Earlier this month, nominations opened for the 2014 McLaren Autosport BRDC Award allowing the public to select the British single-seater drivers they feel have shown themselves as the brightest young talents in the sport this year.
MABA has established itself as the premier award for young British drivers over the years, with previous winners including David Coulthard, Dario Franchitti, Jenson Button and Paul Di Resta. This year’s prize package includes a McLaren Formula 1 test, £100,000 and BRDC membership.
Here at The Checkered Flag, the debate has raged over which six drivers we deserve a spot in this year’s final shoot-out at Silverstone in November, with a host of potential candidates coming from the likes of BRDC Formula 4, Formula Ford GB, British Formula 3 and Formula Renault BARC, NEC and Eurocup.
After much discussion, six members of the TCF team have each selected the driver they feel deserve to be a finalist in this year’s award to produce our top six:
Joe Hudson Picks …. Harrison Scott
Joe: “Leading one of the most competitive single seater championships in Britain is no mean feat, but to do so whilst battling a highly rated racer is even better. For this reason, Harrison Scott deserves a place in the MABA top six this year.
“Scott is a driver who never seems to be under pressure – he takes everything in his stride. That has resulted in a remarkable consistency throughout the season. Many drivers, stuck in third place and seemingly unable to push any further, would start to make desperate moves to make up places but it takes a cool head to realise points are more important than positions in a championship battle.
“This all comes off the back of 2013 when he dominated the scholarship class with nearest rival Sam Brabham unable to compete with Scott. With runaway overall champion Cammish moving on it was the perfect opportunity for Scott to move into 2014 and fill that gap left by the champion and take race wins. And that is exactly what he has done, three wins have complimented podiums and runners up spots to ensure that he is always up impressing at the sharp end of the field.”
Joe’s Top Six: Scott, Jack Aitken, Matt Rao, Sennan Fielding, Alex Gill, Seb Morris
Paul Hensby Picks …. Jack Aitken
Paul: “After a slow start to his 2014 Eurocup Formula Renault campaign, Jack Aitken has finally found his feet in recent races, and took his maiden series victory at the Hungaroring in September, which followed on from his first podium finish in the previous event at the Nurburgring in July.
“The eighteen year old already has an impressive resume in motorsport, ever since his debut in single seaters back in 2012. He has never finished outside the top three in any championship he has competed in, including finishing runner-up to last year’s MABA winner Matt Parry in Renault NEC.
“Although his impressive run is likely to end in 2014 – he currently sits eighth in the Eurocup standings with four races to go – he can nether-the-less hold his head up high and move into the 2015 season high on confidence, hopefully as a MABA finalist for the second time.
“Anyone who can win races in the Eurocup series has the potential to do big things in motorsport, it’s one of the best junior categories currently in motorsport. Expect good things for Aitken; he might be one of those you need to keep your eyes on in the years to come!”
Paul’s Top Six: Aitken, Ben Barnicoat, Jake Hughes, George Russell, Max Marshall, Seb Morris
Simon Paice Picks …. Ben Barnicoat
Simon: “For me, there’s one standout name for this year’s award, Ben Barnicoat. While it’s a name that might be fairly unfamiliar to most British race fans, Barnicoat has certainly made a name for himself in the single-seater circles this year with a stunning Formula Renault 2.0 NEC title success in his maiden full season of car-racing.
“Barnicoat hinted at his potential at Rockingham late last year with two wins en-route to the BARC Renault ‘Autumn Cup’ title, and the Racing Steps Foundation-backed racer has used that success as a springboard to a superb 2014 campaign with Fortec Motorsport.
“After a relatively slow start to the season, a win and second place in weekend three at Hockenheim was the catalyst for his title challenge. A second win at Most, as well as two more second place finishes, were the standout results as he took the honours.
“To come out on top of a competitive, experienced NEC field in his ‘rookie’ year is an incredible feat for Barnicoat, and with his predecessors to the NEC title Jake Dennis and Matt Parry having followed up their wins with MABA success, the top six this year won’t be complete without the 17 year old.”
Simon’s Final Six: Barnicoat, Seb Morris, Jack Aitken, Sennan Fielding, George Russell, Harrison Scott
Tom Errington Picks …. Matt Rao
Tom: “While British F3 may not have the numbers, there’s still quality. Rao lost the title to Martin Cao, but his professionalism and talent was on show at Donington as he pushed Cao to the final race with a double victory in three races to miss out on the 2014 title by a mere two points.
“In truth, Donington Park was one of several standout moments for the Brit. His wheel to wheel racing with team-mate Cao at Spa was an exciting bout that saw Rao come out on top, with the battle for fifth proving the British F3 regulars could compete with the European talents like Ed Jones.
“The best demonstrations of his talent, such as Spa and Donington, came in the second half of the season after a mixed first half. Rao began at Rockingham as a raw talent, with a DNF, fourth and a victory proving his inexperience.
“From there, he rarely looked back as consistency ensued, even at Silverstone and Spa, where further quality joined the series. No doubt he will be judged as the 2014 runner up, but in terms of learning curves, few have made more impressive strides than Matt Rao.”
Tom’s Final Six: Rao, Ben Barnicoat, Sennan Fielding, George Russell, Harrison Scott, Max Marshall
Nick Smith Picks …. Sennan Fielding
Nick: “Looking at ‘my’ candidates for the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award, I would have to select Sennan Fielding from BRDC Formula 4. In his second year in the series, Sennan has fought his way to serious title contention through a combination of skilful driving and full on determination. On top of his full season commitments to BRDC F4, we have also seen him in other race series, most recently the Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT5 Challenge.
“Fielding was right up there with the front runners in two very competitive series. He is adaptable, a safe pair of hands and devilishly fast.
“Then we add his greatest achievement of the year, claiming three wins in three races on one weekend in the BRDC Formula 4 Championship. You are not supposed to be able to do that but somehow he managed it, including a win from eighth on the grid in a very competitive series.
“The odds are somewhat against him taking the BRDC F4 title this year but he has proven his pace. He has proven his maturity in a number of racing situations too. There are many deserving recipients of a top six place, but Sennan Fielding makes a very convincing case.”
Nick’s Top Six: Fielding, George Russell, Matt Rao, Jake Hughes, Max Marshall, Ricky Collard
Aaron Rook Picks …. George Russell
Aaron: “Making the jump from karting to fully fledged single-seater racing is often a hurdle many young drivers struggle with. George Russell isn’t one of those drivers. The 16-year-old won almost everything you can imagine in karting, securing twelve karting titles, seven British titles and three Euro titles in just five years before moving up to compete in BRDC Formula 4 and Formula Renault ALPS.
“In Formula 4, Russell is currently second in the championship, having led it for a long time, only 21 points off the lead with three races to go. Whilst in Formula Renault ALPS he is comfortably 4th ahead of some top names.
“What makes Russell so impressive is how quick he adapted to single-seaters. He won two of the opening three Formula 4 races at Silverstone and by a sizeable margin. And make no mistake those competing in Formula 4 are no slouches.Russell is always consistent and therefore always finds himself at the sharp end of the grid. That is the key for any top racing driver, to finish and finish well. And Russell always finishes well.
“So remember the name George Russell. You will be hearing it a lot in the future.”
Aaron’s Top Six: Russell, Harrison Scott, Sennan Fielding, Jack Aitken, Max Marshall, Seb Morris