With six races remaining this year, just 13 points separate the top-three drivers in the standings. Championship leader George Russell had a difficult weekend last time out at Brands Hatch, as did championship challenger Raoul Hyman. This allowed Russell’s Lanan Racing team-mate, Arjun Maini, to capitalise with a win and two further podiums in Kent, taking second place from Hyman in the standings and getting within nine points of Russell.
Sennan Fielding, Will Palmer and Struan Moore are within 60 points of the top, and with 95 points available from each weekend, the race to secure the £25,000 cash prize and a full test in an Arden Motorsport GP3 car in Abu Dhabi is wide open.
The last time F4 visited Donington, almost 12 months ago, Jake Hughes was crowned as the first ever BRDC F4 champion, emerging victorious from a six-way battle for the championship.
This season’s championship battle is proving to be even more competitive, with no fewer than nine race winners so far. Russell has won four times, but not since Oulton Park in July, so he’s determined to return to the top step of the podium this weekend to strengthen his narrow points lead.
Russell commented: “We had a nightmare qualifying at Brands Hatch but we managed to salvage a lot of points to keep hold of the championship lead. Hopefully this time we’ll have a much better qualifying and be back at the front end of the grid, and then we can fight for some more wins. It’s getting very close now, but I’m feeling confident that I’ll be able to do it. I’ve got the pace so we’ll keep fighting and I’m sure it will bring us the rewards.”
Team-mate Maini, now that he’s second in the championship, is looking to apply more pressure at Donington Park: “George [Russell] isn’t having it easy now, he’s led the way through the championship, but with people getting so close to him now, I’m sure he’s feeling the pressure.
“It’s all to play for and anything can happen. I went from fifth in the standings to second in one weekend at Brands Hatch, and if any one of us has a really good weekend at Donington, they could leave with the championship lead, it’s that close.”
Double race winner Hyman lies just 13 points off the championship lead, and the South African driver knows that it wouldn’t take much for him to regain the championship lead he held after the first day of the season at Silverstone in April.
Hyman commented: “I’m only 13 points off the championship lead, it’s not a big margin at all. Anything can happen, we see that frequently in F4, and this year we’ve seen starring performances come almost out of the blue! And in the same way, people have fallen back very quickly and it doesn’t take much for things to change.
“I have to keep focussing on myself and push as hard as I can. By no means will I be settling for anything, I’m going to be pushing and attacking for the wins.”
Hyman’s team-mate Will Palmer had a difficult round at Brands Hatch, recovering from an accident in practice to finish eighth in race one, then seventh in race two, before being unable to finish race three after finding himself with nowhere to go when another car spun ahead of him.
“Brands wasn’t the best weekend for me,” said Palmer, “but I’m definitely still in the championship fight. I’ve got nothing to lose in the final two rounds and I’ll be going all guns blazing.
“I had the problem at Silverstone as well when I was leading, but if any of the guys in front of me were to suffer the same fate, it would throw the whole thing wide open again. I expect to be strong at Donington, the pace in testing was very encouraging and hopefully I should be set for a good end to the year.”
Donington Park is the local round for several teams and drivers.
Sennan Fielding, who lives just over an hour away in Chesterfield, has tasted victory champagne at the East Midlands circuit in Ginetta Juniors, and remains firmly in the F4 championship fight after scoring three wins at Silverstone in August.
Mark Godwin Racing hails from nearby Bardon, Leicestershire, and the team’s Dutch driver Michael Claessens will be hoping to score more top-10 finishes in his first ever season of racing. The Hillspeed team, based in Hathersage, Derbyshire, also count Donington as their local round, and will be targeting a return to the podium with Gustavo Lima, who stood on the rostrum for the first time in his F4 career at Donington last year, before scoring a breakthrough win at Brands Hatch earlier this year. Lima’s team-mates, Malaysian Rahul Mayer and Mexican Alfredo Zabalza, have both scored strong top-10 finishes this season, and showed competitive pace in last week’s test.