As the days count ever nearer, thecheckeredflag.co.uk looks ahead to the enticing F4 British Championship battle in which six drivers could all lift the trophy. There’s plenty at stake for all of the field going into Brands Hatch GP.
The TOCA package has never failed to disappoint and this season is setting up to be no exception. Many will remember MSA Formula‘s two driver showdown, that last year saw Lando Norris come out on top.
In a season dominated by Carlin, the Surrey based team has dropped off in recent races ensuring that only one of their four drivers occupy the breakaway top three. After 27 races from nine circuits, the championship will return to Brands Hatch to compete on the GP circuit for the first time this season.
Proof of how quickly the standings can change are easily seen with the regression of Petru Florescu. After winning two of the first three races he’s stood on the top step more than any other driver. Yet since his Knockhill disqualification he has dropped down the order and is now out of the title battle in joint seventh.
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The Breakaway Three
While Sennan Fielding does lead the championship going into the final round, it will be the first time he’ll be the man to beat with his closest rival Max Fewtrell having led the last few rounds. Only five points separate the two, yet a large gap in experience split the two prodigies.
Between Fielding and Fewtrell, the championship is setting up similar to 2015 in which the consistent racer, Ricky Collard (Fewtrell), has led for much of the year. Yet the proven race winner, Norris (Fielding), has taken the lead in the closing round.
Fielding has been racing cars since he made his debut in the Ginetta Junior Winter Series back in 2010. He’s been full-time for the past five years and now, at 20-years-old, is the oldest driver in the field.
Over the years Fielding has been in and out of different series with the JHR Developments driver having raced in MSA Formula last season as well. He admitted at Silverstone that his plans for 2017 are yet to materialise, though a championship title would do a lot for a driver who has been held back in recent years.
Just five points behind him though is Fewtrell. The 16-year-old could not have a bigger chasm of experience. Racing karts until last season, Fewtrell has held his own in what is his first summer single-seater championship.
A winter campaign in MRF Challenge prevented him from having rookie status, yet the Carlin driver has proven his worth on circuits he has only tested at. Wearing the #31 that Norris wore on his championship winning Carlin, Fewtrell has the opportunity to continue his legacy.
Completing the trio is one driver who’s yet to lead the standings; Luis Leeds. The Red Bull Young Driver is in his second season of Formula 4, though a switch of national series sees him fighting for the title in his first British F4 season.
Red Bull’s high expectations may mean that nothing short of the crown will be good enough for Leeds. With the Australian only 19 points off Fielding, he has proven his reputation as a driver who has remained an outside championship contender.
The Dark Horses
A troublesome start to the season led many to believe that Devlin DeFrancesco‘s British F4 career would go the way of his Ginetta Junior’s. One with exceptional promise but would ultimately fall behind expectations.
That hasn’t happened though. Three wins and a string of five podiums elevated the Canadian to third in the fight. He dropped back slightly after a poor Rockingham, though his dominant middle of the season has seen him earn the accolade of entering the Generation Ganassi Driver Identification Program.
Beating one team-mate is hard enough, but James Pull will have to beat two of his. A weekend away in the BRDC British F3 Championship has given the 17-year-old experience and options, ahead of next season, but there’ll be only one aim on his mind going into the final round.
Pull has been the series consistent driver and only picked up his first win at Rockingham. Though the Singaporean born racer is only focused on the end result. Speaking to TCF earlier in the year, he said; “No-one cares about the winner of Snetterton race two, but they will remember the British F4 champion.”
The final driver on the list is Alex Quinn. He’s already secured the rookie championship and will have the full support of Fortec Motorsport. The Racing Steps Foundation driver will have nothing to lose and although the title seems like an impossible task, a strong result will help his reputation going into 2017.
Brands Hatch Predictions
With strict limits on testing at the Brands GP circuit, many of the drivers will go in blind, giving an advantage to those who have raced there before. Saying that though, the results from the Indy race at the start of the year will be vital to see how much the drivers have improved.
Pull collected three podiums over the weekend while team-mate Florescu won the non-reverse grid races. The Romanian could be an important cog in the championship, now he’s mathematically out of contention.
Along with the on-form Zane Goddard, results from these two could drastically affect the title battle, especially as Florescu shares the same team as three of the six runners.
Elsewhere, Jamie Caroline has proven to be a rain master and quick starter this season (see Rockingham and Donington Park.) Though he may repeat his Silverstone and Knockhill exploits where he, held up the field and allowing the front-runners to break away.
Saturday qualifying will take place at 11:35 local time, with a race in the afternoon at 16:20, 1st October. Sunday will see the reverse grid race at 10:00 with a televised final at 15:42.