Six drivers remain in contention for the inaugural BRDC Formula 4 title, but with a lead of 45 points and only 90 still remaining, it’s Lanan Racing’s Jake Hughes who heads to Donington with a distinct advantage over his rivals.
Hughes, who counts Donington as his local venue, living 30 miles away in Water Orton in Warwickshire, has taken three victories so far, and an additional five podiums to lead the way at this crucial stage in the season. The 19-year old has gone into every race weekend looking to extract the maximum from his car, and it’s a philosophy that won’t be changing this weekend; “I’m heading to Donington with the same attitude I’ve had all season,” he said ominously. “I’m looking for poles, wins and podiums and will be going flat out. I don’t like to drive thinking about the championship and I haven’t done that so far, and I won’t be doing it at Donington.”
Five drivers will be nipping at his heels though, headed by Sean Walkinshaw Racing’s Jack Barlow and Hillspeed’s Seb Morris, while Matty Graham (SWR), Charlie Robertson (HHC) and Jake Dalton (Lanan Racing) all remain in mathematical contention.
With 30 points available for a race win, Hughes could theoretically claim the championship during the first race at Donington, should he score 11 more points than Barlow and nine more than Morris, while at the same time finishing ahead of Graham, Robertson and Dalton. But such is the way the championship has unravelled so far this year, it’s far more likely the battle for the crown will go right down to the wire!
The stakes are high, with a prize package unrivalled at this level of motorsport. Not only does the champion receive the accolade of being the first ever BRDC F4 champion, but they will also claim £25,000, a test in a Carlin F3 car and a V12 Chronograph watch worth £4,500 from luxury watchmaker BRM. In addition they will become eligible for BRDC SuperStar status, will receive a major award at the BRDC Annual Awards, and will be given serious consideration for selection as a McLaren Autosport BRDC Award finalist.
Barlow, like Hughes, has graduated from karting into cars this year, and also has three wins to his name. He admits that overcoming Hughes’ lead will be tough, but he’s not ruling himself out of the title battle.
“Anything can happen at Donington, and we need to focus on getting as many podiums as we can. Ideally we’ll get a strong podium in race one, a good back-up finish in race two and another strong podium in race three, and then you never know what could happen, and we could be looking in very good shape. If we can go for the title there’s no way I’ll turn it down!”
Morris, from Marford in Wrexham, has been ultra consistent and thought he’d broken his win duck at Snetterton last time out, only to be excluded from the results of the race due to a technical irregularity with his rear wing. The Welshman knows that a change in fortunes for Hughes could yet result in him snatching the crown.
“Race wins are the only aim really and I’m confident we’ll have the pace to challenge for them. We can still overturn the lead Jake has at the top of the championship, all it takes is a DNF for him in the first race and then the whole title picture could change.”
Matty Graham has hit a rich vein of form in recent weeks, securing two wins and a total of five podiums in the last eight races. Mathematically he’s still in contention, sitting 71 points behind Hughes (61 on dropped scores), but the man from the North East believes he’d be even closer were it not for mid season misfortune.
“I have to be pleased with the way my season has gone, given it’s my first year in cars”, he commented. “We had a good start to the season but the Snetterton round in June was a bit of a nightmare, and I think without that we could have been right in the championship fight. But I’ll go to Donington looking for wins and podiums. The championship is a long shot, but nothing in this game is impossible.”
Fifth place Robertson meanwhile is focusing on race wins at Donington, “We’re really determined to try and win at least one of the races this weekend and to be on the podium in all three if we can. It’s been a strong year for me and for HHC, we’ve proven we have the pace to win and we’ve been very consistent.”
Dalton is also targeting a big points score this weekend, but admits championship glory is unlikely. “I’d love to win the title but I have to be realistic and it looks like it’s out of reach now. Jake has a nice lead so I’m just aiming for wins and some good results and just see what happens in the championship. I’m still aiming to finish inside the top three though.”
The battle at the top has ebbed and flowed since Matt Bell became the inaugural F4 winner at Silverstone in April. Bell, along with Morris, Dalton and Robertson have all taken turns at the top of the championship, until Hughes kicked into another gear at the Brands Hatch GP round in July to power to the top of the standings, a lead he has extended at every round since.
Of course it’s not just about the championship contenders. In 2013, F4 has thrust many new names into the limelight. We’ve seen 10 different winners, with Ross Gunn, Struan Moore, James Fletcher and Pietro Fittipaldi all taking victory honours in addition to the names above, while a total of 15 different drivers have stood on the podium.
It’s been a brilliantly competitive season, and it would be foolish to rule out further new winners and podium visitors during the final weekend! But most eyes will be on the scrap at the front to determine who will become the first ever BRDC F4 champion.