‘Please Sir, I want some more!’
It’s fair to say that the 2017 F4 British Championship has a lot to live up to, after a year that produced ten different race winners and a title battle that went right to the final lap. The Checkered Flag looks ahead to the series third season as Carlin attempt to defend their crown.
2016 saw 17-year-old Max Fewtrell calmly climb his way to the top of the standings due to the Brits utter consistency. The late season form of Sennan Fielding, that resulted in a dramatic season finale will be remembered for years to come, though the line-ups for the current year could suggest more of the same.
Carlin Continue to Pack a Punch
For the past two seasons, the Carlin team has come away with the team’s crown, while their #31 has collected the driver’s title. This year that honour once again goes to a World Karting champion, at the hands of Logan Sargeant.
The 16-year-old American has just come off the back of the UAE Formula 4 Championship where he finished runner-up, collecting a podium in 15 of the 18 races. With a winter of single-seater experience now behind him, he’ll arguably go into the year as the pre-season favourite.
Joining him though could be his greatest rival; Jamie Caroline. The 2015 Ginetta Junior champion failed to make a major impact on the series during his debut campaign, but a recent team move along with topping two recent test sessions could be indicative of the year ahead.
The high quality of the Carlin squad often mean that many talents are often overlooked. As a result, Patrik Pasma will hope to not get left behind after a year in Formula Ford 1600. The young Finn was on the front row for the final of the Formula Ford Festival, though race pace has often been lacking, a years experience on the UK scene will be vital.
Completing this years quartet will be Lucas Alecco Roy. As a former Dressage competitor, the German will be new to the racing world and needs to make key strides in his first year.
Arden’s Time to Shine
Having previously built up a relationship with Young Racing Drivers Academy (YRDA), the TRS Arden team has decided to source all of this talent from their ranks.
The now-experienced Ayrton Simmons returns for his first full season. The British driver has been strong throughout testing, but as the only driver in the team to have raced in the championship, he’ll be under pressure to set the pace in the opening races.
This will especially be true for Simmons if Oscar Piastri lives up to his pre-season pace, having topped the final test at Rockingham. Like Sargeant, Piastri has a rich karting history and podiums in UAE F4.
Rounding out the Arden team will be rookies Yves Baltas and Olli Caldwell. While the latter will only compete in the Ford F4 Challenge Cup due to not being old enough at the start of the season, ensuring that Alex Quinn replaces him for the opening four rounds.
Quinn collected the rookie trophy last year and will be determined to set the tone in the first half of the year before he’s forced to switch team and find extra finance for the second half.
After a year spent in Sennan Fielding‘s shadow, 2017 provides the perfect opportunity for Billy Monger to finally step into the light. He claimed all but a win in a season that saw him finish twelfth in the overall standings, despite missing a round.
Linus Lundqvist moves into the championship after two years in Formula STCC, where he won the title. The Formula Renault 1.6L Nordic champion has been one of the fastest throughout testing and could be Double R Racing‘s best chance at the title.
Meanwhile, Anothony Hieatt has filled the rest of his team with an equally cosmopolitan line-up. Karl Massaad enters the series after dominating the Lebanese karting scene, while Zhou “Daniel” Cao enters the series after a successful debut in Chinese F4 where he picked up two podiums in three races.
Sadly for Cao he won’t have the honour of being revealed as the first Chinese racer, after Zhuangling “Jacky” Liu became the first driver to be announced at the end of last season, shortly followed by Jamie Sharp who registers as a privateer.
Out to Prove a Point
While some drivers may not likely be in title contention they will be determined to make their mark on the series.
The newly formed Ford F4 Challenge Cup provides a perfect opportunity for drivers to enter the series at a reduced cost and for only seven rounds. This set up will advantageous for drivers such as Caldwell who will not be old enough for the first three rounds.
Like Caldwell, Mexican driver Manuel Sulaimán will only have the opportunity to complete in the final events as he completes a promising maiden season in (Mexican) NACAM Formula 4. Elsewhere Lucca Allen will run as Falcon Motorsport‘s only representative.
The surprise of the Challenge Cup has been Oliver York. The Fortec Motorsport star has been one of the quickest in testing and could be in contention for the overall title. Should he appear for all of the first seven rounds, he may choose to sacrifice the Cup to gun for the overall title.
While he’s not been officially revealed, York may be joined by Jonathan Hoggard who has been a constant presence during testing, putting in a strong pace. Finally, Harry Webb was announced this morning to join Richardson Racing for the Challenge Cup, completing the 20 car grid so far.
What to Expect
Providing he doesn’t ditch it for the overall title, York should be the clear favourite for the Cup. He should also be in strong contention for the rookie title, unless Massaad has anything to say about it.
If testing is anything to go by, the overall title may be between four drivers. Though it may not be decided between just Caroline, Sargeant, Piastri and Lundqvist, the bets will be on as 2017 looks like the year that a foreign talent could finally take the British title.