Will Palmer has been crowned the 2014 BRDC Formula 4 Winter Series champion after making it four wins in eight races in the final round of the championship at Brands Hatch.
Palmer, who had won three out of four races on the opening weekend at Snetterton, had to work hard for the title though after South American’s Gaetano Di Mauro and Rodrigo Fonseca shared the opening three Brands wins to make it a three-way title battle in the final race.
As was the case in Norfolk two weeks ago, nine cars took to the track for the weekend’s action. There was only one change in personnel, with Dutchman Paul Seiljes joining the grid with Chris Ditmann Racing while Harri Newey elected to sit out the second meeting.
At Snetterton, it was a straight out duel between Palmer and Di Mauro throughout the weekend, however it was clear from the off that it was be a wider battle at Brands with Connor Jupp topping the first qualifying session, with Palmer qualifying down in fifth behind Di Mauro, Jordan Albert and Fonseca.
Di Mauro got the opening race off to a perfect start in wet conditions, storming off the line into an immediate lead. Jupp slipped to third initially behind Albert, but fought back past on lap five and briefly looked like he could challenge for the win after halving Di Mauro’s advantage.
The Brazilian edged away late on to take the victory though and with Palmer hitting trouble, that gave him the championship lead for the first time. Jupp took second, Mectech Motorsport’s first F4 podium finish, with Albert taking third despite contact from Fonseca which spun the latter around.
Fonseca fought back well though and a last lap move on Zubair Hoque gave him fourth. Palmer was sixth, the HHC Motorsport racer having to climb back up the order after a slide into the gravel at Paddock Hill on lap two when running fourth dropped him to the rear of the field.
Fernando Urrutia ran as high as fifth in the first half of the race before eventually slipping back to eighth behind Enzo Bortoleto, while debutant Sieljes completed the finishers in a distant ninth.
The fastest lap of the opening race gave Douglas Motorsport’s Fonseca pole position for race two and he seized the opportunity to storm clear for a lights-to-flag maiden Formula 4 victory, finishing the race over three seconds clear of his closest rival.
Albert ran second throughout with SWR-Caterham F1, while behind the main drama of the race came in a thrilling battle for third. Palmer held the spot over the first couple of laps before slipping to fifth between Jupp and Di Mauro.
As the race developed, Palmer re-passed both to get back into third, doing so just before an optimistic move from Jupp at Paddock Hill on lap seventeen resulted in contact with Di Mauro, spinning both into the gravel trap and out of the race.
This gave Palmer a clear run to third and with it a return to the top of the points standings, with Urrutia benefitting to take his best result of the Winter Series in fourth. Seiljes put together a strong race to finish fifth ahead of Bortoleto and Hoque.
Fonseca started an equally damp Sunday the same way he finished Saturday, top of the timesheets. The Mexican led the way in the morning’s qualifying session, with Jupp second fastest, though a three place grid penalty for his contact with Di Mauro means he would start race three fifth behind Bortoleto, Palmer and Di Mauro.
For Fonseca, race three would follow a similar pattern to race two. A great start saw him lead into Paddock Hill for the first time and from there he wouldn’t be headed, taking his second consecutive win by nearly five seconds to put himself in contention for the title in the final race.
Palmer climbed from third to second at the start and ran comfortably there throughout, while Di Mauro had a lonely race in third after early challenger Albert slipped down the order with gear selection problems.
Bortoleto was another to hit trouble, a difficult opening lap seeing him make contact with Jupp that dropped him to the back of the field. Jupp continued and ran fourth for a long time until spinning into retirement six laps from the end.
Those drivers various issues meant Seiljes climbed up from seventh to take his best result so far in fourth, with Urrutia fifth ahead of Bortoleto, Hoque and Albert.
Fastest lap in that race meant that Palmer started the final race of the weekend on pole. While Di Mauro and Fonseca could still mathematically take the title, a 23 point advantage meant Palmer needed to finish just eighth or higher to win.
The race didn’t start as the former Ginetta Junior racer would have hoped, with Jupp jumping him off the line to take the lead before contact with Fonseca dropped Palmer to fourth while the Mexican retired.
Palmer quickly recovered from the drama though and passed Albert on lap five for third, before dispatching Di Mauro six laps later to move into the top two. Six seconds up the road, it looked like Jupp was set for the victory until a spin on lap thirteen ended his race and brought out the safety car.
On the restart, Palmer marched clear and in the five remaining laps he built up a winning margin of over six seconds to seal the championship win in style. The fight for second went down to the final lap meanwhile, with Albert snatching the place after a mistake from Di Mauro.
Bortoleto took his fourth for PetroBall Racing, his best result of the Winter Championship, with Urrutia and Hoque following him home. Seiljes was a first lap retirement meanwhile.
For his success, Palmer earns a free entry into the 2015 BRDC Formula 4 Championship. Di Mauro finished up second in the points, getting 50% off his 2015 entry in the process, with Fonseca earning 25% off in third.
Final 2014 BRDC Formula 4 Winter Championship Standings:
- Will Palmer – HHC Motorsport – 239pts
- Gaetano Di Mauro – PetroBall Racing – 205pts
- Rodrigo Fonseca – Douglas Motorsport – 175pts
- Jordan Albert – SWR-Caterham F1 – 160pts
- Zubair Hoque – HHC Motorsport – 127pts
- Fernando Urrutia – SWR-Caterham F1 – 113pts
- Connor Jupp – Mectech Motorsport – 109pts
- Enzo Bortoleto – PetroBall Racing – 95pts
- Harri Newey – HHC Motorsport – 76pts
- Paul Sieljes – Chris Dittmann Racing – 52pts