Matthew Graham has been crowned the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 Winter Champion after taking his third win of the series on the final day at Brands Hatch.
A dominant lights-to-flag victory in the morning’s opening race meant Graham, who took a double victory on the opening weekend at Snetterton, was in a commanding position heading into the final encounter of the eight-race series, with a top six finish securing him the crown.
The Douglas Motorsport ace got the day off to the perfect start in qualifying, putting himself on pole for Round 7 by 0.217 seconds. Maintaining his advantage into Paddock Hill Bend for the first time, Graham would go on to lead the remainder of the race, though a rain shower ensured it wasn’t easy-going for the F4 field.
Behind the leader, the battle for second had many twists and turns through the 24-lap encounter. Pietro Fittipaldi held the place in the early stages, the Brazilian coming under pressure from Round Six winner Sennan Fielding.
Fielding eventually slipped behind F4 debutant Kieran Vernon into fourth on lap thirteen, before losing another spot to championship contender Jake Cook a lap later. As the conditions worsened, Cook nipped past Vernon for third on lap eighteen, before getting second from Fittipaldi two laps later at Druids.
Cook’s impressive run was halted three laps from the end though with a spin at Paddock Hill losing him ground, Vernon bursting through to take his second F4 podium in three races in second, with Fittipaldi third.
Cook recovered to fourth ahead of Fielding, while a fighting drive for Falco Wauer saw him take sixth ahead of Fredrik Johansen and Malgosia Rdest. Round Five winner Will Palmer meanwhile had a tough race, finishing up tenth behind Dimitris Papanastasiou after a mid-race pitstop for a new front wing.
Whilst he may have slipped back to fifth in the race, it was Fielding who set the fastest lap of the opening race to get pole position for the final encounter. The former Ginetta Junior’s advantage at the front didn’t last long though, a quick-starting Vernon bursting through to take the early lead.
Fielding briefly held second, but by the end of lap two it was Fittipaldi’s MGR-prepared machine filling Vernon’s mirrors, the Brazilian superbly working his way up from fifth on the grid into second from Fielding and Cook.
As Vernon and Fittipaldi started a tight battle for the lead, Graham was in seventh producing a composed drive to the title. Despite losing some ground early on, the 17 year old knew he needed just a top eight finish to confirm himself champion, with a superb move on Falco Wauer helping him to sixth at the finish.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Graham. “We’ve worked hard and Douglas Motorsport have done an excellent job. There was a bit of pressure coming into the series as I was touted as a favourite but I’ve done what I came here to do and I’m very happy with myself. Hopefully we can use this as a springboard to Europe next season!”
Ahead meanwhile, Vernon was coming under immense pressure from Fittipaldi throughout the race, but the 23 year old fended him off superbly to take victory on his maiden weekend in the series – carding his first race win since a Formula Renault BARC success at the Kent venue in May 2011.
“It’s been a great weekend and it’s ended perfectly,” added Vernon. “The weekend has got better and better and I wasn’t expecting three podiums to be honest. Thanks to Hillspeed for getting me to grips with the car, I’m over the moon.”
Fittipaldi took a superb second, his third podium finish of the Winter series, while pole-sitter Fielding completed the podium to secure a top three championship finish. Just behind him in the race, but just ahead of him in the final points, was Cook, the Hillspeed racer eventually finishing fourteen points adrift of champion Graham.
A fantastic drive from Palmer saw him battle through from tenth on the grid to fifth at the finish, while finishing behind Graham were Wauer, Matteo Ferrer, Johansen and Papanastasiou.
Provisional Final BRDC Formula 4 Winter Championship Standings:
1. Matthew Graham – 166pts
2. Jake Cook – 152pts
3. Sennan Fielding – 144pts
4. Falco Wauer – 133pts
5. Will Palmer – 131pts
6. Pietro Fittipaldi – 127pts
7. Kieran Vernon – 96pts
8. Fredrik Johansen – 90pts
9. Dimitris Papanastasiou – 85pts
10. Matteo Ferrer – 75pts
11. Malgosia Rdest – 36pts