28 SEPTEMBER, 2017 – Winningest driver, highest number of wins in a season, most consecutive victories, and first person to win all three races in one meeting in the F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost. Jamie Caroline has made a habit of breaking records in 2017. Yet for all he has achieved, one accolade eludes him. The title.
Nevertheless, he arrives at Brands Hatch this weekend with one hand firmly on the crown. A 67.5 point lead with a maximum of 75 available means Oscar Piastri must finish first or second to take the fight on to the penultimate race, and even then a sixth or 10th place respectively for Caroline would be enough to see the Carlin ace crowned FIA British Formula 4 Champion.
Count Piastri out at your peril though. A remarkable run of 21 consecutive point scoring finishes, as well as three double pole positions and six victories (second only to Caroline’s 10) underlining the Aussie’s exceptional speed and consistency.
Time and time again the TRS Arden driver has done exactly what he has needed to do; performing under pressure, just as he did when winning last time out from Caroline to force a showdown this weekend.
Brands Hatch has been a happy hunting ground for Caroline; the scene of his breakthrough first win in the series on Finals Day last season. Fast forward six months to April at the Indy circuit, and Caroline and Piastri set the tone for their seasons. Caroline qualified on pole and raced to victory in the first and third races of the weekend. Piastri qualified alongside him on the front row and brought home a brace of podiums.
The fight to claim the inaugural Ford F4 Challenge Cup looks set to go down to the wire. Fortec Motorsports’ Hampus Ericsson and Richardson Racing’s Harry Webb arrive tied on 315.5 points, with Ericsson ahead by virtue of his eight Class wins to Webb’s four.
Ericsson’s Silverstone weekend was crucial. Two further Challenge Cup wins to make him winningest driver in the Class, coupled with a dogged effort to bring his wounded car home in the final race, has seen him claw his way to the top.
With not enough races remaining for Webb to equal Ericsson’s win tally, Webb must outscore Ericsson over the course of this weekend to take the title. Fail to do so and the Ford F4 Challenge Cup, as well as the lucrative prize of free entry to next year’s championship (worth £15,000), is Ericsson’s. Webb arguably faces the tougher task of the two, having last competed at Knockhill, while Ericsson arrives with the wind firmly in his sails.
The battle for the Teams’ Cup is finely poised too with heavyweights Carlin and TRS Arden in contention. Between them in 2017, the two squads have won 22 of the 27 races contested prior to this weekend.
Carlin are in pole position to take the title for the third year in a row with a 103 point lead. It means that if TRS Arden fail to reduce the gap to Carlin by at least 17 points in the opener, the boys and girls in blue will be celebrating a historic hat-trick.
Logan Sargeant has played a pivotal role in Carlin’s title tilt. The American’s season finally hitting the kind of heights many predicted after the summer break. He followed up his maiden victory at Rockingham with another win just a fortnight ago, after pulling off one of the overtakes of the season when he ran around the outside of Caroline to snatch the lead. Although Sargeant is out of contention for the drivers’ title he could still be a key player, doing his team-mate a favour by taking points away from Piastri.
TRS Arden’s Alex Quinn was the other victor at Silverstone. The 16-year-old followed up his 2016 British F4 Rookie title triumph at the home of British Motor Racing with another masterful performance. TRS Arden will want more of the same from their Cornish ace to take the fight to Carlin.
Ayrton Simmons and Olli Caldwell will also need to deliver for the Banbury outfit. Brands Hatch has happy memories for Simmons. The scene of his maiden victory in the series at the beginning of the year. While Caldwell arrives on a high having returned to the top step of the Ford F4 Challenge Cup podium at Silverstone.
Elsewhere in the Challenge Cup, Falcon Motorsport’s Lucca Allen made it a hat-trick of second place finishes in the Class two weeks ago. The best weekend of his fledgling single-seater career also saw him come tantalisingly close to his first top 10 finish.
Sam Smelt and GW Motorsport have consistently had the pace to fight for top 10 finishes and that’s what they did once again at Silverstone. Expect more of the same from them, with Jamie Sharp (Sharp Motorsport), Patrik Pasma (Carlin), Lucas Alecco Roy (Carlin), as well as the JHR duo of Manuel Sulaiman and Harry Dyson looking to get in on the top 10 party. The latter acquitted himself well on his Ford EcoBoost debut a fortnight ago. A 12th place finish after a battling drive up through the order, a particular highlight.
Linus Lundqvist will want to banish memories of a disastrous opening weekend at Brands Hatch, plagued by technical difficulties which saw him fail to score a single point. The super Swede has been one of the stars of the season and arrives with one goal: to add to his tally of race wins. His Double R Racing team-mate Karl Massaad will have wins on his mind too, having already starred on the podium in 2017.
In addition to battling for Ford F4 Challenge Cup honours with Ericsson, Fortec Motorsports will be want to bring home even more silverware with Oliver York and Johnathan Hoggard. York has become a regular podium fixture since his maiden win at Knockhill, while Hoggard finally made it onto the rostrum last time out after an inspired drive.