To say he simply won the championship may be an understatement on the emphatic style that Will Palmer grabbed hold of his chances in the second half of the season. While he was unable to complete the triple victory feat over a single weekend, there was no doubt on the command he held over his opponents.
2015 marked the third year of the BRDC Formula 4 Championship and the last year under the original chassis. As a result, it’s likely that we’ll see a big shake up with drivers next year as they prepare for the new era.
Similar to the previous seasons, F4 supported British GT with the eight round series making a return, however this year, Rockingham was added to the calendar, with the round proving to be a turning point in the points table.
Will and Determination
Little would we know at the time, Palmer would start the year as he meant to go on, collecting the first pole and win of the season. A strong second and third race would see him leave the weekend with a slim points lead.
He wouldn’t have it all his own way though. A poor race at Rockingham would eventually see him fall down the order. At this point it seemed the season was wide open, but unbeknownst to many of us, Palmer would go on a podium streak that would last until the end of the season.
While his race two results for each round remained open, he would never finish outside the top two for the opening and closing events of the weekend, proving his dominance when it really mattered.
Palmer would collect the Jack Cavill Pole Position trophy (£150 and a trophy for the pole position winner for races one and three each weekend, a trophy for the pole position starter for race two, plus £1,000 for the driver with the most poles), eventually collecting 10 in all, with his next nearest rival, Harri Newey starting at the front four times over the whole season.
In the same way Lanan Racing had their drivers finish one-two last year, it was good year for HHC Motorsport as they achieved the same feat with Palmer and Newey leading the charge. However, unlike the final round fight we saw in 2014, Palmer beat his team-mate by 137 points, a record for the series.
Newey, son of Formula 1 designer Adrian Newey went into the year having competed in the 2014 BRDC F4 Winter Series. The experience proved positive as he went to record a second place in his first race of the season.
Towards the end of the year, the fight for second in the championship intensified as Newey found the same form as his HHC Motorsports team mate, eventually pulling out a 35 point gap over the next best driver.
Best of the Rest
With the championship seemingly all but over by the mid point of the season, the fight for second started to intensify with prize money still at stake for those at the front. One driver who did spend much of the year as the ‘next best’ was Rodrigo Fonseca.
Two wins by Silverstone meant the championship fight looked to be heating up, however; he soon fell back as Palmer finally found his form. His reign on second soon looked under threat as he went three consecutive rounds without a podium finish. Soon, his results caught up with him and despite a strong final race, was only able to claw back fourth in the standings.
In third overall had been the experienced Tom Jackson. As the lowest placed of the four returning drivers from 2014, Jackson did not enter the year with a lot of expectations, however; proved to be the only competitor to keep up with the HHC’s during the middle portion of the year.
His run of eight top five finishes was impressive from the, then 18 year old, a run even the dominant Palmer couldn’t equal. However a few poor results in the final two races saw him slip back from Newey.
Behind them was Ciaran Haggerty, who was unlucky to have dropped a position in the final weekend. He’s a talent that hasn’t gone unnoticed though, having spent the year under the guidance of Dario Franchitti.
Having dominated Formula Ford 1600 in Scotland, the 18 year old has gone on to prove his ability amongst the best; but will be disappointed to have finished the year as the highest placed non-winner. A future in America seems a possibility considering his support.
A poor end of season may have seen him drop to eighth overall, but Chris Mealin will have the rare honour of being the only driver, other than Palmer, to have lead the championship having picked up his second win in Rockingham.
His season spiralled from there as he would fail to finish in the top five for the remainder of the year. Considering both his team mates beat him, it’s likely that 2015 will end up being a year to forget for the Manxman.
Flashes in the Pan
For the drivers who finished further down in the championship, a return to the series may be on the table, but three years may seem an unlikely decision. Especially considering the cost of getting bogged down for too long, thus enter Jordan Albert.
Along with Palmer, the 18 year old made a return to F4 after racing in 2014. As a result, he went into the championship as one of the pre-season favourites, a thought reinforced after he put in one of the recovery drives of the season.
Having fallen to eighteenth in the first race of the year, he knew a good result would be tough, but built up enough a gap to set the fastest lap in race two, thus taking pole for the final event. From there he proved his true ability taking victory over race two winner Mealin.
Having moved straight from karting, Jack Bartholomew had to earn his rivals respect, but he did find himself keeping pace with the rest of the field, finishing seventh overall in the championship, even if he only had a few trophy’s to show for it. However, his first podium came after a drive from the back of the grid in the second Snetterton race, eventually landing a third for his troubles.
While he will go largely unnoticed compared to his competitors, Omar Ismail put in an incredible second half to the season having had to miss the start for not meeting the age requirements. His second weekend at Snetterton proved to be a turning point as he dominated qualifying to win, in only his fourth race.
While his race pace often left many to question his fighting ability his outright speed was plain to see, being a regular in the top four positions for the remaining of the seasons practice sessions. Unsurprisingly, he became the highest placed driver to have not raced all season.
Rounding out the top ten drivers was Jack Lang, as the highest placed privateer. After winning the Formula Jedi series in 2014, the Thetford based driver showed good pace throughout the year, often falling victim to racing incidents. His result rounded out a dominant year for the British drivers in which they made up nine of the top ten drivers.
Gold-Lined Autumn Trophy
For 2015, the traditional Winter Series was this year replaced with an two weekend event known as the Autumn Trophy. Despite it being the smallest grid of any BRDC off-season event, the quality was certainly not lacking as Racing Steps Foundation driver Ben Barnicoat worked his way to the title.
Despite some early predictions, the fight eventually came down to two drivers, as Barnicoat chased Harrison Scott after his sensational first weekend. Two wins and two second places ensured that Scott, with the support of the Douglas Motorsports team seemed untouchable.
The other driver to have stood out from the weekend was Sennan Fielding. Making his first steps into a BRDC Formula 4 car since 2014, the 19 year old proved he’d lost none of his talent, even hanging on to take victory in the third race at Snetterton.
Hillspeed also fielded two cars, however incidents for both meant that Struan Moore wasn’t able to compete as well as was expected from him. His accident in the third race even putting him out for the Sunday final. While Ameya Vaidyanathan failed to outperform his team mate.
The second round at Brands Hatch saw the introduction of Lando Norris. Having just turned sixteen, the MSA Formula champion soon took control, proving to be the only driver in with a chance of beating Scott.
He took a double win, with the strong result putting him in good stead for next year. Meanwhile Sisa Ngebulana quietly collected third overall as he beat Al Faisal Al Zubair in the final race, having collected four podiums.
Scott and Barnicoat went into the final race equal on points, but a poor grid position for Scott saw him fall back as Barnicoat took the emphatic victory in front of Norris. With a seat in F3, Barnicoat won’t utilise his free entry to next years series, but the money off for third place Ngebulana, will be a large help as he looks to return.