The BRDC F4 Championship returns to the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit this weekend (30/31 August) supporting the British GT Championship, with the title race now closer than it has been all year.
Just 40 points cover the top five drivers in the championship standings, and with 95 points available from each weekend, the picture at the top could change rapidly.
That’s what happened last time out at Silverstone, as HHC Motorsport’s Sennan Fielding thrust himself firmly into the championship race with a perfect weekend performance which saw him win three out of three races and secure two pole positions.
Fielding’s immaculate display means he’s now just 29 points off championship leader George Russell. Fielding’s London-based team mate Raoul Hyman also enjoyed a strong weekend in Northamptonshire, and is now just 11 points off the lead in second place.
Brands Hatch local Will Palmer and Indian contender Arjun Maini all remain within striking range, while Struan Moore in sixth is now hitting form with three podiums from the last four races, including a first win of the season at Oulton Park in July.
Although Fielding won all three races at Silverstone, he by no means had it easy. All three races were decided by less than half a second, with the first two won by less than two tenths! Fielding held off a persistent Moore in the first event, while Petroball Racing’s Gaetano di Mauro clinched his and the team’s first ever F4 podium in the second, and even took the lead on the last lap, only for Fielding to steal it back with just three corners remaining.
Meanwhile, Palmer showed he can overtake in F4 just as well as older brother Jolyon does in GP2, making a 17-place gain in race two to go from 20th on the grid (after retiring in the opening race due to mechanical woes) to the podium.
Fielding admits the Silverstone performance was just what he needed to get back into the championship fight. “The results at Silverstone have certainly upped my confidence, and I’m hoping to get as many strong performances under my belt as possible at Brands Hatch and show what I can do. Silverstone is going to be very hard to repeat!
“The weekend at Silverstone showed that the championship picture can change overnight – anything could happen at Brands Hatch and it could change quickly again. There are nine races to go this season, and I’ll be taking each one as it comes. One thing’s for sure though, it’s all going to come down to the very last race of the year at Snetterton, and it’s going to be very close!”
BRDC F4 already has a history of close finishes, particularly at Brands Hatch. The three races held on the Grand Prix circuit in May were all decided by less than half a second, and saw the closest finish in F4 history when Gustavo Lima and Chris Middlehurst crossed the line side-by-side, with Lima winning by just 0.044s!
Keep an eye out too for local driver Tom Jackson, who lives just down the road in Maidstone. Jackson is another to hit strong form in recent races, securing top-five finishes at Oulton Park and Silverstone, and will be hoping for that first F4 podium in front of his home crowd.
Another driver looking for a breakthrough result is Diego Menchaca. The Mexican is hoping for his first win of his F4 career after taking three podiums so far this season for Douglas Motorsport. “I really hope this is the weekend I get my first win,” Menchaca commented. “Last time we raced at Brands Hatch we were a little unlucky to have an incident which cost me a possible pole position, which would have been crucial. We just need to make sure we keep working hard, keep improving the car and myself, and the result will come – I see no reason why we cannot win.
“Brands Hatch is one of my favourite tracks. It’s very fast with no margin for error as the walls are very close. Paddock Hill and Hawthorns are amazing corners and a real thrill and challenge for all the drivers.”
Meanwhile, BRDC F4 continues to attract new drivers and teams to the championship. Immediately after the Silverstone round, Sean Walkinshaw Racing announced it is linking up with the Caterham F1 team to become the official junior team of the F1 operation, ensuring those in the F1 paddock will be keeping a close eye on proceedings this weekend.
Radical outfit Mectech Motorsport has also joined F4 in recent weeks, with the intention of racing in the Winter Championship, and perhaps sooner, while Meridian Motorsport made the switch from Formula Ford to F4 at Silverstone and enjoyed an encouraging debut in Northamptonshire with youngsters Jai Nijjar and Connor Jupp.
The F4 action this weekend gets underway with practice on Saturday at 9.30, followed by qualifying at 13.30. The first race starts at 15.40 on Saturday afternoon, with two further contests on Sunday at 12.05 and 15.20.