Such as in 2015, the stakes were again set for another close season. After rebranding itself as the F4 British Championship for the third round, the series set out a true precedent for the season ahead and the goals for the eventual winners.
The title was eventually claimed by young Max Fewtrell after a year in which up to seven racers looked able to clinch the silverware. In a dramatic final race, the Carlin driver held off his rivals to lead from start to finish and win by a mere seven points.
Going into the final event, it had been the experienced Sennan Fielding atop standings. The 20-year-old would start in sixth while rival Fewtrell was on pole. Fielding hadn’t finished lower than fifth since Knockhill and had taken the initiative after a poor round at Silverstone for his rival.
A strong start saw Fielding race up the order and was quickly into third. With only three points separating them, it was up to Fielding to pass Fewtrell on track. That never materialised though. A stern defence from Ayrton Simmons kept Fielding in third allowing Fewtrell to take victory by 0.3 seconds.
While the final round at Brands Hatch GP proved to be the climax to an intense season, it was in no way the whole story. The year had started strongly for the Carlin line-up with 2015 graduate Petru Florescu winning the first race.
The Romanian had been quick in pre-season testing and after a year of being in his team-mates shadows, was prepared to show he meant business. Four wins in as many rounds ensured he spent much of the early season as the man to beat. In fact, the only other championship leader during this time was the consistent Fewtrell.
A reverse grid win on Brands Hatch Indy and the second round at Donington Park put Fielding in the mix, but qualifying was still an issue for the pre-season favourite. External appearances in series either before or during the season had put the Carlin drivers ahead, though it was Luis Leeds who kept in touch during the opening rounds.
Four podiums including a win at Thruxton saw Leeds remain as an outside hope. The Red Bull Junior Team driver had only finished sixth in the previous years Australian Formula 4 series though was prepared to prove his worth in Europe, like many countryman before him.
Thruxton saw another driver come to the fore, with Devlin DeFrancesco finally finding his feet. The Canadian had had a rough start to the season. That being despite his impressive form in pre-season testing. He picked up a second place and a win, elevating him up the order.
As it turned out, DeFrancesco would not stop there and quickly became the man to beat in the middle portion of the season. His success at Oulton Park and a string of five podiums, between Croft and Knockhill, only increased his stock and saw him enter the championship battle.
Fielding’s double win at Snetterton ended an eight race podium drought for the JHR Developments racer. In fact, it was a terrible round for Fewtrell as Florescu further secured his place at the top.
Knockhill would change everything though. After starting on pole, Florescu took the win in race one as expected, but found himself in a titanic battle with team-mate DeFrancesco in race two. Neither was prepared to back down and when the Romanian got alongside, he edged the Canadian onto the grass.
DeFrancesco was left with nowhere to go, the two collided, ending their races. In a fit of blind-sighted anger, Florescu got physical, with a marshal needing to step in to split them up. Florescu was excluded from the final race and had his race one result stripped.
With a weekends worth of points gone, momentum moved away from Florescu. DeFrancesco and himself, picked up only one podium for the remainder of the year.
Though one drivers loss had been another’s gain. Zane Goddard had been a midfielder for most of the season, but spectacular performances at Croft, Knockhill and Silverstone, saw him end the year with four wins. His results at Croft remains the most successful British F4 weekend by any driver, collecting two poles, two fastest laps, one win and 61 points.
Rockingham also allowed another Carlin driver to finally show his hand. James Pull‘s year of consistency had kept him in the title fight, but if he was to catch his rivals he’d need a maiden win. He finally got that in race one, but his chances were ended after a disqualification in the second encounter.
Instead, this gave a chance for Fewtrell and Fielding to break away as Leeds kept himself in contention. The Australian would close in further after a successful Silverstone weekend, but Fewtrell’s first non-points finish of the year, after a lap one incident, put him on the back foot.
An under-par final round at Brands Hatch GP would spell the end of Leeds’ championship chances as Fewtrell and the impressive Fielding battled it out in a tantalising Sunday spectacular. A win for the 17-year-old driver in the final race, gave him the title and ensured he followed in the footsteps of fellow #31 Carlin driver; Lando Norris.
Of course, there was more than the six title contenders and Goddard, with many eyes focusing on Jamie Caroline. Winning Ginetta Junior the year before ensured that the pressure was on the Pirtek sponsored driver.
Unfortunately results would not go his way, picking up just a single victory in the final round. Caroline’s supporters remain loyal, but compared to his fellow Junior graduates, this years and previous ones, the results have not shown the true extend of his ability.
Despite collecting more podiums, Caroline finished one place behind Rafa Martins. The Brazilian was hoping for better in his second season, but was convincingly beaten by team-mate Leeds, as well as rookie Simmons in the second half. His highlight came at Oulton, where he held off Pull for his only win of the season.
2016 proved to be a tale of two halves for Billy Monger who picked up a double podium at Thruxton after outpacing team-mate Fielding. A lack of funding kept him out of Croft and by the time he returned it was clear he was struggling to improve, collecting just two more points finishes.
One of those was at Rockingham where the 17-year-old clawed his way back to the front after collecting pole, only to have his car falter in the closing laps. He was forced to watch helplessly as Fewtrell and Fielding drove past his ailing machine on his way to third.
The disparity between the top half of the championship and the bottom half was quite noticeable, with Patrik Matthiesen not finishing higher than eighth all season. 15 points was not how he wanted to celebrate a season after winning the 2015 Ginetta Junior Rookie title.
Meanwhile, Jack Butel became the lowest ranked returning driver with 14 points, the same as Carrie Schreiner, who only featured in four rounds, though impressed with her fourth place at Thruxton.
The rookie battle this season only saw five drivers collect points, but there was one that certainly stood out more than the rest. Alex Quinn received 589 rookie points on his way to a comfortable title success at Silverstone.
Quinn also became the only rookie driver to score an overall win and finished the season seventh in the overall standings. This ensures he beats last years champ; Enaam Ahmed in overall points, rookie points and championship position.
Over the course of the season he even became an outside title challenger, finishing off the rookie podium just once. In second overall was Simmons, who’s impressive end to the year saw him become the only rookie to consistently beat Quinn.
Simmons had been too young to start the season, but made an immediate impact in the first round at Thruxton. While it took him time to get up to speed he became a regular points scorer in the final three rounds, recording his maiden podium at the season finale.
The end of the season had been all about Simmons, but Nicolai Kjaregaard became the man of the hour after a personal best round at Snetterton. While he was denied a podium late on, a fourth place in race two coupled with a number of strong performances saw him beat Jack Martin by seven points in the rookie table.
J. Martin failed to live up to many expectations and came away as the lowest place TRS Arden driver. Elsewhere Ross Martin had been team-mate Quinn’s in the opening rounds, but budget issues cut his season tragically short.
Rounding out the list of drivers, was those who struggled to find the points. Frank Bird showed promise in the final event, yet scored on just three occasions. While Harry Hayek cut his year short after a disappointing opening two rounds.
Andrew Richardson would drive for his own Richardson Racing squad at the end of the season as Alexandra Marinescu only returned for two events, with one of those alongside fellow female racer Alexandra Mohnhaupt, whose best was an eleventh place at Snetterton.
2016 British F4: Final Standings
|2||3||Sennan Fielding||GBR||JHR Developments||5||351|
|3||26||Luis Leeds||AUS||TRS Arden||3||300|
|7||7||Alex Quinn (R)||GBR||Fortec Motorsports||3||248|
|8||93||Zane Goddard||AUS||Double R||4||239|
|9||21||Rafa Martins||BRA||TRS Arden||1||205|
|10||38||Jamie Caroline||GBR||Jamun / Fortec||1||181|
|11||12||Ayrton Simmons (R)||GBR||TRS Arden||82|
|12||23||Billy Monger||GBR||JHR Developments||78|
|13||63||Nicolai Kjaergaard (R)||DAN||Fortec Motorsports||50|
|14||88||Jack Martin (R)||GBR||TRS Arden||25|
|15||33||Ross Martin (R)||GBR||Fortec Motorsports||21|
|16||44||Patrik Matthiesen||DAN||Joe Tandy Racing||15|
|17||8||Carrie Schreiner||DEU||Double R||14|
|18||96||Jack Butel||GBR||JHR Developments||14|
|19||67/5||Frank Bird||GBR||Fortec Motorsports||3|
|20||35||Harry Hayek||AUS||Jamun Racing||2|
|21||20||Alexandra Mohnhaupt||MEX||Falcon Motorsport||0|
|22||25||Alexandra Marinescu||ROM||Richardson Racing||0|
|23||2||Andrew Richardson||GBR||Richardson Racing||0|
All photos credit to Jakob Ebrey Photography