Home Formula 4British F4 Jamie Caroline’s charge to the brink of British F4 glory

Jamie Caroline’s charge to the brink of British F4 glory

by Ida Wood

All photos: Jakob Ebrey Photography

This weekend at Silverstone, Jamie Caroline can wrap up the British Formula 4 title that has long looked like it will be his. With a 74.5-point advantage over Oscar Piastri, he just needs to out-score his closest rivals to seal the deal.

Caroline has been dominant in his second year in the series with 10 victories, but had it not been for one crash he could well have been even more commanding and have the championship secured already.

In the first three rounds of the season he won seven of the nine races, including a series-first hat-trick at Thruxton.

At round four at Oulton Park he won the first race, and barrier damage from another series led to the cancellation of the third race for which Caroline had already clinched pole. In the remaining reversed grid encounter he had got himself up to third before a crash with Carlin team-mate Patrik Pasma ended with the championship leader in the barriers.

The impact damaged the tyre barrier, ending the race early, and also caused suspected damage to the chassis Caroline uses.

?Since I?ve had that crash at Oulton Park the car has not been right,? he told Formula Scout during the Rockingham weekend.

Caroline has only won twice since, one of which was the third Oulton Park race that was rescheduled to the Knockhill weekend and which he started from pole. Barring that race he has only made one appearance on the front row.

?I?ve had two double poles this year. It?s only the rounds since I had the big crash at Oulton Park, qualifying has been bad for me. It?s the same chassis, everything?s the same. To change everything is expensive.?

The crash, and the drop in results since, has seen Caroline?s near untouchable championship lead decrease significantly, and in a field of drivers he highly rates this has meant he?s had to dig deeper to get results out of the car.

?The last three rounds have been pretty horrendous. We had a 110 point lead, it went down to 40 and now it?s back up to 60. Until the crash we won a minimum of two races per weekend. So I think the recent poor qualifying performances have been purely from that accident.?

Without that accident Caroline reckons that he would?ve continued to be as dominant as he was at the start of the year.

?I think it would?ve been a lot easier. Whether I would?ve won it by now or by Silverstone I?m not sure. But like I said we had a 110 point lead, so if we?d even maintained that [form] it would have been 130 points and we could?ve missed two rounds.

?It could?ve been won it this weekend. But it is what it is. I mean you can?t kick yourself. There was nothing I could?ve done about it, it wasn?t my fault. And what?s wrong with the car is something they?ll find for whoever?s in it next year.?

The way Caroline rinsed the opposition in the first third of the season could indicate a British F4 field lacking in talent, but Caroline disagrees with this and thinks the 2017 grid is the strongest there?s ever been.

?[The standard] is very, very high. The top 12 in qualifying were covered by a second. Top four were covered by a tenth. The highest standard it?s ever been. I?d say it?s the closest the grid?s been, probably the most competitive as well.

?[Linus] Lundqdvist has four wins now, Piastri?s had five wins, I?ve had 10 now. Oliver York?s won races, there?s about five or six different winners already.

?But, me and Oscar finish in the points nearly every race, so mine and Oscar?s gap in the standings is purely from, well mine?s obviously from the wins, and Oscar?s is purely from being consistent.

?Doing what Max Fewtrell did [winning the 2016 title by being consistent] is personally what I?d never want to do in how I?d win a championship.

?I mean the class of the field this year is very, very, very tough. Qualifying and everything is always so close. There?s never usually a massive gap between me and anyone else.?

It?s almost surprising that Caroline?s greatest victory margin is only 5.4 seconds, and in qualifying he has never had more than two tenths in hand over his closest opposition when on pole.

Last year he finished 10th in the British F4 standings in his first full season of single-seaters, switching from Jamun Racing to Fortec Motorsports in the middle of the year.

He only won once, but he gained fame after a video of him overtaking nine people in one lap in one of the Donington Park races went viral.

?To be honest, last year I was desperate to get into single seaters, and we sort of scraped it together. Like sort of got into it as cheaply as we could? he explained.

?We did it with Jamun. Unfortunately they went bust. We scraped money together and did it as cheap as possible.

?I knew I had wins in myself last year but it was hard.?

Caroline?s breakthrough win came in the last round of the season on Brands Hatch?s Grand Prix layout.

?Brands GP is my favourite track. I?ve won every year I?ve been there and I?ve always been on the front row.?

Before single-seaters, he raced two seasons in Ginetta Juniors on the same British Touring Car Championship support package, finishing sixth in his first year and then winning the championship on win countback in his second.

?I did as much as I could in karting, as much as I could afford. Went to Juniors, strong first year in Juniors, should?ve won maybe three races. [Lando] Norris fired me off at Rockingham: last corner, last lap.?

This incident in particular lessens Caroline?s opinion of European Formula 3 champion-elect Norris.

?From that, and his reaction afterwards laughing and not caring, I lost a lot of respect for him. Like he got out the car and was laughing and I was livid, so I went up to him, grabbed him up against his car and went mental. When that happened it showed he didn?t give a fuck about anyone else on track.

?I?d near enough had a year out of karting, did a few British rounds here and there, got the money together to do Juniors. In my first year it means a lot to me to win a race, and my whole family comes, it?s like a family thing. To win a race is like, a lot. That?s why you never see me smiling on the podium if I?m second or third. So when he did that, and his reaction to that, laughing, like purely disrespecting me, I lost a lot of respect for him from that.

?But, it doesn?t take away how good a driver he is. But I think, if you put anyone in the situation he?s had, like funds-wise, and had the resources and the experience he?s had, you can make anyone quick. You can make anyone look fast.?

Last October Caroline contested the BRDC British F3 Autumn Trophy with Douglas Motorsport, finishing fifth with one podium to his name.

Rather than make the full-time move to F3 though, he returned to the F4 paddock with crack team Carlin.

?This year we got the money together to go with the best team on the grid and the season has been fairly good so far.

?I mean, if you?re going to come into the championship, you can?t be tight. In motorsport you can?t be tight, you?ve got to be willing to spend a few extra quid just to get the tracktime.?

Being in a different chassis isn?t the only reason Caroline has had far more big results this season.

?Preparation. A lot of hard work went into pre-season and things like that with all the boys at Carlin.

?They are the best on the grid, they?ve won it the last two years. We?ve got a healthy margin so I?m hoping to obviously be the third. Do the hat-trick for them. Still a long way to go though.?

Caroline has been back in a BRDC F3 car, testing for Carlin, and he may move up to the series next year.

?If I had a choice I would [continue with Carlin], but funds-wise, I don?t think I probably could. They are the best at whatever they do, which is why they?re so expensive for what they charge.

?Hopefully I can get a deal together. If I could choose any team to go up, I?d choose them without a doubt. They?ve had 14 F1 drivers come through their ranks, they are the best single-seater team outside of F1 I?d say. The most successful as well.

?So it would be a no-brainer to stay with them, if I could choose I?d 100 per cent stay with Carlin. Hopefully I can, if I can get the funds together. I might have to have a year out, rob a few banks then come back the year after.?

Although the tone may be of a humorous manner, the issue of funds is a serious one, and is one that will get tougher the higher up the single-seater ladder Caroline goes.