Another year is upon us, but in all of the drama of the motorsport, one category has finally established its foundation all across the world. FIA Formula 4 championships are now present in 21 countries, spanning 12 series.
The Checkered Flag has already reviewed the British, German and Italian championships, widely considered the three most influential of the F4 series, but here’s a look at those lesser known international competitions, many of which use similar cars.
Australian Formula 4 Championship
2015 saw six of its drivers progress to Europe or America, giving the incentive to many of the rookies going into the new year. As it turned out though, the championship was eventually fought between those with at least a year under their belts.
Six wins and seven further podiums gave Will Brown the honour to follow in the footsteps of Jordan Lloyd, claiming the $10,000 prize and adding 12 FIA Super Licence points to his name.
It had initially been a rough start to the year for BRM driver as team-mate Jordan Love took four wins in the opening six races, putting him out front. Brown had been a regular on the podium, with his recovery from last in the years inaugural race being a sign of things to come.
Nick Rowe would later join the battle ensuring that three drivers could steal the crown going into the final event. Brown’s 316 points was enough to claim the title with Rowe and Love behind.
Harry Hayek had started the season racing in the UK and Spain, but returned after unsuccessful stints, claiming fourth with Simon Fallon collecting a win and the rookie title despite also not featuring in the opening race.
US F4 Championship
A number of series on this list are now in their second season, though the United States proved to be the most high-profile of the second wave championships. While he picked up just a single victory after the opening two rounds, it was Cameron Das whose infallible conclusion handed him the title.
Das won the final eight races, picking up the fastest lap in all but two. Behind him, an equally impressive season from Konrad Czaczyk ensured the title battle went to the final race.
The opening round at Mid-Ohio had seen Czaczyk collect all three victories, as polesitter Kyle Kirkwood followed him home on each occasion. A poor second event allowed Kirkwood to close the gap, claiming his only win of the year, but Das took victory in the final, setting the scene for the year to come.
A Das-Czaczyk 1-2 became a regular feature of the second half, with six races ending as such. A couple of podiums for Kirkwood kept him in the game, but only temporarily, as he settled for third behind the Polish-American racer.
Unusually for many F4 series, not all drivers were required to be under 21-years-old with fourth place James Goughrey Jr. already amassing more years experience than his competitors were old. Fifth was the last of the breakaway competitors, Skylar Robinson, while Baltazar Leguizamón, the top international driver, was sixth.
SMP F4 Championship
The NEZ used to be a large stomping ground for Formula Renault, but recent developments, plus connections with the KNAF has seen the series cover Russia, Finland and for the first time, Sweden and The Netherlands.
Richard Verschoor, the Red Bull youth driver, ran away with the series in its second half, beating countryman Jarno Opmeer by 69 points. In reality, the two Dutch rookies dominated the series winning all but two of the races, Verschoor even winning ten on the bounce.
Third overall went to Aleksandr Vartanyan. The Russian had been strong all season, but was only gifted a win at the season finale. Meanwhile a strong end of season saw Rasmus Markkanen beat early championship contender; Tuomas Tujula to fourth, as brother Roope Markkanen rounded out the top six.
F4 Spanish Championship
While it is not unusual for young drivers to compete in two F4 series, the connections with MP Motorsport ensured that the Spanish series featured almost the same drivers as its NEZ counterpart, with Verschoor once again taking the trophy.
The 15-year-old had wiped away the competition, winning 17 of the 20 races while Vartanyan finished a lonely second. Tujula and the highest Spanish driver Xavier Lloveras picked up one win each as Nikita Volegov, the only other driver to race all season picked up fifth place.
F4 Japanese Championship
While largely ignored by the western audiences, the Japanese series continues to be the most subscribed in the world, with 48 drivers competing over the course of the year.
In the end though, it was second-year racer Ritomo Miyata who held on by a mere four points over Sena Sakaguchi. Unlike the majority of the F4 series around the world, it was almost impossible to tell which driver would come out on top after the opening few rounds.
So it proved, as early season candidates fell away, the most notable of which was Kazuto Kotaka. The 17-year-old had exploded onto the racing scene last year, arriving as favourite this season, but dropped off after his 3 wins in the opening half. He was classified fifth.
Ultimately this left the door open for his TOM’s Spirit team-mate Miyata to take the line light leading as the field went into the triple header at Motegi. Sakaguchi won the second race but with neither scoring points in the final, Miyata was given the crown.
Top rookie was Toshiki Oyu in third, just seven points in front of Sakaguchi’s team-mate Mizuki Ishizaka in the second Honda Formula Dream car. Yuya Hiraki and Shinji Sawada finished on the same points in sixth, as Takuro Shinohara rounded out the top eight.
NACAM Formula 4 Championship
FIA Formula 4’s highest profile winter series concluded in June with Axel Matus clinching the title. In the end, it was a dominant performance from the RAM Racing driver who won 12 of the 21 races. Second place Jose Sierra failed to pick up a single one as consistency kept the French F4 graduate ahead of Patricio O’Ward.
O’Ward, who was also racing in the Pro Mazda Championship, missed three of the seven rounds, but was the only driver to truly challenge Matus while former BRDC F4 competitor, Fernando Urrutia picked up one win in fourth. Elsewhere Moisés de la Vara was top rookie in eighth.
The current season has seen Sierra return, but after three rounds has failed to pull away, lying one point behind Guyanese driver Calvin Ming. Meanwhile, third place Alexis Carreño remains in contention after one win.
Formula 4 United Arab Emirates Championship
The latest series to be set up takes us to the middle-east, to the only Asian championship that uses European engines and chassis. The move may have been an attempt to attract European rookies during the winter and so it has proven, with ADAC F4 regular Jonathan Aberdein leading the way.
So far Aberdein has taken all of the wins and pole positions as Motopark team-mate Logan Sargeant followed him home on every occasion. British driver Sean Babington is a lonely third while Ahmad Al Muhannadi remains the highest place local driver in fourth, despite not recording a single top-four finish.
Formula 4 South East Asian Championship
Similar to the Formula Ford takeover in the United Kingdom, the South East Asian region saw a comparable development with the series being run Meritus.GP, the same group that guided the AsiaCup precursor.
Last seasons AsiaCup champion and Australian F4 race winner, Jordan Love has returned. The Aussie along with Danial Nielsen Frost were the stand out drivers from the opening weekend, though missed rounds from Frost and Love ensures they lie fourth and fifth respectively.
This has left Kiwi Faine Kahia to lead the points from Indonesian Presley Martono and Indian Akash Gowda. Unusually to the series, a weekend encompasses six races, making it the most cost-effective F4 per race.
Chinese Formula 4 Championship
Perhaps the most forgotten F4 series switched to a summer format for 2016, ensuring the year produced two champions. The inaugural season that started in 2015 was won by Julio Acosta, winning all but one of the races he entered.
As for the full 2016 series it was again another foreign national who took the crown, where Bruno Carneiro put in a scorching campaign over the five rounds. Local driver Wu Ruopeng once again finished as runner-up with Maxx Ebenal appearing for three events and classified a comfortable third.
Lin Taian took fourth as fifth place Liu Kai became the only Chinese driver to win an event all year. He ultimately cut the year short, erasing his championship chances.
French F4 Championship
As a non-FIA series with loose connections to Formula Renault, the French series holds a special place within the feeder ladder. None-the-less its influence has been seen across the globe with Stoffel Vandoorne becoming the series third champion to progress to Formula 1.
In reality it was a season defined by one driver, Ye Yifei. While the Chinese prodigy faded away towards the end, two perfect weekends and fourteen wins saw him become the most successful driver the championship has ever seen.
A dramatic first lap crash scuppered his chances of a perfect Pau, but established Gilles Magnus as his closest contender. Magnus collected one win and twelve further podiums, eventually finishing a lonely second after failing to close the gap by the penultimate round.
With Ye and Magnus having already secured first and second before the final round at Catalunya, the focus turned to the battle for third. Moroccan rising-star Michael Benyahia took the honour with pre-season favourite Javier Cobian just 12 points behind.
The top French driver was Tristan Charpentier who jumped up to fifth after the strongest final two rounds of any driver. This directly compared to countryman Hugo Chevalier, who had been Ye’s closest rival early on, but dropped to sixth overall.
Just like the French-based championship, a number series around the world share the Formula 4 name without any relation to the FIA. Some possessing a history that extend long past the governing bodies 2013 inauguration of the category.
The most high-profile of these is arguably JAF‘s Japan Formula 4, which started life in 1993 as a support series to the nations Formula 3 Championship. Once again the East and West titles were collected by one man, as Toshiki Ōyu made up for missing out on the FIA F4 crown.
Formula 4 Argentina was originally set up in 1966 and continues today as the Formula Metropolitan Series. 2016 saw Ricardo Degoumois collect the title after five wins and 331 points.
Across the border, the death of Sudamericana F3 gave birth to the aptly named Formula 4 Sudamericana in 2014, with its previous two champions now racing in Europe. 2016 saw the series move entirely to Uruguay with local driver Facundo Garese holding on in the latter rounds to take the title from Juan Manuel Casella who had dominated the start of the year.
The South American series uses the Signatech chassis and Renault engine as seen in Formula Renault 1.6. While Renault themselves have since dropped support for the category, the Swedish series re-branded to Formula STCC, where Linus Lundqvist took the title after missing out in 2015.
The majority of the Formula 4 championships have now been established, with the FIA switching its attention to Formula 3, but as Danish F4 prepares for its debut next year, only time will tell if the organisation can hold onto its monopoly of motorsport.