Heading into the British F4 finale it almost couldn’t be closer as one point splits the championship’s top two
Second-year driver Louis Sharp leads the field. Run by Rodin Carlin, the Kiwi has five wins so far this season, with the most recent coming in the opening race of the most recent round at Donington Park.
His challenger Will Macintyre is competing in his first British Formula 4 season – though his previous experience in Ginetta Junior and F4 United Arab Emirates means he isn’t eligible to feature in the rookie classification. The Hitech GP driver has two wins, and consistency has put him just a single point behind Sharp after 27 races.
Sharp came fourth in the standings last year with two wins, so was arguably the title favourite going into this season.
“I wanted to fight for the championship. That was my aim. Obviously I knew it was going to be tough, and it’s definitely been tough. It’s been so competitive this year, but it’s been good,” said Sharp.
“I’ve learned a lot as a driver, improved a lot because of how close it is, but I’m where I want to be. I probably didn’t want it to be this close going into the last round, but to be going into the last round leading the championship overall, I’m pretty happy with where I’m at.”
With only one point separating himself and Macintyre, it makes the maths going into Brands Hatch relatively simple.
“My goal every time I go out is to do the best job I can,” he said. “It’s slightly different this weekend because instead of trying to beat everyone, I only need to beat Will. So I guess my focus shifts slightly, but my perparation stays the same.
“In my head, it’s all or nothing really. It’s just about doing the absolute best job I can, and just maximising everything. I guess I don’t have to wrory about anyone else, I just have to worry about Will, making sure I beat him.”
The attitude from Macintyre is very similar.
“My sole goal this entire championship, and still my sole goal for the entire round is just to score as many points as possible,” he told Formula Scout. “I think if I know I am in front of Louis, I’m going to take precautions and make sure that no incidents are happening.”
“But if it’s the other way around I’ll be going full send mode and trying to beat him.”
Macintyre was the 2022 Ginetta Junior championship runner-up as a rookie in 2022, but as he came 14th in F4 UAE with a best finish of fourth it wasn’t clear if he would be able to be a British F4 contender.
“Challenging for the title has been something that from the start seemed nearly a long shot,” he said. “To be going into the last round with one point in it for the championship is quite special, especially because British F4 is a very prestigious championship.
“To say that the year is going well is a bit of an understatement. I feel, well before the season started, I knew the pace was going to be up, challenging with Sharp. And then, after round two, where Hitech all round had a good round, I knew I was going to be at the front, competing and challenging for podiums the whole season.”
Going into the last round there has been added attention on both sides of the fight. But Macintyre doesn’t feel under pressure.
“I’m not leading the championship. The pressure is on Louis to defend it. I think, as I’m a first year driver in the series, to be challenging for the title in my first year is quite special for me. I feel the pressure has got to be on Louis to bring the championship home.
“From the end of last year, knowing he was going to do another year, he was probably seen as the favourite for everyone to pick. So for me to just snatch that away from him would be quite something for me and for him it could be a lot more precious.”
The two title contenders were back on track earlier this week for a test day on Brands Hatch’s Indy layout, and Sharp set the pace while Macintyre was down in 10th place. On Friday the paddock switched to the full Grand Prix layout for practice, and Sharp once again led the way.
Fortec Motorsports’ Mika Abrahams was initially fastest in FP1, then his team-mate James Higgins took over at the top. He, Virtuosi Racing’s Aqil Alibhai, Chris Dittmann Racing’s Jack Sherwood and Macintyre knocked small amount off the fastest time through the first eight minutes and then Macintyre spent three-and-a-half minutes on top before Sharp went on a run of personal bests that brought the pace down to 1m25.183s.
That remained the benchmark until there was six minutes to go of the 42-minute session, when JHR Developments’ Deagen Fairclough went fastest with a 1m25.089s.
On his final lap Macintyre got within 0.007 seconds of that time, with team-mate Jamies Piszyck jut 0.042s off the pace in third. Sharp also made a gain on his final lap to sit 0.05s behind in fourth, with Hitech’s Gabriel Stilp a thousandth of a second slower than him. Sherwood and Double R Racing’s Freddie Slate were also within 0.064s of Fairclough.
The track had gripped up significantly by the time FP2 began, so a faster pace was set. Abrahams once again was the early benchmark, with Fairclough the first to lap sub-1m26s a few minutes in. Abrahams reclaimed first place with a 1m25.777s and was on top for 10 minutes before Sharp set three personal bests in a row and got into the 1m24s. He improved again on his last lap at the end of the session, a 1m24.498s putting him 0.404s ahead of Fairclough in second place.
Slater was 0.518s off the pace in third, while Macintyre was only 11th fastest but sixth in the combined timesheet based on his best FP1 time.
There were red flag periods in the session caused by Rodin Carlin’s Dion Gowda and Argenti Motorsport’s Patrick Heuzenroeder.
Free practice results
|2||Deagen Fairclough||JHR Developments||1m24.902s||+0.404s||31|
|3||Freddie Slater||Double R Racing||1m25.016s||+0.518s||32|
|4||Mika Abrahams||Fortec Motorsports||1m25.020s||+0.522s||36|
|5||James Piszcyk||Hitech GP||1m25.080s||+0.582s||33|
|6||William Macintyre||Hitech GP||1m25.096s||+0.598s||29|
|7||Jack Sherwood||Chris Dittman Racing||1m25.099s||+0.601s||34|
|8||Kanato Le||Hitech GP||1m25.130s||+0.632s||28|
|9||Gabriel Stilp||Hitech GP||1m25.140s||+0.642s||27|
|11||Gustav Jonsson||Chris Dittmann Racing||1m25.319s||+0.821s||33|
|12||Aqil Alibhai||Virtuosi Racing||1m25.387s||+0.889s||32|
|14||James Higgins||Fortec Motorsports||1m25.721s||+1.223s||37|
|16||Douwe Dedecker||Virtuosi Racing||1m25.967s||+1.469s||34|
|17||Isaac Barashi||Argenti Motorsport||1m6.245s||+1.747s||33|
|18||Kai Daryanani||Virtuosi Racing||1m26.311s||+1.813s||36|
|19||Patrick Heuzenroeder||Argenti Motorsport||1m26.425s||+1.927s||34|