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Season Preview: F4 British Championship

Connor Jackson goes through what to expect from the F4 British Championship this weekend.

Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography

The F4 British Championship kicks off tomorrow, with fourteen drivers expected to compete at the opening Brands Hatch Indy round. Going into the series fourth season, it prepares for its first without Carlin.

While it could be argued the drop in three entries from last years opening round are due to Carlin’s absence (who fielded four drivers,) the lack of smaller teams will be a concern to many.

At the opening round last year, Richardson Racing and GW Motorsports fielded an entry, while later in the season Falcon Motorsport joined in with Lucca Allen. There may be nothing stopping these teams, along with JTR / MBM, who may still own Mygale’s from making appearances, but the lack of news suggests that British F4 is increasingly becoming a four team affair.

Ayrton Simmons returns, moving to JHR Developments (Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography)

Title Favourites

While the talk about teams may still be raging on, the drivers prepare for another season behind the wheel. For many, this will be their first appearance in the series, with 8 of the 14 having never raced in the Mygale before.

Kiern Jewiss – After securing the Ginetta Junior rookie title last year, Jewiss steps up the Double R Racing outfit. During pre-season testing, he was the man to beat in the first two test days, though has found greater competition as the season approaches. Double R have proven themselves to be title contenders with Linus Lundqvist last year and with his two teammates yet to truly challenge Jewiss on pace, the 15-year-old could have the full support of his team come seasons end.

Dennis Hauger – Listed as one of Red Bull’s most talented young prodigies’, the Brit spent the last two years in Germany, winning their Junior and Senior kart titles. Like the previous Red Bull sponsored F4 drivers, he joins TRS Arden and although comes into the year with no car experience has slowly been improving during pre-season testing. He topped the times at Rockingham at Snetterton, though did not have Jewiss to compete against in the latter.

Johnathan Hoggard – Making it three drivers from three teams will be Fortec Motorsports; Hoggard. Unlike Jewiss and Hauger, Hoggard has raced in the series before, making four appearances at the end of last year. While his debut was nothing to shout about, he held off race winner Logan Sargeant for a podium at Silverstone and was mixing it towards the front during qualifying sessions. He’s been on pace with Hauger during pre-season, but will need to improve his racecraft if he’s to maintain his position at the front this year.

Seb Priaulx – In terms of success, Priaulx comes into the year with the most momentum. He won the Ginetta Junior title last year so knows the circuits and has beaten Jewiss in sportscars. Pre-Season hasn’t been favourable to him though, after leaving Brands as the team leader, he has been slowly overtaken by Hauger, though may be holding back prior to the opening round. He could still be a dark horse for the title.

Ayrton Simmons – In terms of experience, Simmons will end the season with more than any other driver. After missing two rounds in 2016 and a full campaign in 2017, where he picked up a win, he’ll be expected to challenge this season. He comes in with minimal testing and a new team at JHR Developments, but after a few rounds may be back on the pace and a threat the established teams.

Kiern Jewiss has been the man to beat during pre-season testing (Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography)

Ones to Watch

Behind the championship competitors, a number of drivers will still be looking for personal success. After a year at Carlin, Patrik Pasma makes the jump over to TRS Arden in hopes of title challenge. The Finn has been on the back foot though, struggling to keep up with both Hauger and Priaulx. He was in contention for race wins early last season, but without quick improvement could spend the year in the midfield. Joining him there could be teammate Jack Doohan. The Australian, son of the motorcycle champion has adopted four wheels and under the guidance of Mark Webber has been making steady improvements during testing. Doohan though has failed to match fellow Red Bull Junior Hauger.

After winning the Ford F4 Challenge Cup last season, Hampus Ericsson should be fighting for the overall title, but so far has been going backwards during testing, with the Swede unable to match teammate Hoggard. Another driver experiencing similar problems is Manuel Sulaiman. After winning the Mexican F4 Rookie Cup (using the same Mygale/Ford combination) he spent last season running a part-campaign as Billy Monger’s partner. Now returning for a full season with JHR, he’ll hope to keep Simmons and the front-runners honest throughout the year.

Rounding Out the Grid

The grid may be dominated by four big teams, but Jamie Sharp continues to buck the trend, racing in the family run Sharp Motorsport team. The young driver from Rochdale was impressive during the Brands Hatch test, but has failed to feature anywhere near the front since, with an interrupted programme. Like Lucca Allen, neither driver will have the advantage of being a rookie, but Allen, the former Formula Ford racer is another driver who has struggled to make inroads.

Completing the grid will be three rookies. Josh Skelton, after great success in Super 1 makes the leap up to single-seaters, while Double R complete their outfit with two foriegn rising stars in the form of Paavo Tonteri and Sebastián Álvarez, with the former finishing only a tenth behind the leader in Brands testing today.

Along with Jewiss, Johnathan Hoggard (#3) and Dennis Hauger (#24) have been dominating pre-season testing. (Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography)

Calendar

07-08 April – Brands Hatch Indy

28-29 April – Donington Park

19-20 May – Thruxton

09-10 June – Oulton Park

23-24 June – Croft

28-29 July – Snetterton

11-12 August – Rockingham

25-26 August – Knockhill

15-16 September – Silverstone

29-30 September – Brands Hatch GP

There’s little change compared to last year other than the Rockingham and Knockhill rounds swapping places. All the rounds will continue to have three races at each event with thirty in total throughout the season.

Pre-Season Championship Prediction

Having followed these drivers for two months now and the series for three years, with a day before the start of the season, I’ll give my thoughts on who will win the title and who is expected to flop. For this I have assumed no driver will enter at the halfway stage and all drivers announced will compete for the full season.

  1. Kiern Jewiss
  2. Dennis Hauger
  3. Johnathan Hoggard
  4. Ayrton Simmons
  5. Seb Priaulx
  6. Hampus Ericsson
  7. Paavo Tonteri
  8. Patrik Pasma
  9. Jack Doohan
  10. Manuel Sulaimán
  11. Jamie Sharp
  12. Josh Skelton
  13. Sebastián Álvarez
  14. Lucca Allen

Do you disagree with the prediction, tell us in the comments.

Results from the end of Friday testing at Brands Hatch Indy (Credit: TSL Timing)

As for testing today, it was Johnathan Hoggard who lay down gauntlet early on. While it was Kiern Jewiss who topped the morning session, the Fortec driver hit back with a late lap at Brands, leading Jewiss by just 0.035 seconds. Behind them, Ayrton Simmons and Seb Priaulx were both within a tenth of the leader, ensuring four teams filled the top four. Paavo Tonteri put in an impressive lap to go fifth in second practice.

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