Petr Ptacek Jr will make his European single-seater racing debut this weekend when he takes part in the first round of the Italian F4 Championship at Adria International Circuit.
The 15-year-old has graduated to formula racing after an impressive 2017 season in which he found race-winning success at domestic, European and world level in karting’s top gearbox category, KZ2.
Petr Jr will represent Bhaitech Racing in the seven-round Italian F4 series and he’s keen to get his 2018 championship challenge underway this weekend after enjoying a positive pre-season testing programme.
His confidence has been given a further boost after he scored a brace of podium finishes at the first round of the F4 UAE Championship at the end of December.
“My preparation for F4 has gone well and I think a few people were surprised that I was able to find some good pace almost straight away,” the Czech driver said. “For sure, the team is happy about the situation we’re in and I’m happy about it. Now we are ready for a real test to begin at Adria.”
With three F4 races to contest at each race weekend, Petr Jr knows how important it will be to make a fast start in Adria, particularly during qualifying. But he’s not fazed about the prospect of going head-to-head with 29 other drivers this weekend.
“The Adria circuit is pretty slow compared to some of the others we’ll race on this season. You can’t pass very well because it’s so tight. That means qualifying will be absolutely crucial,” the Corum Watches-supported driver explained.
“But I’m really not feeling any mental pressure or stress about that. I’m just calm and I’m really focused on doing the job that I’m supposed to do.
“Whether it’s karting or F4, the driving is still the same. It’s the driver with the biggest balls that qualifies the fastest.”
As an F4 rookie, one of the important things Petr Jr has had to learn during pre-season testing is how to manage the Pirelli tyres that he will race on during 2018. Tyre degradation can quickly affect a driver’s performance and speed in the F4 category if the driving style is too aggressive.
“One of the main challenges I’ve had in recent months has been learning how to manage the tyres,” he said. “The tyres wear differently to how they do in karting and I’ve done a lot of work with my engineer to understand that.
“Success is determined by how smooth you can be. If you’re a driver that can’t make their tyres last, you’ll go from fast to slow pretty quickly as the grip levels change dramatically.
“I want to be fast for the whole race so I hope the tyre management experience I’ve got during pre-season will allow that.”
As well as racing in the Italian F4 Championship during 2018, Petr Jr will also tackle selected round of the Spanish F4 series.