag – to be called on lap two.

The reason for this was an incident at Turn 10 between Tomass Štolcermanis and Raphaël Narac, from which both drivers emerged from their cars unaided. The delay caused by this plus the ensuing safety car period before the race restarted further hampered Al Azhari’s chances of making the progress he required. The local driver’s bid to preserve his championship lead had begun brightly when he stormed into the battle for seventh, but he got launched spectacularly over the Turn 11 kerb as he ran wheel to wheel with Jules Caranta and Luka Sammalisto, and ended the first lap in 11th position, before repassing Caranta for 10th just before the race was neutralised.

Now all Slater had to do was sit behind Nakamura-Berta to become champion. But that would only suffice if they were second and third. If they both got past Al Dhaheri to finish first and second, they would be on equal points and Nakamura-Berta would claim the crown on wins countback.

It turned out that this was a moot point. Al Dhaheri has flourished over the F4 UAE campaign, and over the remaining eight laps of racing he did not put a wheel wrong. Nakamura-Berta was never close enough to try a move that would not entail enormous risk, and Al Dhaheri prevailed by 0.707 seconds. Slater appeared to lack the pace of the leading duo, but third place was enough for him to become champion, and he in turn had to keep a wary eye behind him, with Mumbai Falcons’ Indian racer Dion Gowda and Enzo Yeh close at hand in fourth and fifth respectively throughout the race. Enzo Deligny fended off Emirates-based Italian Matteo Quintarelli (Saintéloc Racing) to claim sixth.

Al Azhari, meanwhile, never gave up the battle. Once again he became embroiled with Caranta and Sammalisto following the restart, finally getting past both R-ace GP contenders to move into ninth. Then he hunted down Jack Beeton and grabbed eighth. But that was as far as he could progress. Caranta was ninth, and third Rookie behind Nakamura-Berta and Yeh, with Beeton rounding out the top 10.

 

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