A trio of graduates from the F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost will find out whether they join a long list of winners of the prestigious Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Award this Sunday.
Series alumni Enaam Ahmed, Johnathan Hoggard and Ayrton Simmons will join Jamie Chadwick at the annual Autosport Awards, held at Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane, London, on 8th December to receive the result.
The quartet were judged through fitness and simulator tests at Red Bull Racing, before a two-day test featuring a range of machinery including Aston Martin Vantages, MSV F2, Aston Martin Vantage GT3 and Ligier LMP3 cars.
A formal interview with the judging panel, including BRDC vice-president Derek Warwick, former Award winners Darren Turner, Alexander Sims and Andrew Kirkaldy, two-time BTCC champion Jason Plato, Lola and McLaren designer Mark Williams, Le Mans-winning engineer Leena Gade, renowned commentator Ian Titchmarsh and Autosport Editor Kevin Turner, also forms an important part of the process.
The prize on offer includes £200,000, a test in a Red Bull Formula 1 car, a run in Aston Martin’s Vantage GTE WEC car, full membership of the BRDC and an Arai helmet, as well as a watch from TAG Heuer, and live coverage of the ceremony will be broadcast on Sky Sports F1 in the UK.
Triumphs for Lando Norris and Dan Ticktum in ’16 & ’17 mean F4 alumni have taken the top prize on two of the last three occasions, but this year’s competition will be as competitive as ever.
Ahmed, also a finalist back in ’17, was crowned Rookie Champion back in 2015 under British F4’s former guise as MSA Formula, finishing the season with six class victories (and an outright win at the Brands GP season finale), as well as a further 11 Rookie podiums for Arden Motorsport.
He has since risen through the ranks of British Formula 3, Euroformula Open and the FIA Formula 3 European Championship, competing most recently in the Japanese F3 Championship for B-Max Racing with Motopark, finishing third overall.
“I didn’t drive the LMP3 car in 2017 and that was my favourite this time around,” Ahmed told Autosport.com.
“The steering was super-sharp and you have to get your head around that because the car is very neutral. The GT3 car is very different to what I normally drive, but since then I went and qualified a Vantage third [in his session] for the Kyalami 9 Hours so it was still a really useful experience.
“It was great that we got to do the last day in the wet. I think that was one of my best sessions. The wait is hard, though. At the Awards the winner is revealed right at the end so you just get more nervous!”
There are plenty of parallels to be drawn between Simmons and Hoggard, with the duo finishing as runner-up and third respectively to former Award finalist Kiern Jewiss during the 2018 F4 British Championship with 12 race wins and a further 10 podium finishes between them.
Since then, both have graduated into the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship, with the roles reversed in 2019; Fortec racer Hoggard finished runner-up on this occasion to eventual champion Clement Novalak, with Simmons third for Chris Dittmann Racing.
“I think it went very well, much smoother than I expected for what is an intense two days,” summarised Simmons.
“Especially in the F2 car, I didn’t feel out of place. I’ve never driven a GT3 car before and considering that I think it went well, but I did struggle in the higher-speed corners with a lack of downforce.
“I was actually looking forward to driving in the wet to spice things up – managing that in a car with double the power to what I’m used to and some turbo lag thrown in there as well. It’s been an intense wait and as you get closer to finding out you just want to know more and more.”
“Coming in I was quite nervous,” admitted Hoggard.
“You have two days to show everything you’ve got but I think it went quite well. It’s hard not knowing how well you’ve done as there’s no data so it’s like having one of your senses taken off you.
“Since the shootout I’ve had to keep myself busy and not worry, but I really enjoyed all three cars and it’s a great experience to jump out of one and into something different. I’ve never driven anything with a roof before, so that was my first taste of a GT car or a prototype. Because of that, I really tried to use the reference drivers.”
Joining the trio of formerly Ford-powered stars is Jamie Chadwick, who made history in 2019 as the inaugural W Series champion with four podiums – including two wins – from the six-event calendar in the groundbreaking, all-female Formula 3 series.
“It’s such a cool process and you have the full Grand Prix circuit all to yourself,” said Chadwick.
“After watching [2018 Award winner] Tom Gamble have his F1 test, that is enough of an incentive. I wasn’t expecting to get as much driving as we had – five new tyre runs in the F2 car.
“I think that’s not really like anything any of us had driven for a while and I absolutely loved it. With the power and the boost button, it’s a very rewarding car. Rain on the second day did make it a bit of a handful, though, as it’s such a heavy car. It was also amazing to jump back into a GT car, but the Ligier LMP3 was my favourite.”
The winner will join a star-studded list of former recipients, including David Coulthard, Jenson Button, Dario Franchitti, Anthony Davidson, Jamie Green and Paul di Resta.
Everybody associated with the F4 British Championship would like to wish all four finalists the very best of luck.