Antonio Fuoco was a popular chap on the FIA European F3 Championship trail. The Italian is a favoured youth in red at the moment.
A member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, Fuoco grabbed the Formula Renault Alps crown in 2013 and was expected to create a storm in Formula 3 this year.
And for a time, he did.
Victory at the opening European F3 round Silverstone was deserved, as he made his presense felt alongside fellow rookies Esteban Ocon and Max Verstappen.
It would not continue though. As the year progressed, so too did Ocon’s and Verstappen ferocious pace, while Fuoco appeared to stagnate through weekends.
Too often Fuoco appeared to panic early in weekends, as his fellow rookies marked their territories. The fallout from Friday practice errors had the penalty of rendering his weekend mute before it had truly begun.
In any other year, Fuoco may have been considered a quick, but flawed rookie, but the performances of Ocon and Verstappen only served to shadow the Italian.
…or perhaps the bar was set far too high in the first place.
This year was, indeed, only Fuoco’s 2nd year of racing and while winning the FR Alps category last season was impressive, to expect the Prema Powerteam man to storm the European F3 championship in a similar manner was probably a touch ambitious.
Both Verstapeen and Ocon are special talents and all eyes will be on them as they progress forward in 2015, but one should not count Fuoco out so easily.
He will have the new Italian F4 champion Lance Stroll alongside him at Prema, and possibly Brandon Maïsano and Jake Dennis, so the interteam battle will not ease up any time soon.
For now though, Fuoco’s impressive fanbase continue to show their support irrespective of his results. This band of fans – always in red – appeared at a large number of his events, enthusiastically waving banners and flags.
At Imola, Fuoco rewarded his fans with a 2nd place finish in Race 3, having taken a 2nd win at the Red Bull Ring two rounds earlier. This will need to happen more often if he wishes Ferrari to maintain its level of support in the future.