F4 SEA: Nayan Chatterjee secures four podium finishes in season-opener at Sepang
The Indian showed good pace all weekend, but missed out on a win.
Nayan Chatterjee started his international stint in the FIA Formula 4 South East Asia championship’s season-opener at Sepang with a second place finish in qualifying.
The Indian was 1.205s off Singapore’s Danial Frost in the wet conditions in Malaysia, with Thailand’s Kane Sheperd completing the Top 3.
The first race on Friday was postponed after a drain cover came loose during the Formula 1’s FP2 session. Thus, Race 2 effectively became Race 1 and so on – with only five races held in the weekend.
At the start of the 8-lap race, Frost kept his lead from China’s Daniel Cao, who made two places in the opening lap – dropping Chatterjee to third.
But couple of laps down, Cao cleared Frost to take the lead on Lap 3 and build enough gap to win the opening race of the season, as Sri Lanka’s Eshan Pieris ended up third.
Chatterjee, meanwhile, held to third for the first two laps but dropped to eighth while fighting for the podium positions.
The Mumbaikar first cleared Thailand’s Shivin Sirinarinthon and then Indonesia’s Perdana Minang to finish sixth in the order.
The second race saw Chatterjee starting from fifth courtesy of his fastest lap in Race 1. The Indian had a frantic outing to overtake cars and finish on the podium.
He managed to do so clearing Sheperd and Malaysia’s Nazim Azman to put himself in third position behind the leaders Cao and Frost.
While Cao had enough lead to claim his second win of the weekend, Frost had to fend off a late surge from Chatterjee, who came within a second of the Singaporean.
Ultimately, Chatterjee had to settle for third, taking his maiden podium of the season, finishing only 0.394s behind Frost.
The final race on Saturday took a bizarre turn when a miscalculation from the organisers meant none of the cars saw the chequered flag.
The promoters later apologized for the mistake for not being able to calculate the amount of fuel, which will be needed to complete back-to-back races.
The results were scaled back to Lap 5, which gave Frost his first win of the season, while Cao was second and Chatterjee third – taking his second podium.
The Indian, who recorded the fastest lap in the race, was the second last driver to stop on the track, before Sheperd eventually did on the final lap.
Starting on pole was Chatterjee in Race 4 on Sunday morning at Sepang alongside Cao, who has looked strong all weekend.
It was a close battle between the two but the Chinese driver just had enough to clear the Indian and take the winning honours by 1.050s.
As Cao recorded his third win, Chatterjee upped his best result to second taking his third consecutive podium – also registering the fastest lap for the second time.
With Frost out of reckoning, it was Azman who completed the podium positions – his first of the weekend.
The final race of the weekend had Sheperd starting on pole alongside Azman, with Chatterjee in third along with Cao in the second row.
It was a race long battle between the four drivers as Azman found a way past Sheperd to take his first win of the season – the Malaysian doing well in his home event.
Behind, Sheperd came under pressure from Chatterjee, who held his position from Cao. But the Thai driver managed to keep his position by 0.856s from the Indian.
Meanwhile, Chatterjee himself kept Cao at bay by a mere 0.465s to take his fourth podium of the opening weekend in the lightweight championship.
Cao was declared the event champion with nine points, while Chatterjee was second with 17 and Azman third with 19 - tied on points with Sheperd, but a win to Malaysian's name put him ahead.
The series now moves to Philippines for Round 2 at the Clark International Circuit during the October 20-22 weekend.