In its three years of existence, the FIA-sanctioned British Formula 4 championship has seen a huge number of stars pass through its doors.
The 2015 and 2016 champions Lando Norris and Max Fewtrell were snapped up by the McLaren and Renault Formula 1 teams after their successes, while Ricky Collard and Dan Ticktum have also become important members of BMW and Red Bull’s junior programmes.
2015 race-winners Matheus Leist and Colton Herta have firmly established themselves in America, with Leist stepping up to IndyCar next year.
This year’s group of drivers will be looking to repeat the future successes of 2015 and 2016’s field, and there are certainly a number of drivers who are well capable of it.
Beyond the number of future stars, there was another, bigger, story to this year’s championship: Billy Monger’s crash, aftermath and recovery.
The 18-year-old lost both of his lower legs in the second round of the season at Donington Park when he rear-ended the stationary car of Patrik Pasma, but an incredible show of strength by Monger, in addition to the good will and support of the motorsport community and beyond, meant he was already back in a racing car less than three months after his crash.
Monger is aiming to return to racing single-seaters soon, and already has a drive lined up for the 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours.
Jamie Caroline ENGLAND Carlin
1st in standings, 442 points (10 wins, 4 poles, 6 fastest laps)
Caroline, in his second season in single-seaters and fourth on the TOCA support package, had to dominate. And he did.
Finally with a top team, he utilised the tools at his disposal to absolutely crush the opposition in the first third of the season. He won eight of the first ten races, including a historic triple at Thruxton, dediciated to good friend and rival Billy Monger, and amassed a 103 point lead.
Even when he was not the fastest in qualifying, his superior racecraft meant he didn’t take long to get to the front, and usually made it look either easy, or spectacular.
He crashed out of the next race, and from that point on his season wasn’t the same. Carlin were unable to find what, if anything, was wrong with the car, as Caroline started to struggle for pace.
He was a guaranteed presence in the points though, and although his lead shrank dramatically, his title was never really under threat.
The two wins he collected in the second half of the season also meant he broke the all-time wins record for the championship, and leaves the category with a big reputation.
Multiple categories are under consideration for next year, with a move to Euroformula Open looking most likely at the moment.
2nd in standings, 376.5 points (6 wins, 6 poles, 5 fastest laps)
Looking at Piastri’s experience compared to Caroline’s, it’s remarkable that the Australian even came close to matching, or beating the champion.
Piastri made his car racing debut in F4 UAE in the winter of 2016/17, then joined the British championship with little experience of the circuits or car being used.
In pre-season testing he was immediately on it, topping many of the sessions and setting himself up as one of the favourites to challenge Caroline.
It wasn’t until the fourth round of the season at Oulton Park that he stood on the top step of the podium, but was on it another four times after that, and outscored Caroline over the second half of the season.
His slim championship hopes collapsed at Rockingham, where a solitary point and a clash with Caroline undid a lot of the hard work he had done in reducing the points gap to the championship leader.
Second place in the standings was still hugely impressive, and the gap of 20.5 points to third-placed Logan Sargeant underplays how thoroughly Piastri outperformed his F4 UAE rival.
“The season?s gone pretty good, considering it?s my first full season in cars,” said Piastri.
“I couldn?t really have asked for a whole lot more except for P1.”
Piastri is a member of Arden’s young driver programme and will step up to Formula Renault next year with the team.
Linus Lundqvist?SWEDEN?Double R Racing
5th in standings, 306.5 points (5 wins, 5 poles, 9 fastest laps)
2016 FSTCC Nordic champion Lundqvist was one of the most exciting drivers on the British F4 grid, and more often than not, one of the more mistake prone.
His attacking approach meant that many points went amiss, which was frequently despite and because of his brilliant charges through the field.
Five poles, nine fastest laps and a ferocious testing pace showed that on raw pace he was one of the best, and although all of his fastest laps came from top five finishes, he was still near or at the top on sector times on the occasions he failed to score a large number of points.
Lundqivst was also another to be struck by engine issues, and it rendered his opening weekend entirely void. His lack of mileage at Brands Hatch proved not to be an issue, as when the championship returned to the venue at the end of the season he took a win and a second.
His most impressive turn was probably at the second round of the season at Donington Park. Helped by a brand new engine to replace his faulty unit from Brands Hatch, he took a double pole and a win, and finishing second to Caroline in the other non-reversed grid encounter.
Another highlight was Croft, where he obliterated the field in qualifying and then won two of the races.
“Looking overall at the season it?s been pretty good,” said Lundqvist.
“We had some very bad weekends and some very good weekends as well, and I think throughout the season we?ve shown that we have very good pace.
Had Lundqvist not have lost the entirety of the first weekend of the season, he would’ve easily overturned the point gap to Quinn in the standings, and quite possibly have beaten Sargeant to third too
“I think we could have done a bit better looking back at everything, but it is what it is.”
Lundqivst made his British F3 debut with Double R during the year, and after the season ended did some testing in the team’s Dallara F3 car. Double R is moving into EF Open next year, and Lundqvist would do well to follow them, although British F3 looks like the more likely option.
4th in standings, 307 points (4 wins, 2 poles, 4 fastest laps)
Quinn, like many of the drivers on the grid, suffered from engine issues that have been attributed to soon-to-be replaced championship tuner Sodemo. Had these problems not occurred, a rather large ‘what if?’, then Quinn would likely have won once or twice in the first half of the year.
Once the issues were being solved he was at the front more often, most importantly putting him clear of midfield scraps, and won four times.
This was only more than he achieved in his debut season in the category in 2016, where he also took two poles, the same as he achieved this year. Before the 2017 season started he lost his Racing Steps Foundation backing, signifying the end of RSF’s involvement in single-seaters for the time being.
This made finding a drive more difficult, and his Arden deal was a last-minute one-off until after Brands Hatch.
On a plus note, he was on the podium at every round bar Donington Park, and he came close in the third race before colliding with Caroline.
His podium run even continued when he replaced Toby Sowery at Lanan Racing for the BRDC British F3 season finale.
Overall, the championship did “not go as hoped” though, and it’s easy to see why when he was beaten by two car-racing rookies, one of which was his team-mate.
He will be moving on from F4 in 2018, with Formula Renault being the primary aim, although his British F3 one-off suggests he could find success if he stays at home for another year.
3rd in standings, 356 points (2 wins, 2 poles, 2 fastest laps)
Sargeant, like many before him, didn’t immediately find the step from karts to cars easy work.
The 2015 World Junior champion, like Piastri, made his debut in F4 UAE, and finished his first ten races in cars in second place. He finished second another five times before the end of the season, and although he was winless, it meant he went into the British F4 season on a high.
He made a shaky start, and it took him nine races before he stood on the podium again. He worked hard with Carlin to tackle his weaknesses, and his season came together, perhaps coincidentally, after a one-off drive in the V de V Single-Seater Challenge, which uses FR2.0 cars.
His form was much improved thereon, outscoring everyone in the second half of the season, and had he not spun out of the wet in the final race of the season at Brands Hatch, he may have taken second in the standings from Piastri.
Further cameos in Formula Renault events, with varying levels of success, have inspired a full-time move to the category for 2018, with Sargeant joining 2017 rookie champion Max Fewtrell and management stable-mate in R-ace GP’s Eurocup team.
6th in standings, 274.5 points (2 wins, 1 pole), 3rd in Challenge Cup, 304.5 points (8 wins)
York’s initial aim for the season, his first in car racing, was to win the Challenge Cup, but it quickly became clear he was one of the best, if one of the rawest, drivers in the whole field.
At the halfway point of the season York changed his attentions to the overall championship standings, although he’d probably long raced with that being the case, and became a threat at the front of the field.
He only failed to score points twice across the whole season, a record shared with Piastri and Sargeant, and was on the overall podium already by the second round of the season at Donington Park.
His one pole came a round later at Thruxton, arguably the highest speed circuit in the UK, and he finally won in the reversed grid race at Knockhill.
Qualifying was one of York’s weaknesses at the beginning of the season, but his high commitment approach meant he was always fast though.
In the second half of the season he was on the podium at every round, including a second win at Brands Hatch, and did well to finish sixth overall in the standings and as the best ‘true’ rookie.
“[The season went] pretty good. I think the learning curve, in my first year in cars, was a lot different to karting,” summarised York.
The difference between karts and cars wasn’t obvious with his driving, most memorably when he pulled off one of the overtakes of the season on Johnathan Hoggard by drifting round the outside of him at Brooklands for third place in the third Silverstone race.
“I picked up a few wins, I think nine podiums or something like that, which is pretty good.
“I think qualifying has improved for me. I got my maiden pole as well, it was a great feeling to get that.”
York would do well to stay in British F4 for another season, although categories like British F3 and continental F4 could also prove just as worthwhile. It “comes down to budget at the end of the day” though, and British F4 looks likely to be his destination for 2018.
Karl Massaad?LEBANON?Double R Racing
9th in standings, 83 points
Massaad turned his inexperience into brilliance on occasion, and arguably deserved more than two podiums.
The first member of the Middle East Motorsport scheme to make it to single-seaters, there was rarely any indication that Massaad was, bar Lucas Alecco Roy, the most inexperienced driver on the grid.
One of his most complete weekends was at Thruxton, where he took his first podium. He could’ve finished third in all three races were not for a technical issue in the second race and a self-admitted mistake that dropped him to fifth in the final encounter.
He scored points in 15 of the 30 races, and finished in the top five four times. This put him ninth in the standings, and when you consider that Jamie Caroline finished 10th in his first year of British F4, it makes Massaad’s future look very bright.
Next year should see the return of Massaad, and possibly one or two of the other drivers on the MEM roster, who have been testing the Mygale F4 car this year.
Billy Monger?ENGLAND?JHR Developments
12th in standings, 44 points, 6th in Challenge Cup, 100 points (4 wins)
Monger’s season can only be judged on a small number of races, but in two of those he was on the podium, and was on the Challenge Cup winner in four.
He left Brands Hatch seventh in the standings, the location of his first podium of the season, and was on the podium again the first time out at Donington Park.
This elevated him to fourth in the standings, which suggested what was to come for Monger before his accident in the third race.
Monger showed remarkable will and strength during and after the crash, and his recovery has been nothing short of awe inspiring. Next year he intends to return to single-seaters, so he may well be seen with his helmet on in the F4 paddock again.
7th in standings, 257.5 points (1 win, 2 fastest laps)
Simmons’s second season in British F4 peaked at Brands Hatch, where he won the second race, before a combination of engine issues, bad luck, collisions and penalties prevented him from standing on the top step again.
The Arden driver?s season was mostly neatly summed up at Silverstone, where he took fastest lap in two of the races, but could finish no higher than fifth.
He could’ve finished on the podium in the final race, but was penalised for abusing track limits and ended up in sixth.
Although not a threat at the very front, he often showed good pace and racecraft, with the second race at Thruxton being a particular highlight, where he battled race-long with Logan Sargeant.
At Snetterton Arden had a slight resurgence, and Simmons rode that wave for the rest of the season, finishing 10 successive races in the top five.
“I struggled a bit in the first half. I managed to get a win at Brands, but after that we were pretty much nowhere, no man?s land really,” Simmons explained.
“We really struggled. We had a lot of power issues throughout the first half of the season, and then they managed to sort it out for the second half. So the second half was definitely the stronger of the two.
“We?ve had a competitive engine: at least I?ve been able to compete with everybody else.
“I’ve learnt a lot for sure this season, and I think I?ve shown a few people what I?m here for.”
Harry Webb?ENGLAND?Richardson Racing
11th in standings, 68 points, 2nd in Challenge Cup, 351.5 points (4 wins)
Webb and Challenge Cup rival Hampus Ericsson were only on track together for four rounds, and in the first three, Webb was the winner of their battle on seven of the nine occasions. After missing Rockingham and Silverstone, where Ericsson won the CC class five times in a row, Webb returned at Brands Hatch and continued where he left off.
He beat Ericsson in both of the first two races, and went into the final race of the season leading the CC standings.
Unfortunately he got involved in a collision with Jamie Sharp and Lucca Allen at the start, then misread the tricky conditions span out on the first lap, gifting Ericsson the title.
Had he kept it on track, not only would he have beaten Ericsson in the CC standings, but he may well have taken 10th overall in the championship too.
Although there was no Ericsson there, Webb’s best races were at Oulton Park, where he finished seventh and fourth, benefitting from the clash between Jamie Caroline and Patrik Pasma in the latter.
For next year, Webb is aiming to compete in British F3, having tested with the Chris Dittman Racing team.
10th in standings, 69 points, 1st in Challenge Cup, 367.5 points (9 wins)
Ericsson lost out on the KF Junior title in the Swedish karting championship last year to Alfred Nilsson, but made up for it by winning the 2017 British F4 Challenge Cup.
He improved massively over the season thanks to a lot of hard work, and was battling regularly for top five positions rather than small points by the time the championship rolled up to Brands Hatch for a second time.
In the second race at Silverstone he finished fourth after a strong defensive performance, but showed his inexperience by rear-ending Alex Quinn on the run to Maggots in the next race.
He went into the final race of the season behind Harry Webb in the CC standings, but after his rival span out on the first lap, Ericsson had an easy run to the title. He also finished on the overall podium, which put him ahead of Webb in the overall standings too.
8th in standings, 167.5 points (1 fastest lap)
Pasma finished the season eighth in the standings, but started it as one of the top drivers.
As time progressed he clearly became the third fastest man in the Carlin team, and although nothing can be said in concrete, his results after his collision with Billy Monger were worse than those from before.
At Rockingham he recaptured some of his early season form, overcoming a voice-crippling illness to finish second in the reversed grid race.
In the first race he was also on for a strong result, before last minute technical gremlin restricted him to seventh, although this did set him up for his performance in race two.
Pasma’s problem was, after two seasons in single-seaters, he is still yet to win a race.
Manuel Sulaiman grew in confidence over the season, which he capped by taking a podium in the penultimate race of the season at Brands Hatch.
His JHR Developments team were absent from three rounds after team-mate Monger’s crash, meaning Sulaiman’s season was interrupted and threw him back in the pecking order by the time he returned at Snetterton. He hit his stride at Silverstone, and finished the final five races of the season in the points, including strong drives in all three of the Brands Hatch races.
Olli Caldwell continued on from his half-season in Ginetta Junior last year by doing a four-pronged assault on Formula 4 this year. His British campaign with Arden was the most successful, and he won in the Challenge Cup fives times after making his debut at Croft on his 15th birthday.
On some of the circuits he was a surefire points contender, and even on the others where he wasn’t as quick, he still managed to take home a haul of points in a highly competitive championship. Caldwell will continue in F4 in 2018, and is currently competing in the UAE F4 championship for the Energy Dubai team, where has taken his first race in car racing.
One of Arden’s Young Racing Driver Academy members, Jamie Sharp impressed in his first year of racing despite running with a team with no experience of F4. The Sharp Motorsport team, set up by dad Joe, showed its inexperience, but was constantly improving. Sharp Jr was doing the same, but rather untellingly most of his points came in the first half of the season.
“I?d rate it [the season] quite high,” said Sharp. “It?s just been we quite can?t get the luck. We need one more season just to get some results.?We?ve definitely got a lot better at working together now. Everyone knows what they?re doing, [it’s] all composed a lot better than it was at the start of the season.”
Johnathan Hoggard turned up at Snetterton and turned a few heads, scoring one point. He then had an awful weekend at Knockhill, which Hoggard mostly attributed down to “bad luck”, and skipped the Rockingham round.
His return at Silverstone was on another level, scoring points in two of the races and retiring from a points scoring position in the other after a clash with Linus Lundqvist. In the second of his points scoring races he took a remarkable podium.
British karter Sam Smelt started his year in VW Racing Cup UK, with an eye on racing in the BTCC, before switching over to single-seaters with GW Motorsport. His time in F4 was mostly a learning experience, and he was held back frequently by his inexperience. He hopes to remain in F4 for 2018.
Daniel Cao is certainly no slouch, as his recent winning spree in F4 South East Asia shows, but he was nowhere near the top during his half season in Britain. He did score points four times though, and finished seventh in tricky conditions in the third race at Donington Park.
Yves Baltas spent 2016 testing with Arden as part of their young driver programmes, and stepped up to British F4 with the team. He only entered two rounds, but his sixth place finish in his final race at Donington elevated him above several drivers in the standings. The American will be stepping up to Euroformula Open next year with Fortec.
Jacky Liu made his car racing debut in the latter half 2016 with GW Motorsport, finishing 16th in the Monoposto Racing Club’s Formula 3 championship, and with one eighth place to his name. He remained in Britain for British F4 this year, but spent most of it missing out on the points, with three 11th places and five 12th places in the first half of the season.
He missed the Snetterton round and returned for Knockhill, finishing eighth in the race that had previously been scheduled to take place at Oulton Park. That was his final appearance in Britain, with a four race run in Asian FR2.0 netting him three top five finishes and 11th in the championship.
Lucas Alecco Roy didn’t have too bad a season considering it was the German’s first in racing after switching from competing in equestrian events. Five points finishes was an impressively tally, but coupled with five penalty points meant he ended the season with just two points.
He was also in what was arguably the best-ran car thanks to Carlin, and had at least two very talented team-mates, which definitely would have helped his development curve throughout the year.
The small Falcon Motorsport outfit was far from the Harrison Scott-led heroics of 2013 and ’14, and only managed two eleventh places with Lucca Allen in their part-campaign. That was not for want of trying though, and the partnership was far closer to the pace at the end of the season than when it started at Snetterton.
BMR Academy member and Ginetta Junior driver Harry Dyson made his debut at Silverstone, and although he was predicatively off the pace, he still did enough to get 15th on the grid for the third race. He finished his first race in 12th thanks to some clinical overtakes, and matched that in the second. Everything after that was a disaster, as he was caught out by the treacherous conditions at Brands Hatch.
Alexandra Mohnhaupt entered two rounds last year, and made a single appearance this season at Snetterton. She finished all three races in 15th place.