Last year proved to be an outstanding first season for ADAC Formula 4, with Marvin Dienst taking the championship and moving on to the ADAC GT Masters championship with the race winning Team Schultz Motorsport squad, proving the quality and effectiveness of the Formula 4 championship.
Perhaps sadly for the 19 year old, the majority of the media attention was not on him but rather a young rookie with a particular surname. While Dienst may have won the opening two races, it was Mick Schumacher’s glory in the final race of the opening weekend that caught the eye of the world.
Being the son of Michael Schumacher, who many critics believe was the greatest ever Formula 1 driver, isn’t easy, but the younger Schumacher proved he could handle the pressure fairly well. But a new season is upon us. No longer can he get away with the title of “rookie”, as he looks to make the most of a fresh start at Prema Powerteam.
Being the most successful team in European Formula 3 and Italian F4 will inevitably put pressure on the German and his team mates. What’s perhaps more interesting is that Schumacher will have to move up to the role of team leader as Juri Vips and American Juan Manuel Correa make their step up from karting.
All three will compete in a dual campaign in Italian F4, as Schumacher and his comrades look for the prestigious honour of being the first driver to claim two FIA F4 titles.
The competition won’t be lying down though. With the opportunity to show themselves in front of the world’s media as one of the best young drivers in Germany.
The first of these challengers will be Joseph Mawson. A strong campaign saw him pick up 5 wins and third in the standings, and has decided to return to the series with Schumacher’s former team, van Amersfoort Racing. He’s joined at the line-up by the Kami Laliberte and Moritz Müller-Crepon, and with all three bringing experience, it’s likely that podiums will be a realistic target.
With only a few days before the first round, 40 entries have been announced as the series looks forward for another record breaking season. As a result, half of the grid will be made up of rookie drivers all hoping to mix with the experienced crew.
Motopark have taken the risky option of signing an entirely rookie line-up. For a team that fought for the title in 2015, the move has left many to put great expectations on the drivers, none more than Sophia Flörsch.
She impressed in her few outings in the Ginetta Junior championship, taking home two wins, and became the youngest ever series race winner. She however cut her season short to focus on ADAC F4.
With half a year of testing under her belt, Flörsch will likely know the car better than anyone as team-mate Simo Laaksonen spent the year in the French F4 Championship. The only rookie, in the team, making his step up from karting will be Jonathan Aberdein.
Laaksonen won’t be the only former French F4 driver in the field as Louis Gachot also makes the step across to the US Racing team becoming the only British national on the grid so far.
As the defending champions, pressure will be on the drivers to emulate Dienst’s 2015 result, with returning veteran Kim-Luis Schramm being one of the quickest drivers during pre-season testing.
Team mate Jannes Fittje was another driver who gave Schumacher a run for his money at the top of the time sheets as Carrie Schreiner sticks with the re-branded team after an establishing 2015 campaign.
Drivers on second year campaigns, proves to be a motif up and down the field with 2015 rookie championship runner up; Mike Ortmann heading the Mücke Motorsport team. He had a strong campaign finishing twelfth overall, but will be under pressure to once again beat Schumacher in a championship as they head to Oschersleben.
Mücke have filled out their team with a strong class of rookies as they’ve signed the current Formula Renault 1.6 Nordic champion Oliver Söderström, alongside Ricardo Feller and Lirim Zendeli.
They struggled to make an impact in 2015, but Jenzer Motorsport will be hoping to move up the order after a strong start in the partner Italian F4 series. Unsurprisingly, the team has opted for a mix of rookies and experience with Diego Ciantini joining Jan-Erik Meikup and Swiss driver Fabio Scherer in a dual Italian and ADAC F4 campaign.
Pressure will be on Kevin Kratz to perform after he made a few appearances last year as an impressive opening Italian F4 weekend saw Job van Uitert leave the first round fourth in the overall standings.
Fellow dual-campaigners, Yan Leon Shlom and rookie Sebastián Fernández will compete for RB Racing, with Shlom having a strong opening weekend and leaving Misano seventh in the standings.
Three brand new teams have also be introduced with fans favourite Marylin Niederhauser so far announced as the only driver for the Rennsport Rössler squad. Meanwhile, Toni Wolf will be hoping to improve further with KUG-Motorsport, as the final team SMC Schwärzler Motorsport Concepts have yet to confirm any drivers.
As for Lechner Racing, the Austrian squad has returned for another season with rookie Yannik Brandt joining Thomas Preining. The Austrian will be hoping for a cleaner season after a crash at the Red Bull Ring in 2015 saw him injure Schumacher putting him out for the final race.
Completing the team will be Michael Waldherr. He ended the 2015 season with the rather unfortunate title of ‘highest placed driver to have not scored a podium’, but incredible consistency could be a defining factor this season as he looks for the title.
Three further teams have also made a return this year with Team Timo Scheider and the Liqui Moly Team Engstler squads both planning to run three car teams for the 2016 season. Meanwhile RS Competition have switched to a German licence for the upcoming season.
Like 2015, some drivers have decided to enter as independent entries with Cedric Piro dropping the option of having a team-mate. Meanwhile Robin Brezina returns to run his independent machine for the second year in a row.
The calendar remains largely unchanged, with the exception of a trip to Zandvoort for the second of two flyaway races. All of the rounds will support Dienst’s ADAC GT Masters series with the exception of round four.
All eyes may be on Schumacher, but he won’t be the only driver in realistic contention this season as Mawson, Waldherr and Schramm will attempt to mount a title bid off of their impressive 2015 results. Meanwhile Flörsch, Laaksonen and van Uitert will be drivers to watch as the season progresses.
Will the media get their prized result, or can one of the “unknowns” make it to the top in difficult conditions!