Zane Maloney (Carlin) has been crowned the 2019 FIA British Formula 4 Champion after a thrilling title decider at Brands Hatch last weekend [12-13 October].
The Bajan racer arrived at the iconic 2.4-mile Kent circuit tied level with Double R’s Sebastian Alvarez at the top of the standings, and the pendulum between the pair swung back and forth across the weekend.
Maloney looked to have the advantage after winning the opening race at a canter, but Alvarez struck back in fine fashion in the reverse-grid contest to register a victory of his own – his fifth of the campaign – and with Maloney fifth, that gave Alvarez a five-point lead with just the ITV4-televised finale to go.
The pair started fourth and fifth respectively on the grid – Maloney ahead of Alvarez – and the BRDC Rising Star made a lightning start to assume second behind Alvarez’s team mate, Louis Foster.
Their fortunes contrasted from thereon in; Maloney passed Foster for the lead at Westfield after the Double R racer slid wide and opened the door out of Hawthorns, whilst an off-circuit excursion for Alvarez at Stirlings dropped him back to seventh.
Then came the crucial moment, with a rare mechanical problem for Alvarez forcing the Mexican to park up on the exit of Druids. Unless disaster befell race leader Maloney, that was game over.
Maloney made no such mistake, taking the chequered flag to seal the title and spark jubilant scenes on the Carlin pit wall.
The Farnham-based squad also maintain their one-hundred percent record of Drivers titles in the Ford EcoBoost-powered category – four seasons, four champions, whilst Maloney becomes the first Rookie to win the overall crown in the series’ five-year history.
It also marked a special moment for Maloney’s car; the chassis now the first to have carried two separate drivers to the crown – it did so for Max Fewtrell back in 2016, now for Maloney three years later.
Maloney also became the latest recipient of the championship’s prestigious JTR Award.
“What an amazing race. What an amazing weekend,” said the newly-crowned Maloney.
“Thanks to everyone involved for the season of my life, and of course the championship for everything they’ve done. I won’t forget a second of it.”
Alvarez finishes the closest championship battle on record as the Vice-Champion, but can be proud of his efforts – five victories and nineteen podium finishes tell the story of a determined young racer with a bright future ahead.
Both Foster and JHR’s Josh Skelton arrived at Brands Hatch in mathematical contention, but their hopes evaporated after the opening race.
A dramatic spin at Paddock Hill Bend whilst disputing the lead with Maloney sent Foster into the gravel and out of contention, whilst Skelton could only manage seventh – he needed a top-five finish to stand any hope of advancing past the first hurdle.
They finish the year third and fourth overall in the standings, just ahead of Arden Motorsport’s Bart Horsten, though the Australian had to work hard to maintain his top-five finish thanks to a stellar weekend for Luke Browning (Richardson Racing).
Browning’s wet-weather skills have never been in doubt – his victory on the Indy circuit at Brands Hatch at the season-opener lives long in the memory – and he closed out the year with a hat-trick of podiums to keep the pressure on Horsten.
Crucially, Horsten kept himself in the top five across the triple-header – including the runner-up spot ahead of Browning in race two – to secure fifth spot in the final reckoning.
Only JHR’s Carter Williams could throw a spanner in the works, and a gamble on slick tyres in the final race nearly paid off, but an unlucky spin whilst attempting to pass Connor for the final spot on the rostrum dropped the Californian back down the order – he finishes the season in seventh overall.
A trio of points finishes sees Tommy Foster (Arden) to eighth, just ahead of the ever-improving Connor, whilst Joe Turney (Carlin), who only contested the opening half of the campaign, rounds out the top ten.
Roberto Faria (Fortec Motorsport) bounced back from two unfortunate DNFs on Saturday to register points in the final race, but narrowly lost out to Connor in the battle for the Rookie Cup Vice-Champion honours.
Nevertheless, the Brazilian has shown good pace, race craft and promise throughout 2019 and is already signed up for a fresh attempt on the British F4 title next year.
Mariano Martinez equalled his career-best result of seventh on two occasions to firm up 12th in the points; Reema Juffali took a points brace to finish just behind in 13th.
Reema was also voted the Driver’s Choice Award recipient for 2019 by her peers for her effort, improvement, positive attitude and fantastic personality around the paddock, a true sign of respect amongst her fellow rising stars.
No points on this occasion for Arden’s Abbie Munro, but the final Red Arrow has amassed plenty of experience over the past three meetings and acquitted herself well. She will be in good stead to fight at the front should she make a full-season return in 2020.
She finishes behind JHR’s Alex Walker and Fortec’s Chris Lulham in the final standings, though both were absent from the Brands Hatch finale.
Next up in the F4 British Championship’s busy schedule is the inaugural Scholarship Assessment Day at Silverstone on 5th November; beyond that, however, another 30-race, action-packed season will get underway at Donington Park on 28-29 March, 2020.
For now, though, the paddock comes together to acknowledge and celebrate the success of Zane Maloney – the 2019 champion!