Finnish formula driver Luka Sammalisto is improving his performance as the season progresses in the Italian F4 series. The Imola race offered a lot of positives but also technical challenges, which left Luka from the rookie driver’s podium position just one place short twice.
Earlier this year, Sammalisto also took another step closer to professional motorsport. Luka signed a management contract with the Italian Minardi Management. The company’s owner, Giovanni Minardi, acts as Luka’s manager and handles all contract negotiations. Sammalisto is the first Finnish driver on Minardi’s list, which also includes F2 driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli.

Luka Sammalisto: It was great to become a part of Minardi Management. Giovanni is a true professional and takes care of practically all matters and negotiations related to me. Final decisions are made together, but everything else is handled through the manager. Giovanni always approaches things from the driver’s perspective, which is important for a young driver.

The Imola race weekend began with three collective tests and two official free practice sessions. Sammalisto’s test program included a long list of technical adjustments in preparation for the weekend’s races.

Luka Sammalisto: The collective tests went pretty much according to the program, that was, searching for settings. We tested a lot of different things and didn’t expect any top times at all. However, in the combined times of the three tests, I was in 15th place, which was decent. The Imola track felt good right from the first run.

The official free practices went even better for Luka, with positions of P10 and P8. The car worked well with both old and new tires, and expectations for the qualifying sessions were high.

Luka Sammalisto: The speed improved further in the free practices, and I got a good feeling for the car with both old and new tires. The gap to the top was just a few tenths of a second. But the qualifying sessions did not go as smoothly. The first qualifying session was disrupted by numerous yellow flags, and due to a detached front wing, I only managed to do one fast lap, resulting in a very unsatisfactory P14. In the second qualifying session, technical problems continued, and I ended up in P18.

The weekend’s three races involved a lot of driving behind the safety car but also intense racing and overtaking. Sammalisto showed his speed and fighting spirit, resulting two times P4 among the rookies.

Luka Sammalisto: The first race started well, but crashes in the early laps brought out the safety car. The rest of the race was tough, and I even went off into the gravel briefly, but finished in P12 and P4 among the rookies. The podium was close, Luka says. The second race started also well, and I had climbed to P9 and P3 among the rookies when the safety car came out. At this point, the race director noticed that my rear wing had come loose and flagged me to the pits a lap before the finish. The third race was my best driving of the weekend. A good start, good speed, and good overtakes. I finished P7 and P4 among the rookies, which of course is a bit frustrating.

The Imola weekend did not meet the set goals. Numerous technical problems significantly affected performance and speed. When the car worked, Luka showed his speed and potential.

Luka Sammalisto: I have mixed feelings about Imola. There were many technical challenges that were out of my control. It’s good to remember, though, that without the technical issues, we are fast and competitive, which gives confidence for the future. The next race will be held in Vallelunga in 14.-16.6.

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