- F4 British Championship takes centre stage alongside Formula 1 on the FIA stand at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed.
- British F4’s youngest Rookie Class winner Arden’s Ayrton Simmons gets the chance to star alongside one of GP2’s most exciting prospects and Red Bull Racing reserve driver Pierre Gasly.
- Gasly and Simmons provide fascinating insight into why F4 is the ideal starting point for any driver looking to work their way up to F1.
4 JULY, 2016 – The F4 British Championship’s stunning Ford EcoBoost-powered racer took centre stage on the FIA stand alongside Scuderia Toro Rosso’s 2015 F1 car at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, illustrating the different stages of the FIA single-seater pyramid.
The FIA’s steps to Formula 1 are being trodden by Red Bull Racing’s reserve driver Pierre Gasly. Pierre began his car racing career in F4 and joined the F4 British Championship’s youngest ever Rookie Class winner Ayrton Simmons to discuss why the series is an ideal starting point for any driver.
“It brings back lots of good memories seeing the Formula 4 car here. It wasn’t that long ago when I was racing in F4. I was 15 and really excited to step up to Formula cars from karting,” explained Gasly who claimed four victories and three podiums in the category.
“Starting in F4 for me was the best option because it’s the easiest way to learn the basics with single-seaters. When you are a rookie aged 15 or 16 and starting your single-seater career it’s a good place to begin. It’s a powerful car with 160bhp and at that age it’s really impressive.
Gasly then shone a light onto why F4 plays such an important role in a driver’s development: “The races are different to karting. The way you need to overtake. The way you need to manage your race. Everything is different and I think it’s the best way to start.”
“With these cars you can really feel the downforce and it’s good to understand the performance that it gives you because as you step up to higher series the downforce increases.
“All the feelings you get from the car when you start in F4 increase with the speed [as you go up the FIA single-seater pyramid]. In F1 cars you go faster and have more g-force and downforce; but the way you drive the car is similar to F4.”
Aside from both having raced in F4, Gasly and Simmons have driven for Garry and Christian Horner’s hugely successful Arden team; one of a number of leading motorsport outfits which compete in the F4 British Championship.
Said Gasly: “I gained a huge amount of experience working with Arden in 2014 [in senior single-seater racing]. With all their knowledge they gave me what I needed.
“It was the first time I worked with an English team and they are really dedicated to what they do. Motorsport in England is something huge. You can feel it in the team. I know as a driver I have grown a lot working with them.”
Simmons echoed Gasly’s sentiments: “It’s great to see that Pierre did F4 and I know he has worked with Arden. It shows how good Arden are at developing drivers and making them fast. They have got the best engineers and they set the car up brilliantly.”
Gasly also provided an insight into being part of the Red Bull Junior Team; a programme which multiple F4 British Championship race winner Luis Leeds is also a member of: “They expect you to be the best on and off track so you need to be at the top of your game. They try make you better as a driver with lots of mental and physical training.
“It’s the kind of chance you only get once in your life. It’s a great programme and we have seen in the past that if they think you deserve to be in F1 they give you the chance.”
Speaking of chances, a beaming Simmons reflected on his day at Goodwood: “Having the F1 car next to me and meeting Pierre is really exciting. It’s been great to get some insight into F1. As a top team reserve driver, Pierre gave me a good overview of what it takes to move up the ranks.”
“I want to focus on the F4 British Championship and climb up the FIA single-seater pyramid like he has. The series develops you into a quick driver with initiatives like the MSA Driver Coaching programme. You work with your engineers and the MSA coaches to improve your performance.
“Everyone around the world keeps an eye on the F4 British Championship because it has so many talented drivers. The cars are so close, particularly with the Ford EcoBoost engines. There have been so many race winners this season and that shows how competitive the series is.”
To which Gasly, exuding a level of confidence and maturity that far belies his age of just 20 (a mere five years older than Simmons), provided his wise words of wisdom to drivers looking to succeed in British F4: “When you start in F4 it seems quite far from F1, but it’s actually really close. In reality you don’t have much time and in this short time you have to put in the hard work to try to get the best out of everything. Every second on track you need to learn as much as you can and use every experience to be better as a driver.”