The Formula 4 Southeast Asia (F4 SEA) championship moved to Thailand’s Buriram International Circuit over the weekend for the fifth and sixth rounds of the season. The event was dominated by France’s Alessandro Ghiretti, who won five out of six races over the course of three days, while Malaysians Alister Yoong and Muizz Musyaffa scored two and five podiums respectively.
Ghiretti kicked off proceedings in dramatic fashion by securing pole for the first race, and promptly got off to an untroubled start. He was followed by Thailand’s Kane Shepherd and Muizz – the latter managed to catch up with Shepherd after the start and engaged in a battle for second in the closing stages of the race, ultimately unable to make the move stick.
There was a closer fight for the lead in Race 2, which started with Muizz colliding with the stalled car of Japan’s Ryo Komikado. With the race restarted, Ghiretti, again starting from pole, was beaten into Turn 1 by Ireland’s Luke Thompson, then tussled with Shepherd a little further back. The pair got past Thompson, with Ghiretti ending up back on top and Belgium’s Antoine Potty taking the final podium position.
Race 3 saw Thompson on pole this time, but it was Yoong that found his way in the lead coming into the first corner. Coming in four abreast into Turn 3, Shepherd and Ghiretti slipped past as Yoong went wide, and the two fought for the lead coming out of Turn 4. They held station for a few more laps as Muizz passed Potty for third place behind them, but eventually Ghiretti made his way past to make it three victories in a row.
In the fourth race, Yoong again made a great start to take the lead, beating polesitter Shepherd and Ghiretti; he was later found to have jumped the start and was given a 30-second penalty, dropping him to sixth. After battling with Shepherd in the first few corners, Ghiretti eventually got past and set his sights on Yoong, who later locked up and allowed the Frenchman, Shepherd and Musyaffa through to take the podium positions.
Next up, it was Race 5 where Komikado and Potty secured the front row, but while the latter managed to pass Komikado, the two were overhauled by Ghiretti and Shepherd by the end of the first lap, despite Potty pushing Shepherd wide coming out of Turn 12. Behind the top three, Komikado was passed by Muizz; however, Yoong managed to get a good exit out of the corner and slipped past both of them.
The following lap, Potty and Shepherd tussled for second place, but Shepherd ran wide into the grass and ended up behind Yoong and Muizz. He recovered to take on both Malaysians, succeeding and then setting off after Potty. Swapping positions with Yoong, Muizz went after the Thai racer and all three managed to get past the Belgian; Muizz and Yoong later passed Shepherd to claim second and third places respectively.
It was only in the sixth and final race that anyone could finally stop Ghiretti from a clean sweep of victories, and it was local hero Shepherd who swept past polesitter Thompson in the opening lap. Further back, Yoong and Ghiretti made their way past Potty and Muizz, then Komikado and Thompson to take second and third, followed suit by Muizz who passed the Belgian, Japanese and Irish drivers in the latter half of the lap.
Back in front, Yoong managed to catch up to Shepherd, but in an attempt to pass the Thai he damaged his front wing, which later caused him to lock up and allow Shepherd to romp home to victory on home soil. Behind the two, Muizz overtook Ghiretti to make it two Malaysians on the podium.
With such a dominant performance, Ghiretti was again the champion in both events, taking home 80 and 63 points compared to Shepherd’s 54 points across both races. The circus returns to Sepang in four weeks for the season finale.
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