Petr Ptacek Jr claimed his first Rookie Cup win and a brace of Rookie podiums as he battled changeable weather conditions during the second round of the Italian F4 Championship at Paul Ricard in France this weekend.
Returning to the track that he enjoyed a successful pre-season test at last month, Petr made his knowledge count as he quickly moved up the timesheets in the 33-car qualifying session.
He placed his BhaiTech Racing car in P6 for the opening pair of 30-minute races, before then finding a few more tenths to qualify P3 for the last race.
Holding onto P6 at the start of the first race, the 15-year-old started picking up places using his increased confidence under braking. By mid-distance he was third, but was slightly out-muscled by a more experienced rival in the closing minutes and fell to P4.
That was still good enough for victory in the Rookie Cup – an achievement that put Petr on the top step of the podium in only his fourth Italian F4 race.
“P4 in the first race was really good for me and P1 in the rookies was great,” the Corum Watches-backed driver explained. “Battling with the front-runners in just my second weekend is a big positive as well.”
Sunday’s two races were held under grey skies as heavy rain soaked the track; meaning Petr had to get to grips with the Tatuus-Abarth F4 car in wet conditions for the first time.
The opening race proved to be frustrating as a spin with 10 minutes to go on the slippery French asphalt relegated Petr to P17. But his speed and confidence in the tricky conditions allowed him to climb back to P12 overall and P3 in the Rookie Cup before the race was red-flagged with two laps left to run.
Petr said: “I’m pleased that the speed was there in all the different conditions, but it is disappointing that I wasn’t able to finish where I felt I was supposed to in race two because of a stupid mistake. I made a little contact with another driver in turn seven and that dropped me back.”
Race three – like the previous race – started behind the Safety Car with the track still damp from afternoon rain showers. While Petr made a positive start, he didn’t have the same pace in the greasy conditions as his rivals and finished P7 – second in the rookie standings.
“In the third race, the track was completely different to how it was for the rest of the weekend because it was only wet in patches. That affected the balance of the car, I think the tyre pressures were maybe a bit too low,” Petr said.
“But at the end of the race I was catching the pack battling for first place, so the car improved during the closing laps and it seemed to get better.”
With a successful second round of the Italian F4 Championship under his belt, Petr’s focus now turns to the third round at Monza on 2-3 June.
He said: “I don’t have much experience of Monza compared to some of the other drivers in the series. We have to work a bit to get to where we want to be, but once we put all the little parts together I hope I’ll be battling for the top step of the podium overall.”