2016 has seen one of the most open junior title battles in years for the F4 British Championship. With six to eight drivers all being within a chance, we’re finally seeing one driver break away.
After collecting his second win of the season at Rockingham, leader Max Fewtrell has been on a campaign of consistency, picking up only two victories, yet featuring on over half of the podiums this season. His success at the Motor Speedway ensures he sits 25 points ahead of nearest rival; Sennan Fielding.
The Checkered Flag caught up with him as he prepares to defend his lead at the upcoming Silverstone round. For a driver who didn’t race single-seaters before 2016, he knew the title was not going to be easy, though he has enjoyed his season so far.
“Yeah, it’s gone really well,” Fewtrell began. “I’m working together with the team, it’s important we work really well, achieving consistency throughout the weekend. I think I’ve found a bit more form and I want to keep up the momentum now until the end of the season.”
This won’t be the first time the 16-year-old has led the championship going into a weekend, but in a season where the order changes circuit to circuit, the pressure will be on Fewtrell to not lose ground.
“Obviously, Rockingham I went in with a five point lead and that was a weekend to perform, but we had a really good weekend. I don’t think there’s any pressure, I’m confident with myself and the team that we can extend it at Silverstone. I don’t put pressure on myself as that won’t help me at all.”
While not classed as a rookie, Fewtrell had little to no car experience before this season, with only a single winter in the MRF Challenge to prepare for this year.
“Yeah, that was my first single-seater experience, which was really different for me. You had to press a button on the steering wheel and shift up with the sequential which was really difficult, but it was great for learning about the racing line.”
“We had drivers like Nobuharu Matsushita driving, and Jake Dennis did a round, so it was great to race so many experienced drivers, and you had Pietro Fittipaldi doing the whole championship. There was some good driving around me and it helped me prepare for this year, coming into the F4.”
Testing helped close the gap for the Carlin driver who said the F4 car became ‘second nature’ by the time he entered the first race. Like a number of the front-runners, Fewtrell praised how easily he adapted to the F4 car as he learned his craft at a number of circuits around the country.
“Pre-season we tested a few different teams to figure out what you like and what car you prefer. Infinity Sports Management helped me out with that and I chose Carlin which was the best option.”
It proved to be a wise choice with the team dominating the first half of the season and being a regular on pole, especially at the hands of team-mate Petru Florescu. The Romanian had been the man to beat early on and Fewtrell praised his team and his relationship with his compatriots, saying he was looking forward to the last few races.
His success at Rockingham, albeit useful, has not claim it to be vital to his success. Fewtrell recognised the importance of consistency this season.
“It’s always nice to get small wins and there’s been one or two things that have stopped me getting a few more but I can’t really look into that, just focus on the championship points. After all, I’ve been on the podium a lot but it’d be nice to step on the top a few more times before the end of the season. Though, I don’t believe it’s the most important thing.”
As for the race itself, a victory didn’t seem on the cards until the closing laps. Billy Monger had led away from pole and seemed almost unstoppable until a technical issue in the closing laps saw Fewtrell and Fielding close in. A lack of power on the last lap dropped Monger to third.
“I didn’t have the best start, I got dumped by a few people, but got behind Petru,” he said. “I overtook him and started to chase Billy down, soon Sennan got past Petru as well.”
“I saw Fielding in my mirrors as he started to hunt me down so I had to attack and defend, which isn’t the easiest thing in racing. It was unfortunate about Billy, but the pressure from Sennan didn’t worry me too much.”
In such an open championship, Fewtrell admits that it would not be wise for him to focus his efforts on beating one driver. Drivers who had been competitive have since dropped off the pace with Florescu, his closest rival in the first half, now slipping back to sixth in the standings.
“There hasn’t really been one that’s stuck out in my mind, because it’s so close and it changes every weekend. You’ve got be aware of everyone because we can’t count anyone out. We’ve seen with Sennan, he spent a few races behind, but after Rockingham he’s straight back up there now. You’ve got to be pushing all the way.”
While it may be easier to track your team-mates, Luis Leeds and Fielding will be a notable threat, with both being the front-runners for their teams.
“They’re really good drivers, they’ve been challenging for the title throughout the year and obviously from my team-mates as well, so I’ve got to be aware of everyone so they don’t take advantage in these final few races.”
Going into the final few races, he remains confident, with a strong result at Silverstone a must. Despite this, Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit will be different story. With testing heavily regulated for the F4 drivers, the season finale will truly show the raw talent and adaptability of the drivers.
“We do most of our testing at Silverstone, so it’s a circuit we all know well. As for the Brands Hatch GP track, we’re not allowed to test on it until Friday before the race, though I have been round in another vehicle. Though we’ll all be pretty new when it comes to the last round.
“Most of the circuits we’ve always done testing at a while before, but Brands (GP) is the only one we’re not allowed to test at.”
His schedule for 2017 looks surprisingly barren as he decides where to settle down. He admitted his goal is to reach Formula One, though he’s prepared to take it ‘one step at a time.’