British F4 2017 season review: Sweet Caroline

8 DECEMBER, 2017 – The 2017 F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost had an abundance of young stars and talented protagonists, but in many ways it was dominated by two young men: Jamie Caroline and Billy Monger.

Caroline sent records tumbling on his crusade to the title. The 18-year-old blitzed the field in the first half of the season. Having joined Carlin over the winter, he got off to a winning start in the opener at Brands Hatch and would never be headed in the standings, with win number two also coming that weekend.

Eight more victories followed in 2017, including another brace at the subsequent meeting and a historic hat-trick at Thruxton; becoming the first driver in series history to win all three races in a single weekend. This just a fortnight after an accident at Donington Park in which friend Billy Monger suffered life-changing injuries.

The top step of the podium beckoned for Caroline at Oulton Park, Snetterton and Knockhill, after which a more conservative approach saw him carefully manage his way to being crowned FIA British Formula 4 champion with two races to spare. His tally of 10 victories the most recorded in a British F4 season, as well as his points total which surpassed the record set by 2015 champion Lando Norris.

2017 will live long in the memory due to the events at Donington, but more so for what transpired afterwards: The motorsport community rallying in a touching display of solidarity and Monger’s determination which demonstrated his strength of character, resolve and professional attitude as a sportsperson. The 18-year-old set himself apart as an inspiration to everyone, winning hearts and becoming a positive influence for the next generation of racers.

Although Oscar Piastri had to settle for vice-champion, a stellar season saw the TRS Arden ace qualify on pole seven times – more than any other driver – and stand on the podium in half of all races, including the top step on six occasions. The Aussie took the title fight to the final meeting and while his efforts proved in vain, the 16-year-old established himself as one to watch in the coming years; deemed to have shown the most promise and improvement during the season to win the Joe Tandy Memorial Award and scooped the Drivers’ Choice Award, as voted by his peers.

Logan Sargeant played a pivotal role in Carlin winning its third successive Teams Cup. His form was particularly impressive after the summer break, outscoring Messrs Caroline and Piastri in second half of 2017. He followed up victory at Rockingham with another win at Silverstone, where he pulled off one of the best overtakes of the season by running around the outside of Caroline to snatch the lead.

2016 Rookie champion Alex Quinn (TRS Arden) had to wait until Croft to taste victory and hit his stride in the latter stages of the campaign with a win at each of the final three meetings. The Cornishman’s triumphs at Rockingham and the Brands Hatch finale the pick of the bunch. The latter a faultless drive from a talented teenager who has progressed leaps and bounds in his two years with the series.

Team-mate Ayrton Simmons got off to a flying start, winning the second race of the season, but had to wait until after the summer break for further podium visits. Patrik Pasma’s efforts merited a win. It proved elusive in a year that saw him consistently finish in the top 10, where fellow Carlin racer Lucas Alecco Roy joined him on several occasions.

A disastrous opening weekend for Linus Lundqvist saw him fail to score a point, but his prodigious pace was undeniable. His climb from the back of the field to fifth at Silverstone was particularly special. The 18-year-old doubled up with wins at Croft, another came at Rockingham and he signed off in style with his fourth win at Brands Hatch to banish the demons from six months earlier. Double R team-mate Karl Massaad also brought home plenty of points, with podiums at Thruxton and Knockhill.

Oliver York (Fortec Motorsports) ended the season as top rookie. Growing in confidence, a switch from the Ford F4 Challenge Cup to contest every race came as no surprise. He set his sights on a maiden win and he didn’t have to wait long, taking the chequered flag at Knockhill. A further three podiums over the Rockingham and Silverstone weekends added to his tally of five, while win number two came at Brands Hatch.

York looked a likely candidate to clinch the Ford F4 Challenge Cup, but team-mate Hampus Ericsson and Richardson Racing’s Harry Webb had other ideas. With York ineligible to score Challenge Cup points from the halfway stage of the season and Ericsson contesting the final six meetings, the young Swede came to the fore and overhauled Webb who had climbed to the top of the standings at Knockhill.

Ericsson announced his arrival on the single-seater scene with some deft overtaking on his debut at Donington Park, scoring points in his first two races. More followed as the season progressed, with an overall podium at Knockhill. He saved his best until last with the Challenge Cup going down to the wire between himself and Webb; stamping his authority when it mattered with a record ninth Challenge Cup win, as well as an overall podium.

For Webb it was a case of what might have been during a year in which he recorded more Challenge Cup podiums than any other driver with a tally of 20 from 21 races. A start-line tangle robbed him of the chance to fight Ericsson in the finale, having outscored him in the first two races of the weekend.

Olli Caldwell (Arden) became the youngest FIA F4 driver in history when he contested his first race at Croft on his 15th birthday. At Snetterton he claimed two Challenge Cup victories in quick succession and had further visits to the top step of the podium at Silverstone and Brands Hatch.

Manuel Sulaimán scored his maiden podium on Finals Day, having a racked up a host of point scoring finishes for JHR Developments while dovetailing commitments in the sister Mexican F4 series. Sulaimán was joined on the grid by fellow Mexican Alexandra Mohnhaupt (Fortec Motorsports) at Snetterton, who returned to the series after making her debut in 2016.

Johnathan Hoggard (Fortec Motorsports) contested a handful of meetings with the aim of a full assault on the championship in 2018. He wasted no time in showcasing his talent, most notably on the way to a podium at Silverstone.

Sharp Motorsport’s Jamie Sharp laid the foundation for a stronger 2018, while Sam Smelt put GW Motorsport in the points paying positions, building on Jacky Liu’s breakthrough top 10 finish at Oulton Park. Daniel Cao (Double R) finished just two places higher than his Chinese compatriot in the standings courtesy of point scores at Donington Park, Thruxton and Oulton Park.

Yves Baltas’ campaign was curtailed for budgetary reasons, while Lucca Allen (Falcon Motorsport) and Harry Dyson (JHR Developments) gained valuable experience with a view to fighting for major honours in 2018.

Championship positions and prize winners
FIA British Formula 4 champion: Jamie Caroline
Runner-up: Oscar Piastri
Third overall: Logan Sargeant
Ford F4 Challenge Cup champion: Hampus Ericsson
Teams Cup: Carlin