Event review: Chasing pack strike back at Silverstone

Alex Connor, Zak O’Sullivan and Casper Stevenson split the victories on an eventful weekend [26-27 September] in the F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost at Silverstone, as the chasing pack reduced the arrears to points leader Luke Browning.

After a superb double pole position around the 1.64-mile National circuit – his first of the 2020 campaign – it was Arden’s Connor that opened the triple-header in perfect fashion, holding firm despite late pressure from O’Sullivan (Carlin) – and spots of rain mid-race – to register his second win of the season by 0.199 seconds.

O’Sullivan went one better in a thrilling reversed-grid race on Sunday morning; he initially finished second on the road behind Browning (Fortec) after a superb five-car dice for the victory including Stevenson (Argenti), JHR’s James Hedley and Connor, but a post-race penalty for exceeding track limits promoted O’Sullivan – Browning’s chief title rival thus far – to top spot in the final reckoning.

In the ITV2-televised finale, it was finally Stevenson’s turn to visit the winner’s circle. After storming past Connor off the line, he managed the gap back to the Arden racer, and a safety car restart, to take his and the team’s maiden triumph in Britain’s FIA Formula 4 series.

That result also highlighted the strength in depth of competition in the paddock this season, with every team on the grid now holding a race win to their name in 2020.

Browning was in the mix at the sharp end of the field all weekend, but a damaged front-wing whilst disputing fourth in the opener dropped him back from the leading trio, and that post-race penalty for track limits in race two took away a sixth victory of the year.

He took a comfortable fourth again in race three to manage the deficit back to O’Sullivan, which now stands at 33 points with eight races left to run this season; Stevenson now sits third, a further 20 markers back.

Carlin locked out all three Rookie Cup victories in Northamptonshire; Matias Zagazeta made a return to the top step in class in the opening race, before Christian Mansell bounced back from a race one retirement to seal the other two wins and extend his lead over Frederick Lubin (Arden) to 39 points.

Their efforts also went some way to Carlin closing in on Fortec Motorsport in the Teams Cup; the Daventry-based outfit had little alternative but to field a single car this time around with Rafael Villagomez fulfilling French F4 commitments, and Trevor Carlin’s outfit took full advantage, thinning the lead to 31 points.

It proved to be a tough weekend for the JHR camp after their Thruxton masterclass; both cars tangled in the opening race at Copse, putting Pulling out of the race, and then again in the finale at Becketts, before Hedley went straight on at Luffield and into retirement.

The BRDC Rising Star did salvage a podium in the reverse-grid race – second to O’Sullivan – to keep himself in the title hunt, and Pulling’s tremendous battle with Argenti’s Reema Juffali in the final race was among the highlights of the weekend, giving the team plenty of positives to take forward.

Juffali took a well-deserved hat-trick of points finishes at the ‘Home of British Motorsport’, equalling her career-best result of eighth twice with some textbook racecraft as she continues to scale the points table.

The other two Red Arrows – Roman Bilinski and Lubin – will be pleased with their weekend’s haul; Bilinski elevated himself into the top six in the standings with three strong finishes – seventh, fourth then fifth – whilst Lubin responded to a frustrating DNF in the opener with a brace of ninth-place finishes, and Rookie Cup podiums, to keep the pressure on Mansell.

After a short break, Ford’s rising stars head next to Croft, Yorkshire for Rounds 19 and 20 of a condensed 2020 season.

Notably, due to the restricted daylight hours, the meeting will be reduced to two races; the grid for both will be decided, as is usual for Races 1 & 3, by the fastest and second-fastest times from qualifying respectively. There will be no reversed-grid race.

With eight races to go, and several championship hopefuls finding their form, the ingredients are all there for another classic title run-in.