Zane Maloney: “Every person I speak to, my advice is to start in British F4”

For aspiring single seater drivers looking to take their first steps on the FIA’s Single-Seater Pathway, the UK has long been the global leader in developing the next generation of stars.

Photo: Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine

That reputation reaches internationally, with the F4 British Championship certified by FIA, the globally-recognised first step on the ladder, often attracting a high-calibre line-up from all four corners of the globe.

One such driver back in 2019 was Zane Maloney, from Bridgetown in Barbados. After a successful stint in karting in Europe, Maloney made the decision to step up into single-seaters on British shores with renowned outfit Carlin.

After a tricky start to the campaign, the now-18 year-old’s mid-season form was blistering, including a run of seven victories from eight races across the events at Thruxton, Oulton Park and Croft in the summer months.

Although chief title rival Sebastian Alvarez would close the deficit and tie level on points with Maloney heading to the deciding triple header at Brands Hatch, the latter would not be denied the ultimate prize, ending the season with ten victories and a further five podium finishes.

Since the series’ inauguration in 2015, Maloney remains the only international competitor to have won the outright Drivers’ title in the category, and his rise through the ranks has only continued from there. Now competing in the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine, a silverware-laden season including a famous victory on the streets of Monte-Carlo have put Maloney in the frame to be among FIA Formula 3’s next stars.

As his season drew to a close at Monza, we sat down with the ‘Boy from Barbados’ to catch-up on life in the higher categories, and his memories of that title-winning campaign in Britain’s FIA Formula 4 series.

F4: “What are your memories on your season in British F4, as a karting graduate moving into single seaters?”

ZM: “I remember it being very difficult in testing initially, to get to grips with an F4 car from karting, but quite quickly we rectified that, and the championship was really fun, generally, I learnt a lot and that helped me carry on in the years since.

“I learnt so much from the tracks in the UK, where there isn’t much run-off, and on the racing side of things, we had three races per weekend which is rare, to have that level of track time. That meant we got a lot of races done across the entire year, which was very positive.”

F4: “You’ve noted the driver development, which is a really big thing for a championship on this stage of the FIA Single Seater Pathway. Are there lessons you learnt in British F4 that still serve a purpose in the higher categories?”

ZM: “Working with a big team is one point; these do exist in karting, but in single seaters the professionalism goes up another notch. There’s more data to analyse, so working with Carlin was a great experience for me.

“You also have some of the best drivers for your age group, certainly that was the case for my season in British F4, so you’re also testing yourself against the best benchmark you can at that point in your career.

“It was tough, and to build up a championship in karting, it’s a maximum of around four rounds, whereas in F4 there were ten, so you had to be on it every weekend to have a chance of winning. The car was also great to start out in, and it gave me a really solid foundation to move onto higher downforce cars, having those basic skills ticked off.”

F4: “Your championship-winning season had a lot of highs, but also some weekends that didn’t go to plan. How much does a season like that teach you about mentality, and the importance of how you approach things?”

ZM: “It taught me a lot. I remember crashing at Silverstone whilst fighting for the title; this season in Formula Regional I haven’t crashed once. I learnt a lot with thirty races, and it gives you a chance to have those bad rounds and still do a good job overall.

“Now, those mistakes will cost me a lot more, so to have that first season, experience those mistakes and still have a chance of winning the title, it was key because in your first year, you’ll never get everything perfect, every weekend.

“To make those mistakes, come back even stronger and improve on it at the next round is really useful. Reverse grid races also helped with my race craft, but in general I learnt a lot.”

F4: “You mentioned the circuits as well; I think it’s fair to say our tracks have a certain character that isn’t found as frequently elsewhere. How did those learnings help prepare you for competition out in Europe?”

ZM: “The circuits were definitely a big bonus to doing the British Formula 4 series, that was the main reason we chose that path.

“It did mean learning the circuits out in Europe was a little tougher in my first season abroad, but the positives of starting in the UK by far outweighed any negatives. If you make a small mistake at somewhere like Knockhill, for example, you’re going to be in the wall.

“And that helped me at tracks like Monaco. I’m not scared to push the limits to the last centimetre, because I’m used to it. You teach yourself to not make mistakes, you have to be a lot more on it and precise with your inputs.

“That then has knock-on benefits when you go to Europe or elsewhere and you’re able to find that limit more naturally.”

F4: “Your success is doing a tremendous job at growing the motorsport scene back home in Barbados; what was it about the UK that drew you to compete there?”

ZM: “It was a big benefit coming to the UK, and I know in Barbados there’s not as much motorsport, but it’s starting to pick up, which is fantastic to see. Every person I speak to, my advice is to go to the UK in that first season, and to British F4.

“I don’t think that advice will change. Throughout the Caribbean and Barbados as well, when you hear of the US karters coming over to Europe to compete, you think that it’s going to be quite tough for them initially.

“Whereas a UK driver going overseas, you expect them to be quick straight away, or as near as. There’s Freddie Slater now, and I remember my team-mate Harry Thompson, they’re up there straight away.

“In general, the UK has very tough competition, be that karting or F4, and drivers have to deal with that from a very early age, even just in their hometown. I’m glad I chose the path that I did.”

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