2015 Formula 4 Season Roundup – Italy, SMP, Australia, Japan and Sudamericana


While one was set up the year before, 2015 represented the first year that the FIA committed to a number of newly established national Formula 4 series with the hope of helping young drivers into the sport at a competitive price.

Some series gained more attention than others, but it’s worth remembering that talent comes from all corners of the globe. As a result, The Checkered Flag looks at the FIA (and non-FIA) Formula 4 championships from around the world.

Italian Formula 4 Championship

In the end, the title came down to a straight fight between two drivers that had also started as team-mates in ADAC Formula 4. Eventually though, the consistency of Ralf Aron ensured he took the title a year after claiming the Italian F4 winter series. Meanwhile, Ferrari youth, Guan Yu Zhou finished his first season of single-seaters as runner up.

Aron went on to collect nine wins over the course of the season and at 17 is well placed to move on to the competitive European Formula 3 Championship next season along with other F4 champions such as Lando Norris, who incidentally also appeared in a few races.

Another two drivers that had competed in ADAC, also rounded out the top four with Robert Shwartzmann and David Beckmann collecting three wins each. Completing the top five was the Argentine driver, Marcos Siebert.

For an Italian based series, the lack of Italian drivers will be a concern to many as twelve different nationalities filled the top twelve places. Despite this, Diego Bertonelli proved to be the saving grace for the home fans finishing sixth overall having taken three podiums in the final weekend.

Ralf Aron (Prema Power Team,Tatuus F.4 T014 Abarth #99)
Ralf Aron had a comfortable end of season to clinch the Italian title by 108 points (Credit: Italian F4 Championship)

SMP F4 Championship

The other major European Formula 4 championship became the story of one man; Niko Kari. After a season of 21 races around three countries, the then-15 year old notched up 12 victories, of which he won the final nine races consecutively. To add, he finished outside of the top two once all season and won the title by 153 points, and will move on to the European Formula 3 with the backing of the Red Bull Junior Team.

His only competition came in the form of Enaam Ahmed, with the British driver being the only competitor able to beat him in the second half of the year.  However will not be classified as he did not own a NEZ licence.

Behind the impressive Kari was Vladamir Atoev, whose three consecutive victories came at Alastaro Circuit in Kari’s homeland. Having also been busy competing overseas Nerses Isaakyan showed his hand throughout the year becoming the best of the rest in the latter half, clinching third overall.

Fourth and fifth eventually went to Finn Aleksanteri Huovenen and Russian Aleksey Korneev, who were probably thankful 2015 wasn’t longer, having both won races before the summer break before dropping back.  Nikita Troitskiy was the final driver to have picked up a win in sixth and took three podium finishes in the final six races.

Niko Kari SMP 2015
Niko Kari put in one of 2015’s most dominant title runs (Credit: SMP F4 Championship)

Australian Formula 4 Championship

The championship was shrouded in controversy before it had even begun, as there was complaints from Australian Formula Ford authorities that the FIA and the Confederation of Australian Motor Sports (CAMS) were giving the championship priority, thus killing off their series, as had been seen in the UK.

Despite this, the championship went ahead, fully living up to the Formula 4 reputation of close and exciting racing. At the front though, one name came out on top. Having convincingly defeated Thomas Randle at Phillip Island, Jordan Lloyd took the title with one weekend to spare.

The two young Aussie’s were the stars of the series as only two other drivers managed to win a race last season. Will Brown, who won the opening race of the year, went on to claim third, while Nick Rowe competed in only half the season dropping to seventh overall.

Meanwhile Harry Hayek‘s consistency saw him claim fourth in front of Jimmy Vernon and new Red Bull Youth driver Luis Leeds, who’d also decided to race in a variety of other Formula 4 series that season. After all, many of the young drivers will know that their future in single-seaters lie in Europe.

Jordan Lloyd Australian F4 Gold Coast
Lloyd (#94) held off Randle (#49) to clinch the first Australian Crown (Credit: Australian Formula 4)

F4 Japanese Championship

Of all the F4 championships, none featured more drivers than Japan. Like the ADAC F4 championship in Germany, grids would regularly see over 30 cars competing and unlike its German compatriot, the majority of the grid came from the home country Japan. As a result, the possibility of one of the stars making it to Formula 1 seems likely.

In the end though, two drivers took the title to the final race as Sho Tsuboi beat Tadasuki Makino by just three points. Makino had won the final two rounds of the year, however it proved to be too little too late as Tsuboi’s run of six wins during the middle of the year proved to be the turning point for the twenty year old.

Such was their dominance, the only other driver to have won a race last year was Shinnosuki Yamada, who finished in fourth, one point ahead of Yuya Hirake, who took five podium finishes throughout the season. Meanwhile, in front of them, 21 year old Hiroki Ohtsu had a mostly lonely run to third.

Even Nicolas Costa, the 2012 European Formula Abarth champion was only able to claim one points finish in his eight races. However; the series did see younger talent also appear as Kazuto Kotaka claimed sixth despite missing the start of the season as he wasn’t old enough.

Makino Tsuboi Japanese F4
(#36) Sho Tsuboi would claim the FIA F4 title by 3 points, while rival Tadasuke Makino (#11) picked up the JAF Japan Formula 4 title. (Credit: F4 Japan)

Formula 4 Sudamericana

Like its Italian counterpart, the Formula 4 Sudemericana (South American) championship was set up in 2014 with Bruno Baptista becoming their first champion. From there, the series is quickly becoming one of the best way for young South Americans to move into competitive racing without travelling overseas.

In the end, it was the Brazilian of Pedro Cardoso who came out on top. Having also competed (and won a race) in Class B for the Brazil Formula 3 series, this season has seen him establish himself amongst his peers while Rodrigo Pflucker only just took the fight to the final round.

Pflucker had a string of podium finishes towards the end of the season, but even the double points feature in the final weekend of the year was not enough to save his chances. Despite this, he remains one of Peru’s brightest young stars.

The consistency of Juan Manuel Casella saw him clinch third, ensuring that three different nationalities filled the top three position, while Pedro Caland and Leandro Guedes rounded out the top five, being the only drivers to have competed all season, because like in 2014, participation was scattered.

Pedro Cardoso Formula 4 Sudamericana
Cardoso rarely finished off the podium as he collected the title with relative ease (Credit: F4 Sudamericana)

International Formula 4 Competition

While these may be the most well-known series around the world, others are to be introduced. With Spanish Formula 4 being organised by Koiranen GP this year, while another is planned to cover the South East Asian area.

NACAM and Chinese Formula 4 have already started their campaigns as the championships run throughout the winter. However; with one round to go, Julio Acosta has already wrapped up the title in the far east.

Having won all but one of the races this year, the 24 year old left others behind. However; as the only permanent non-Chinese driver in the series, questions will be asked over the home grown ability and the championships popularity.

Furthermore in Mexico, Luis Leeds won the opening non-championship race of the series, while after one round Axel Matus leads the way. Behind him lies his countryman from the French F4 Series this season, Jose Sierra. Meanwhile, the United States will start their series later this year, along with another in the UAE and the Benelux region.

Finally, there’s JAF‘s Japan Formula 4, which, like the BRDC and Autosport Academy run category, is only Formula 4 in name. While he might not have secured the title in FIA F4, Tadasuke Makino achieved the rare feat of clinching both the East and West titles for himself. An impressive accomplishment, despite the lacklustre grid size.

F4 nacam Round 0 AHR
Red Bull Youth Luis Leeds picked up the first (non-championship) win in NACAM F4. (Credit: NACAM Formula 4)

With the FIA’s support, it’s likely that the category will continue to grow internationally. However; with all the new F4 categories, more needs to be done to grow F3 if any front running drivers want to show off their skills on the international stage.


 

Separate Season Reviews have been compiled for the ADAC Formula 4 Championship and the French F4 series, as well as the UK-based BRDC Formula 4 and MSA Formula championships.