SEASON REVIEW: 2019 F4 British Championship – Maloney seals one of the closest title fights yet

by Tom Jackson

The F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost has become synonymous with drama, action and intrigue and the 2019 season did nothing but live up to, and often exceed, it’s renowned reputation.

Barbados’ Zane Maloney, in only his rookie season in single-seaters, stamped his authority over the championship with 10 wins from the 30 rounds contested and laid his claim as one of the most worthy champions to date.

That included a spellbinding run of seven wins from eight in the middle stage of the year and consistent podium finishes amongst the rest as the Carlin rookie fended off a late charge from Double R Racing’s Sebastian Alvarez.

Elsewhere, Reema Juffali made history as she entered the championship on her way to becoming Saudi Arabia’s first female racing driver and a number of motorsport’s rising stars made their presence known, when seven drivers still held title aspirations with just six races remaining.

Season opens with three different winners

The opening weekend at Brands Hatch saw no one driver gain a competitive edge.

It began with a stunning Carlin 1-2 in qualifying, headed by Joe Turney just two days after his arrival to the series was announced. The race well and truly belonged to Luke Browning, who catapulted his Richardson Racing machine from 10th on the grid to first place, handing both him and the team their first British F4 victories. The title’s main protagonists, Alvarez and Maloney, finished second and third respectively.

The weekend then fell to Double R Racing, as Louis Foster inherited the win in race two after a penalty for Browning for contact with Maloney dropped the Cestrian to third.

The final race of the weekend was a comfortable affair for Alvarez, who led from lights to flag and took the championship lead with the win.

Sebastian Alvarez, Brands Hatch.
Alvarez mounts an early challenge.
Image: Jakob Ebrey Photogprahy

Maloney finds top gear

As the series rolled into Thruxton for the first of the season’s two trips to Hampshire, Foster held a tidy 17-point advantage over Alvarez at the top of the table, with three wins from six races to boot.

Nothing but sheer bad luck had prevented Maloney from striking earlier in the year but, settled with the car and with the monkey now firmly off his back, the Bajan was in fine fettle.

He made that Sunday his own, taking his maiden win in the morning, and with it the £5000 reward for being the first rookie to take an outright victory in the season. Later that afternoon, he held off an attacking Foster to take his second win in succession to bring himself within 12 points of the aforementioned Hampshire native at the head of the standings.

Those two wins would mark the beginning of a remarkable run of success – seven wins out of eight races, stretching from Thruxton all the way to Oulton Park and equalling 2017 champion Jamie Caroline’s record of four wins on the bounce.

It initially looked set to be a record-breaking run in itself, as the result from the cancelled race at Croft, where he was running fifth at the time it was halted, wasn’t set to stand. However, a National Court ruling a month later overturned that decision, awarding Skelton the win and handing Maloney fifth.

That didn’t matter however as, by the end of his winning streak, the 16-year-old had amassed a 55-point buffer to Foster in the standings as the series headed into the summer break.

Maloney builds his title assault.
Image: Jakob Ebrey Photography

Series boasts a close-fought grid

The 2019 season not only provided a close title battle, it provided countless close battles between every driver in every race.

Such was the competitiveness of the grid, trying to predict who would line up where proved a virtually impossible task, with drivers improving weekend after weekend.

The Fortec pairing of Roberto Faria and Mariano Martinez moved further towards the front as each session passed, and were among the most consistent drivers in terms of positions gained, with late debutant Chris Lulham aiding their efforts at Silverstone.

JHR Developments pipped Carlin in the Teams Cup courtesy of Skelton and Carter Williams’ performances, headlined by a standout weekend on the series’ second visit to Thruxton where the team took a hat-trick of victories plus consistent scoring from Alex Walker later in the year.

Arden Motorsport bolstered their roster with four drivers across the year; Tommy Foster and Bart Horsten picking up race wins for the Red Arrows along with a best result of fourth for Alex Connor, who was unlucky not to score a podium throughout the season. Abbie Munro also scored her maiden points as she eyes a full season in 2020.

Richardson Racing fielded only one entrant across the year in Browning, but his immense turn of speed saw him surge through the pack on two occasions to pick up the win and become one of eight different winners on the year.

The British F4 grid was closely matched.
Image: Jakob Ebrey Photography

Late drama ensures blockbuster finale

The championship rolled into Silverstone for the penultimate weekend of the year, and Alvarez immediately stamped his authority on the weekend; he outscored Maloney in the first two races to tie the pair on 367 points.

Tensions quickly boiled over in the final race of the weekend as the pair battled for second place. On the run into Brooklands, neither driver would give an inch and contact was made, sending the pair pirouetting into the gravel trap.

Maloney and Alvarez collide in spectacular fashion.
Image: Jakob Ebrey Photography

That meant the final weekend at Brands Hatch would settle the score.

Neither driver could secure any meaningful momentum; first blood went to Maloney, who cruised to victory in the opening race and a 10-point hold over Alvarez.

But the Mexican would strike back in the reverse-grid race with a win of his own and would assume control of the title lead by five points, owing to Maloney’s fifth place finish.

With one final race remaining, it was still all to play for.

Maloney seized the initiative in the opening laps to climb from the second row of the grid to first with a decisive move on Louis Foster proving the pivotal moment.

Alvarez, meanwhile, was holding fifth place before a mistake relegated the 16-year-old to seventh.

Then heartbreak struck at the worst possible time; a mechanical issue saw the Mexican pull off to the side of the track – ending his hopes of title glory.

That meant Maloney was free to ease up the pace; all he had to do was finish inside the top seven. He pushed on nonetheless and claimed his tenth win of the year and the 2019 British F4 drivers’ crown along with it.

Maloney celebrates with his Carlin team.
Image: Jakob Ebrey Photography

It also meant Carlin maintained their 100% record of winning a title in every season in which they competed – which is no easy feat.

With a handful of drivers already confirmed for next season, 2020 has a lot to live up to.

Don’t despair though, drama will be virtually guaranteed.

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