The BRDC’s new Formula 4 Series enjoyed a successful beginning at Silverstone this weekend.
Running with twenty-one entries, the field was fuller than initially expected when the series was announced last year.
Within a short period of the series’ unveiling, all twenty-four entries had been purchased, with the final three seats still to be confirmed.
During a period when British Formula Ford and Formula Renault have attracted grids of twelve and seventeen respectively, Formula 4’s pull has reminded many in the industry that these series’ can be relatively successful if the price is right – and if the quoted price is being paid.
Solid, high quality fields are a must if a series is to be taken seriously, and at this early stage, Formula 4 may have chanced upon the correct formula (sorry); however as with all start-up championships, it may be some time before we truly understand the depth of the field.
BRDC president Derek Warwick was delighted with what he saw at the weekend: “It’s great that Jonathan Palmer has gone through with this concept and we have worked as closely as we can with him. The BRDC and I are firmly behind it,” said the former Lotus driver.
Warwick also commented, “I love nurturing our home grown talent. I’ve been up and down the paddock trying to see all the drivers and looking at the teams, and I’m excited.”
Warwick raises an interesting point. Not only have UK grids been struggling in recent years, but a number of drivers have also emigrated to European competitor bases in order to start their racing, whether that be Formula Renault NEC / Alps, or even something along the lines of Formula Abarth.
Continuing, Warwick also said, “I’ve spoken to some drivers where this is their first taste of circuit racing, and they said that without Formula 4 they’d have stayed in karting. So we could have lost talent that we need to nurture the next Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. They are the people we’re trying to find, and it’s important to keep these great British drivers coming through. We think this [BRDC F4] is the right thing to do, and from the racing this weekend I think we’ve got it about right!”
Current Formula One racing driver Mark Webber was on hand to give out the podium trophies for race three on Sunday told Autosport that: “I never had the joy at that age to drive on the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit, so the drivers in BRDC F4 are very, very fortunate!”
He added, “It looks a good little racing car, that moves around a bit, with a nice little paddleshift. It’s always tricky with so many categories but you’ve got to look at costs these days. You’ve got to have reliable cars at this level because it’s about the youngsters and Ralph Firman is a proven quantity. It’s really important for drivers to get a chance in cars, not just karts and I think F4 will go from strength to strength.”
There are some crossover drivers – Diego Menchaca and Pietro Fittipaldi are both running in F4 and Formula Renault for example – but not many, so there are plenty of young guns around. To truly boost the reputation of fourth-tier motor racing in the UK, perhaps it’s time the BRDC, MSA (et al) began examining how they can keep top talent from emigrating early.
Formula 4 may be an initial success, but that doesn’t mean the industry should stop pressing for improvements.
Reports and results of the opening Formula 4 weekend will be posted tomorrow morning.