FIA Formula 4 once again kick-started the careers of a large number of drivers this year, and with more Formula 1 support than ever. Rachel Hillman reviews the 2019 season in F4, from Australia to Spain
Coming from the British and French championships respectively, sophomore F4 racers Theo Pourchaire and Dennis Hauger fought a tense battle over the ADAC crown, and it was consistency that ensured it was the former who became champion.
The year got underway at Oschersleben with a dominant lights-to-flag victory for second-year Ferrari junior Gianluca Petecof, a win that surprisingly turned out to be the only one of the season for the Prema driver. Red Bull junior Hauger finished the race in third, two places ahead of Sauber-backed rival Pourchaire. Niklas Krutten fended off Sauber’s Arthur Leclerc to win on a drying track in race two, and his rookie team-mate Roman Stanek took an early points lead thanks to victory in race three.
Next up was the Red Bull Ring, and three more drivers took to the top step. The first race finished behind the safety car, with Hauger taking his first win after spinning off and crashing into Petecof in the second and third Oschersleben races.
Thinking his luck was on the up, Hauger beat Pourchaire to win race two by six seconds, but after its conclusion the Norwegian was given a 30-second time penalty, and front wing damage left him 21st in the safety car-filled race three. Prema’s rookie Paul Aron won that race, and was then named a Mercedes F1 junior.
In his only appearance, Mucke Motorsport’s William Alatalo finished the first two races in third and second respectively.
Hauger took the top step once more in the first F1 support race at Hockenheim, despite contact with team-mate Krutten. US Racing’s Leclerc shone in race two, winning in front of his older brother Charles and heading Hauger and Pourchaire.
Zandvoort marked the season’s halfway mark, and two more new race winners. Rain fell before race one, and Alessandro Famularo gambled on starting on slick tyres. It paid off for the Prema driver, as he took the lead after most drivers pitted early to switch. Aron claimed race two, and Hauger’s Van Amersfoort Racing team-mate Sebastian Estner used reversed-grid pole to grab his first win in race three. By this point Pourchaire led Leclerc by 29 points, with Hauger 16 further back.
At the Nurburgring, a broken power cable for Hauger handed race one victory to Pourchaire, who then showed his craft in the wet to win race two by over six seconds. Stanek charged through the field in the final race, becoming the 10th true rookie to win multiple races in 11 years of the championship (and its predecessor ADAC Formel Masters), a feat last achieved in 2014.
With the field returning to Hockenheim one month later, Hauger was in the mood to assert his authority on the title battle. On the penultimate lap of race one, Pourchaire and Leclerc came together behind him while fighting for second, leading to the former’s first retirement of the year. Pourchaire and Aron stalled at the start of race two, and Hauger capitalised to dominate. He then came from eighth on the grid to obliterate the field in race three, the first triple ADAC win since Marvin Kirchhofer in 2012.
The season concluded at the Sachsenring with one point separating Pourchaire and Hauger heading in. R-ace GP’s Mikhael Belov intruded to win race one, as Pourchaire extended his points lead after dices with Belov’s team-mate Gregoire Saucy and Hauger. Pourchaire then won race two, as a late safety car denied Hauger the chance to fight him.
Hauger was gifted the final win of the season after Mucke Motorsport driver Joshua Duerksen was deemed to have made an illegal restart while up front and was given a 30-second time. Fourth place for Pourchaire in a dramatic race was enough to seal the title by one point, a margin that then grew when team-mate Alessandro Ghiretti was disqualified and Prema’s Oliver Rasmussen was penalised post-race and he was promoted to second.
Leclerc ended the year third on the podium and in the standings, over 50 points behind Pourchaire. Stanek held off Petecof, who picked up four podiums to go with his win, by one point for fourth place. He was way ahead in the rookie championship, winning by 89 points over Aron, and 141 over Duerksen.
After being pipped to the ADAC title, Hauger rebounded by winning five races in Italy on the trot and winning the title there.
Terrible luck once again blighted the Norwegian’s season opener, this time at Vallelunga, while Petecof racked up two wins (after a Stanek penalty) and Duerksen took one. It was here where Petecof’s aggressive but effective driving style worked best, much to the frustration of his rivals.
At a washed out Misano, Petecof made contact with and then beat team-mate Aron to victory, with Hauger overtaking his team-mate Krutten to win the second race before rain stopped play. After five races, Petecof was on 100 points, with Duerksen and Hauger on less than half of his tally with 44 points each.
The momentum switched at the Hungaroring after the summer break. Hauger took a triple pole, and comfortably won the hot first two races. High winds, rain and searing heat hit race three, which began with Petecof falling down the order after stalling.
A red flag stoppage allowed him to restart at the front, and he capitalised to pass Hauger for the lead. The pair battled each other and the changing conditions, including a last-lap storm that led to them running side-by-side and getting “too close”.
Petecof didn’t win after that, and only took two more podiums, but he was still points leader entering the season’s second half.
The cancelled Misano race was added to the Imola schedule, where Hauger won three times and Stanek took a triple pole before claiming his maiden win. A collision with Petecof over the lead at Mugello prevented Hauger from winning all six of the races remaining after that. Aron inherited victory from their clash, which left him just short of Petecof in the standings.
Aron was second top scorer in the season’s second half, but his tally of 134 points was still 84 short of what Hauger scored. Petecof truly underwhelmed, as by picking up 64 points he was also bettered by Belov (who rose from eighth to fourth in the standings), Stanek (10th to fifth after missing a round), his lesser-rated Prema team-mate Rasmussen and rookie Red Bull junior Jonny Edgar – on pole twice in the Monza season finale for Jenzer Motorsport and with two podiums to his name.
Edgar would also have been second in the highly competitive rookie standings were it not for dropped scores, instead sitting behind the mostly dominant Aron and Stanek, and just ahead of Duerksen. Despite claiming only one rookie podium and no overall points, Cram Motorsport’s Daniel Vebster was fifth in the rookie standings.
In total 12 drivers won races this year, including its 14-year-old Juniors, and it was Hadrien David who left as champion.
David won straight away at Nogaro, ahead of Enzo Valente and Reshad de Gerus. Reversed-grid poleman Ugo Gazil won race two, but David went from eighth to fourth in the last four laps. He then dominated race three, and the dye was set for 2019.
The second round of the season took place at Pau, a unique challenge, and it was de Gerus who was first to win after a 12-car pile-up caused a lengthy stoppage. Valente won next after passing pole-sitter Bryson Lew early on, despite having a healthy lead cut by a safety car intervention, and David recovered from his own race two crash to dominate the wet final race.
Sauber Engineering-supported Stuwie White took pole but crashed during qualifying on the street circuit, and the two third place finishes he left with were the season highlight for the South African, who was in his third year in the championship.
David clashed with American Nicky Hays in the opening Spa-Francorchamps race, which left Junior driver Isack Hadjar to fend off White for the win. Junior rival Victor Bernier completed the podium. In race two it was another Junior, Paul-Adrien Pallot, who would take overall victory as a belated birthday present. De Gerus snatched race three by 0.091s after battles with David.
David returned to the top step at Ledenon, but struggled in two of the races. Mikkel Grundtvig utilised reversed-grid pole to beat Sten van der Henst in race two, and Hays dominated race three by 15.741s. His title challenge was already over though after five consecutive non-scores. David finished 16th after being penalised for clashing with de Gerus, who finished fifth.
The first race at the Hungaroring lasted only four laps due to heavy rain, and David was awarded half-points for a dominant win. Gillian Henrion added his name to the list of race-winners by fending off van der Henst and Bernier in race two, and David dominated once more to win the final race by 12.899s. However, he held only a very slim points lead over de Gerus.
The title fight heated up at Magny-Cours as de Gerus won twice. He easily brushed aside David in race one, and did the same in race three. Jules Mettetal had finished third in race one, but a penalty handed the podium place to Hays. Evan Spenle returned to the podium for the first time since Pau after beating guest driver Kakunoshin Ohta to victory in race two.
David took his seventh win in the Paul Ricard season finale, and wrapped up the overall title two races early in the process due to dropped scores. De Gerus qualified a lowly 17th and made his way up to 12th until contact with van der Henst forced him into his first retirement of the year. In his first single-seater race, French karting champion Sami Meguetounif finished a fine fifth.
Volant Winfield winner Mettetal took his first win in dominant style a race later, as David came home in third and de Gerus was 12th. Junior champion Bernier passed poleman David in race three and didn?t look back as he took his maiden win, which rounded out a comfortable Junior title win. Henrion finished in third, as de Gerus ended his season in a miserable 14th place.
David won the FIA title by 34 points from de Gerus, with Hays 10 points ahead of Henrion in third. The key to David’s success was his bonus points for pole positions and fastest laps, which equated to almost half of his advantage, as well as taking all seven of his wins in the higher-scoring first and third races of the weekend.
Ren Sato was another of 2019’s commanding champions and was the series’ most dominant since its inception in 2015 and the second most dominant since the Japanese single-seater ladder’s third tier was created in 1990.
He was unbeatable at Fuji, Autopolis, Sportsland SUGO and Twin Ring Motegi, and were it not for a drive-through penalty for a jumped start in the second Okayama race he would have gone unbeaten there too.
At Suzuka he was second-best, with Honda Formula Dream Project team-mate Kakunoshin Ohta taking a win and pole double.
Atsushi Miyake, who won his HFDP seat through a SRS-Formula scholarship, inherited victory at Okayama and a run of four consecutive second places at Autopolis and Sugo enabled him to finish second in the standings.
Kohta Kawaai took four podiums to edge a close battle for third in the standings, although was sad to miss out on a win as his Le Beausset Motorsports team closed at the end of the season.
Media Do Kageyama Racing’s Reiji Hiraki pipped OTG Motor Sports’ Togo Suganami to fourth by one point after the latter retired twice in the Motegi season finale. Independent Cup winner Sergeyevich Sato was a pointless 24th in the standings.
Typhoon Hagibis caused the cancellation of the F1-supporting non-championship Suzuka round in mid-October.
In?JAF Japan F4, won last year by Ohta, 24-year-old Kohei Tokumasu claimed the overall crown despite only winning two races – at Fuji and Tsukuba. Yasuki Kono, usually entered under the team name ‘CMS ? Rising’ took his Formula Renault car to second in the standings. Former Japanese Formula 3 driver Tatsuya Ota triumphed in the end-of-season Battle Round.
A race win in a 2018 cameo, a winning appearance in the Youth Olympics and some stunning Euroformula Open test times put Fernando Alonso and Drivex School protege Franco Colapinto firmly in the favourite spot for this year’s title.
The Argentinian did not disappoint, winning 11 races, taking 10 poles and 11 fastest laps and of course the title.
Colapinto only took one win the season opening Navarra round after a penalty and a collision that was not his fault, then at Paul Ricard was overshadowed by cameoing Jenzer Motorsport pair Giorgio Carrara and Edgar. At Motorland Aragon he did win, but also had two pointless races despite charging drives, and sat behind Praga F4’s Killian Meyer in the standings.
The Valencia Ricardo Tormo round in June marked the season’s halfway point, and this was where Colapinto upped his game. He won nine of the remaining 12 races, with MP Motorsport’s Glenn van Berlo topping the podium when he did not, and were it not for poor starts at Algarve in Portugal he would have been crowned champion a whole round early.
Jenzer returned at the Barcelona season finale to provide a challenge with Filip Ugran, but Colapinto still won all three races.
Australian Joshua Car’s near constant podium presence for Crosslink/Kiwi Motorsport made for an easy national title win. The end margin between himself and DEForce Racing’s Kiko Porto was 79 points, with six wins compared to three.
Car?s strongest weekend was at Mid-Ohio, where he finished second in race one and followed it up by winning the next two races, as well as setting the fastest lap in each.
Jay Howard Driver Development’s Christian Brooks was the top local in the points in third, but should have been runner-up.
Brooks was disqualified from second place in the season opener for a non-functioning transponder, then nearly had a double win in the F1-supporting season finale at Circuit of the Americas. He rose from 20th to second in the first race, then was the on-the-road winner in the second race thanks to a last lap overtake. A penalty dropped him to second.
At Virginia International Raceway and Sebring, Brooks did at least get to taste victory, and his team-mate Christian Bogle won both COTA races. Crosslink/Kiwi’s other race-winners Jose Blanco-Chock and Arthur Leist were fourth and fifth in the points.
Briton Teddy Wilson won the Road Atlanta season opener for DC Autosport with Cape Motorsports, but didn’t visit the podium again after that and left mid-season. He still ended up eighth in the points, ahead of fellow part-timers Hays and Bogle.
Doran Motorsports Group driver Martin Kacic pipped World Speed Motorsports duo Rayce Dykstra and Kyle Loh to the Western title in a Laguna Seca showdown, while Logan Cusson won the?Western Winter Series for Jensen Global Advisors.
Ex-Red Bull junior Luis Leeds stepped down from Formula Renault and GT3 sportscars to return to?Australian F4 this year, and predictably dominated. He won at least once at every round for AGI Sport, and ended with a 99-points gap to Team BRM’s Lochie Hughes. Ryan Suhle’s third crack at the title resulted in a drop to third in the points, on a grid of only seven cars after the 18-strong Australian GP-supporting season opener. The series folded at the end of the season.
The?Chinese season kicked off two F1 races later, as a support for the 1000th world championship race. BlackArts Racing’s Conrad Clark was a rare foreigner on the grid, and the Kiwi showed off spectacular racecraft in his 12-win run to the title.
Mexico’s NACAM series was an F1 support at the Mexican GP, where champion Manuel Sulaiman took his first win. The home hero won 10 times for Ram Racing, four more than his Scuderia Martiga-ran American rival Jak Crawford.
Crammed mostly into January and February, F4 UAE?showcased some big talents in its dense schedule. Matteo Nannini, nephew of F1 race-winner Alessandro, took a comfortable title success before becoming a Formula Regional European Championship underdog, Duerksen warmed up for his ADAC and Italian F4 efforts with a starry run to second, and Omani teenager Shihab Al Habsi caught the eye with a few wins of his own – a feat repeated in Spain and South East Asia.
Malthe Jakobsen missed the first round of the season, but the Team FSP driver was a clear way ahead in?Denmark. He fought with Jonas Lindhard Nielsen in the first half of the season, before winning five races in a row and asserting his lead.
On the other side of Scandinavia, Markus Laitala was even more dominant in Formula Academy Finland. He won nine races out of 10, only beaten at Ahvenisto by cameoing rallycross star Sami-Matti Trogen. Nikita Aleksandrov was a distant second in the standings, and further down the order in the races when the championship shared grid with the SMP championship.
The FIA North European Zone series collapsed at the end of 2018, and a new Russia-based series was made for this year with the assistance of the team behind the one-year-old FAcademy Finland, and only Russian drivers were eligible to score.
Pavel Bulantsev won the first ever race at Fort Grozny Autodrom, then took four more wins to claim the inaugural title. Artem Lobanenko won six times but finished 30 points behind, although in his Alastaro double he finished behind Laitala.
Juan Vieira was Formula Academy Sudamericana champion for a second successive year, while Stefan Fuertbauer, who cameoed in Italian F4, won the Austrian Cup for Franz Woss Racing, beating former NASCAR driver Florian Renauer.
Chinese, Italian and Spanish reviews by Elliot Wood
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