Josh Dufek returned from an elongated summer hiatus to produce his best result of the 2021 F4 season in Austria, but also left the Red Bull Ring confirming that he has what it takes to run at the front of the field.
With August's scheduled ADAC F4 round at the Nurburgring cancelled due to the catastrophic flooding that struck Germany during the past few months, Josh had to wait seven weeks before returning to competition in the Italian F4 series, but could not have done so at a better venue than the Austrian F1 venue, where he has both tested and raced already this season.
As has been the case across the motorsport spectrum in recent weeks, the weather played a large part in proceedings at the Red Bull Ring, but Josh showcased his wet-weather abilities in the third and final race of the weekend. Capitalising on the decision to pit for wets at the end of the opening lap — which was run behind the safety car — the 16-year-old rose quickly through the field to battle for the lead with Van Amersfoort Racing team-mate Nikita Bedrin.
Josh was in front by the time the safety car returned to cover the clear-up of an accident, and streaked away when racing resumed, but any hope of clinching a breakthrough win to add to his numerous podium appearances foundered when the safety car appeared for a third time, the Swiss resident eventually succumbing after a lap spent running side-by-side with polesitter Tim Tramnitz. With Tramnitz then able to eke out a small cushion, Josh maintained his concentration to come home four seconds clear of third place and post his best result of the year, strengthening his grip on sixth spot in the overall standings in the process.
The youngster had been in the hunt from the start of the weekend, vying for fastest times throughout practice and qualifying before having to settle for places on the second and third row of a tightly-matched grid. The opening races proved eventful if not ultimately rewarding, with a gain of one position to finish fifth in the opener followed by an untimely retirement from the second outing after another driver missed his braking point and collided with the #13 VAR machine.
“Getting back onto the podium was a great way to finish the weekend — but I'll always wonder what might have been had the safety car not had to come out again,” Josh admitted. “Making the decision to pit for wets at the end of the opening lap was something of a no-brainer, and it was exciting to climb back through the field and eventually take the lead, so it was a shame we couldn't stay there to the end.
"The rest of the weekend was a mixed bag, with really good times in practice and qualifying followed by two races that promised much but delivered less than we had hoped. Race two was particularly frustrating as, from third on the grid, there was obvious podium potential, but there was also a lot to take confidence in as we move into a busy few weeks.”
Josh will be back on track this weekend (17-19 September), contesting the next round of Germany’s ADAC F4 series at Hockenheim.