From the moment Carlin confirmed his place on the grid, the story of the weekend was always going to be Billy Monger, and for good reason.
It’s less than a year since the horrific accident at Donington Park that changed his life and propelled him into the limelight, and not only is he back in the car, but he’s racing again. That alone is phenomenal enough.
I’ll admit, I was nervous heading into this weekend. I’ve followed British Formula 4 for the past two years and, though Billy had always shown talent, he had never seemed to be a star, whether that be because of financial restraints or something else. When he qualified fifth, there was a lot of talk about how he could get a podium on his F3 debut. There appeared to be this expectation that he would do it, and I was a little worried about the pressure.
In his first season in British F4, Billy narrowly missed out on a win at Rockingham, losing the race lead on the final lap after an amazing drive. I interviewed him after that race and he was still as cheerful as ever, a little disappointed that he couldn’t do it but pleased with the achievement all the same. So I knew Billy wouldn’t be too hard on himself if he didn’t live him to this apparent expectation, but what can I say, I’m over protective.
Not that it mattered anyway, because he went on to get that podium.
Yes, two drivers ahead of him – Clement Novalak and Krish Mahadik – collided on the opening lap, promoting Billy to the podium position, but holding onto that position for the next 10 laps was still an achievement that should be praised.
Points in the next two races – race two after starting from the penultimate row of the grid – prove he’s got the talent for this championship.
Of course, Billy isn’t the only young talent on the grid at Oulton Park.
Linus Lundqvist’s race one victory was slightly overshadowed by Monger’s podium, but the win cannot be overlooked. Having jumped into the race lead with a strong start, he spent most of the race battling to keep Nicolai Kjaergaard behind him, eventually finishing just 0.826s ahead of the Carlin driver.
Victory put Lundqvist on the back row of grid for race two, but he wasted no time charging up through the field to finish eighth and take seven extra points for overtaking.
It wasn’t a perfect weekend for the Double R Racing driver. As much as he showed he had no problems moving forwards, he also slipped backwards on a few occasions. His race two result could have been even higher if he hadn’t slipped back to 10th midway through the race, and multiple runs over the grass in race three cost him a podium finish.
Likewise, Clement Novalak shone on a far from perfect weekend. The Brit claimed pole position for race one, but a risky overtake led to contact with Mahadik, damaged suspension, and a retirement, putting him at the very back of the grid for race two. From there, he worked his way up to eighth, earning nine extra points for overtaking.
Unfortunately, wet weather meant his fastest lap of the race was nowhere near the lap times from race one, and he’d start the final race from the back of the grid again. But Novalak kept his head down and slowly worked his way up through the order, picking off driver after driver to finish an amazing seventh.
Race three winner Kjaergaard was the other star of the weekend. After pressuring Lundqvist throughout race one, he enjoyed a trouble-free climb up through the field in race two, finishing fifth and putting himself in the lead of the championship. He followed that up with a lights-to-flag victory in race three to leave Oulton Park with a championship lead of 18 points.
Manuel Maldonado was the weekend’s other winner. He started sixth for the wet reverse grid race but an outstanding start put him in the race lead before the field reached the first corner. Tristan Charpentier kept him under pressure for the remainder of the race, but he never quite had the opportunity to pass his team-mate.
Heading to round two at Rockingham later this month, Kjaergaard leads Lundqvist and podium finisher Tom Gamble in the championship standings.
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