There are five drivers entered for rookie honours, so it’s returning stars who look set to battle for 2023’s title
The British Formula 4 championship made a successful transition last year from its Gen1 car suuplied by Mygale to adopting the new Gen2 chassis from Tatuus.
Supply chain issues and other geopolitical issues may have had an impact, but it wasn’t felt as the series impressively attracted 15 full-time entries (including champion Alex Dunne who missed the final round solely due to a clashing commitment), and with a calendar of tracks that are not used by any international single-seater series.
That changes in 2023 as British F4 will race on Silverstone’s full grand prix layout for the first time, rather than the short National configuration, and the series’ increasing relevance has been shown by the increasing grid size. There are 21 cars racing at this weekend’s Donington Park season opener, with Fortec Motorsports’ Mika Abrahams contesting free practice on Thursday despite not being old enough to race until round three next month, while ROKiT Racing Star contest winner Monica Boulton Ramos is also due to race this year but she has not yet signed with a team.
On Donington’s National layout it was Rodin Carlin’s Noah Lisle who set the pace in practice, with the Australian a last-minute addition to the grid for this weekend and not confirmed for any events beyond it.
It was Fortec’s Aiden Neate, another late signing but who is down for the full season, who was fastest in FP1 on Thursday morning with a 1m04.618s lap. He had Carlin duo Louis Sharp and Dion Gowda within a tenth of a second of him, while former pacesetters Daniel Guinchard (Chris Dittmann Racing) and Lisle were 0.121s and 0.182s behind respectively.
The top 19 were covered by 0.914s, with Virtuosi Racing’s Douwe Dedecker and Kai Daryanani 1.226s and 2.445s off the pace. Absent from the session was Hitech GP’s William Macintyre, but he made up for the lack of mileage by going out early and fast in FP2. He traded first place with Sharp before Lisle put in three successive fastest laps, then there was no change at the top for 12 minutes before Macintyre set a 1m04.613s. Lisle responded a few minutes later to go fastest by 0.041s.
Free practice results
|2||William Macintyre||Hitech GP||1m04.613s||+0.041s||24|
|3||Aiden Neate||Fortec Motorsports||1m04.618s||+0.046s||31|
|4||Deagen Fairclough||JHR Developments||1m04.632s||+0.060s||42|
|7||Daniel Guinchard||Chris Dittmann Racing||1m04.712s||+0.140s||42|
|8||James Higgins||Fortec Motorsports||1m04.713s||+0.141s||49|
|9||Aqil Alibhai||Virtuosi Racing||1m04.973s||+0.401s||47|
|10||Jack Sherwood||Chris Dittmann Racing||1m05.020s||+0.448s||48|
|12||Gabriel Stilp||Hitech GP||1m05.114s||+0.542s||49|
|13||Kanato Le||Hitech GP||1m05.123s||+0.551s||50|
|14||James Piszcyk||Hitech GP||1m05.131s||+0.559s||49|
|15||Jaden Pariat||Argenti Motorsport||1m05.180s||+0.608s||51|
|16||Patrick Heuzenroeder||Argenti Motorsport||1m05.346s||+0.774s||50|
|17||Gustav Jonsson||Chris Dittmann Racing||1m05.395s||+0.823s||47|
|18||Sonny Smith||Argenti Motorsport||1m05.419s||+0.847s||41|
|19||Isaac Barashi||Argenti Motorsport||1m05.436s||+0.864s||46|
|20||Mika Abrahams||Fortec Motorsports||1m05.516s||+0.944s||49|
|21||Douwe Dedecker||Virtuosi Racing||1m05.844s||+1.272s||48|
|22||Kai Daryanani||Virtuosi Racing||1m07.002s||+2.430s||44|
Neate only managed one flying lap, and joined Sharp, Gowda, Aqil Alibhai (Virtuosi), Gustav Jonsson (CDR), Sonny Smith (Argenti Motorsport), Abrahams and Dedecker as the group of drivers who did not better their FP1 pace.
As the fastest full-season entrant in practice, Macintyre is certainly one to watch for the championship fight. The former Sauber junior made his car racing debut in the 2021 Ginetta Junior Winter Series, then contested the main championship last year and comfortably came second in the standings with six wins, nine other podium finishes and one pole position.
He made his F4 debut in GB4’s season finale, making the podium twice, then tested with Hitech before signing with the team last November. To build up his single-seater experience he joined them for the F4 United Arab Emirates series at the start of this year, along with two of his future British F4 team-mates, and finished 14th in the standings with a highest finish of fourth.
The team-mates in question were Kanato Le and James Piszcyk, with Le having come second to Macintyre in Ginetta Junior’s rookie standings last season. His best result in F4 UAE was a second place, albeit in the non-championship round, while Piszcyk had seven top-10 results in total after stepping up to winged single-seaters from Australian Formula Ford where he missed out on the title in his first full season in 2022 by missing the final round to do a British F4 test.
Hitech’s fourth entry is Gabriel Stilp, the reigning British champion for X30 Junior karts and one of the few absolute car racing rookies on the grid as he did not follow other karting graduates in heading to the UAE for some F4 experience.
Although Dunne dominated for Hitech last season, Carlin won the teams’ title and it has three full-season entries. Sharp is the most experienced, having won two races en route to fourth in the British F4 points last year and then winning both races in F4 UAE’s non-championship round, and as the highest placed returnee from the 2022 season is quite possibly the title favourite.
The Indian-born, Singaporean-licensed Gowda starred in junior karting but struggled to impress at the senior level last year, and by summer was already putting some focus to F4 tests. His rookie campaign in F4 UAE was particularly useful given he drove for Carlin there, and he scored twice.
His team-mate Josh Irfan meanwhile has rookie status for this season having only made his car racing debut two weekends ago in GB4’s season opener at Oulton Park. He finished fifth, third and fourth in his three races, and is third in the standings, but won’t be appearing in GB4 again. Last year he was karting, and finished third in the WSK Champions Cup for OK karts.
JHR Developments finished third in the 2022 standings but has only attracted Boulton Ramos’s fellow ROKiT Racing Star winner Deagen Fairclough for this season and his car will recieve from support from Hitech, who had originally been set to run the ROKiT victors.
Argenti Motorsport is the only team other than Carlin to have four full-time cars, thanks to the very last-minute signing of former Sauber junior Smith [pictured above] who was announced shortly before practice began at Donington.
Smith claimed one win and four other podiums in Ginetta Junior last year, and in 2021 raced in junior karting. Isaac Barashi and Jaden Pariat meanwhile competed part-time in British F4, Barashi with Argenti and Pariat with CDR, and the team’s fourth driver Patrick Heuzenroeder is another who is moving over from Australia’s FFord scene. Argenti entered the trio into a round of the F4-spec Formula Winter Series at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit in February, with Pariat scoring points.
All three of Virtuosi’s drivers were new to single-seater racing at the start of this year, but now only karter Dedecker will go into the British F4 season eligible for rookie honours. Alibhai was a podium-finisher in Ginetta Junior, and a weekend in GB4 last year also rules him out of rookie contention, while Daryanani made the switch to cars earlier this year in F4 UAE but finished no higher than 17th.
CDR has two potential title contenders in former Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 junior Guinchard, already a British F4 race-winner, and GB4 race-winner Jack Sherwood, and its line-up is completed by karting graduate Gustav Jonsson.
Also in contention to spring a title surprise is Fortec. Neate and Abrahams both have two F4 wins each, in Britain and Denmark respectively, and Neate also has experience at the higher Formula Regional level.
James Higgins meanwhile has prepared for his rookie campaign by contesting the last two British F4 rounds of 2022 with Fortec, which also marked a return to the series for the team after initially being absent from the grid when the new Tatuus T-421 was introduced.
In addition to all of the real-world experience, Fairclough is among the drivers whose Esport pedigrees have increased their profile. Gowda and Macintyre were ninth and 19th in last year’s official British F4 Esports series, both representing Fordzilla.
2023 British F4 entries
|Rodin Carlin||Dion Gowda||Singapore||Senior karting (25th in F4 UAE)|
|Josh Irfan||Great Britain||Senior karting (currently 3rd in GB4)|
|Noah Lisle||Australia||13th in British F4, (19th in F4 UAE)|
|Louis Sharp||New Zealand||1st in F4 UAE Trophy, 4th in British F4|
|Hitech GP||James Piszyck||Australia||2nd in Australian FFord (15th in F4 UAE)|
|Kanato Le||Japan||7th in Ginetta Junior (17th in F4 UAE)|
|William Macintyre||Great Britain||13th in GB4, 2nd in Ginetta Junior|
|Gabriel Stilp||Great Britain||Junior karting|
|JHR Developments||Deagen Fairclough||Great Britain||12th in British F4 Esports|
|Argenti Motorsport||Isaac Barashi||Israel||17th in British F4 (20th in FWinter Series)|
|Patrick Heuzenroeder||Australia||3rd in NSW FFord (19th in FWinter Series)|
|Jaden Pariat||India||19th in British F4 (16th in FWinter Series)|
|Sonny Smith||GB/Thailand||9th in Ginetta Junior|
|Virtuosi Racing||Aqil Alibhai||South Africa||6th in Ginetta Junior, 18th in GB4|
|Kai Daryanani||India||Senior karting (36th in F4 UAE)|
|Douwe Dedecker||Belgium||Senior karting|
|Chris Dittmann Racing||Daniel Guinchard||Great Britain||9th in British F4|
|Gustav Jonsson||Sweden||Senior karting|
|Jack Sherwood||Great Britain||5th in GB4, 18th in British F4|
|Fortec Motorsports||Mika Abrahams||South Africa||4th in Danish F4|
|James Higgins||Great Britain||22nd in British F4|
|Aiden Neate||Great Britain||6th in British F4 (12th in FRMEC)|