British F4 2016 season review: Ford-powered Fewtrell pushed to the max

22 DECEMBER, 2016 – Take a look at the final standings for the 2016 F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford and you could be forgiven for thinking that the campaign was almost identical to the 2015 MSA Formula season. Carlin Teams Cup victors and car no. 31, which had been driven to championship glory by F1 star in the making Lando Norris, tasted title success once more in the hands of Max Fewtrell.

However, delve beyond the headlines and 2016 will be remembered as one of the most entertaining and competitive in the history of the series. 10 different race winners, the championship leader changing after every race weekend bar one and six drivers from four teams still in title contention heading into the season finale.

No driver was able to steal a march on a super-talented field and as unpredictability became the norm it was fitting that this year’s “Mr Consistent”, Max Fewtrell, was crowned FIA British Formula 4 Champion. The Carlin ace was consistency personified whilst his competitors’ form fluctuated. A remarkable total of 16 podium finishes, more than any other driver, the foundation of his title triumph.

Three of those podiums saw him stand on the top step. His first victory coming at the second meeting of the year at Donington. His last the most special. Winning the season finale and with it the title, after being chased home by the formidable and more experienced Sennan Fielding.

Having played a starring role in the series in 2015, Fielding gave his all to claim the title with JHR Developments and recorded five wins in the process. A setup breakthrough saw him battle out the final meetings of 2016 in style; epitomised by his charge through the field in the last race when he bravely put everything on the line.

Petru Florescu also notched up five victories. The Romanian’s first half of the year was magnificent, the latter half torrid. His season came undone along with Carlin team-mate Devlin DeFrancesco’s following their coming together at Knockhill and infamous trackside altercation. DeFrancesco will be remembered for pulling off some of the finest overtakes thanks to his aggressive yet controlled driving style, which paid dividends with thrilling race victories at three consecutive meetings: Thruxton, Oulton Park and Croft.

Ahead of the Carlin pair in the standings finished Red Bull Junior Luis Leeds and James Pull. Third place man Leeds excelled behind the wheel having graduated from Australian F4, recording three wins for TRS Arden. Pull was frequently at the top of the times during Friday practice, but he had to wait until round 22 for victory; mastering tricky conditions from pole at a soaking Rockingham.

Although Fortec Motorsports’ Alex Quinn fell short of the main prize, he wrapped up the Rookie class title emphatically at Silverstone with his third overall win. The first of which came in only his fourth car race, following a fantastic pole lap at Donington. The Racing Steps Foundation backed 15-year-old put in virtuoso performances and stamped his authority all over the Rookie standings with 16 class wins and a total of 23 class podiums.

Zane Goddard’s start to the year was beset by misfortune, but after the summer break the Double R ace was superb. The Aussie found a sweet spot with his car, ending 2016 with four victories to his name. His team-mate Carrie Schreiner dovetailed her British F4 exploits with commitments in the counterpart German series. The starlet shone at Thruxton, coming tantalisingly close to a podium.

Jamie Caroline endured a rollercoaster season. Early podiums became a distant memory after a switch from Jamun to Fortec. The Ginetta Junior Champion persevered and in the penultimate race took a popular win. A just reward for a driver who provided fans with endless entertainment thanks to lighting starts and wet weather heroics; most notably a Senna-esque performance at Donington where he overtook nine cars in one lap.

TRS Arden’s Rafael Martins was another winner, coming to the fore at Oulton Park with a masterful display of defensive driving to fend off a hard-charging Pull. Team-mate Ayrton Simmons finished a year in which he progressed at a rapid rate by keeping Fielding at bay for second at Brands Hatch. With it came his sixth Rookie class win which secured him second in class. A feat made all the more impressive given that he missed the first two meetings waiting to turn 15.

JHR’s Billy Monger had the pace to feature on the top step following two podiums at Thruxton. Everything fell into place at Rockingham, only for a problem on the last lap to rob him of victory.

Budgetary issues curtailed a promising campaign for the Allan McNish mentored Ross Martin, while Fortec team-mate Nicolai Kjaergaard returned from the summer break revitalised to score a hat-trick of class wins at Snetterton.

A handful of points went to Jack Martin (Arden), Patrik Matthiesen (JTR), Frank Bird (Fortec), Harry Hayek (Jamun) and Jack Butel (JHR). The latter had hoped for more after an encouraging 2015 campaign. Pole position at Thruxton was converted into a brilliant lead, but a collision later in the race meant it was a case of what might have been.

Richardson Racing returned to the fold; Alexandra Marinescu and Andrew Richardson bringing home Teams Cup points. Meanwhile Alexandra Mohnhaupt joined the fray with Falcon Motorsport to become the first Mexican driver to compete in the series.

2016 underlined the sheer competitiveness of the F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford, as well as the calibre of the drivers and teams that compete in it. The Ford EcoBoost-powered series, as it did in 2015, proved to be the complete antithesis to the claim that ‘single-seater racing is boring’.

With 2016’s graduates set to follow in the footsteps of the class of 2015, making waves at higher levels of the sport; the stage is set for the 2017 cohort to thrill us once more in what will be Ford’s 50th consecutive year of supporting young drivers. In that time Ford has played a pivotal role in the careers of so many of motorsport’s greatest stars. 2017 will undoubtedly see the birth of several more.

Championship positions and prize winners
FIA British Formula 4 champion: Max Fewtrell
Runner-up: Sennan Fielding
Third overall: Luis Leeds
Rookie champion: Alex Quinn
Teams Cup: Carlin

Relive the thrilling British F4 season by clicking on the image below to view the 2016 highlights video.

Jamie Caroline (GBR) Jamun Racing-MBM MSA Formula