STEPHEN LICKORISH “Small F4 teams still fight with bigger rivals”
NATIONAL RACING REPORTER
In less than two years British F4 has gone from having over 50 cash deposits on cars to just 17 on the grid.
When it was announced at the end of 2014 the FIA F4 concept would be coming to the UK, teams were queuing up to take part. Twelve squads received cars but at Croft this weekend there will be just six on the grid, with Jamun the latest to drop out. So why have the numbers dropped?
The most commonly heard answer is Carlin, Arden and Fortec.
These international single-seater outfits have entered the category and won the vast majority of races over the past year-and-a-half. It’s only natural the best up-and-coming drivers want to compete for them. They offer far more opportunities for career progression and have all the experience of working with some top drivers over the last few decades.
But despite the claimed superiority of these teams, they are perhaps not as dominant as you would expect.
Given the budget and resources they have available and that at Carlin alone there are four drivers capable of winning every race, the fact remains the smaller JHR Developments and Jamun teams have filled nine of the possible 36 podium places this year, including two victories for JHR’S Sennan Fielding.
So for all the alleged dominance from the large teams, a quarter of the podiums haven’t gone to their drivers. And that’s the message that needs to be made loud and clear. The small teams can still compete with the big three.
Unless aspiring drivers realise this, entry numbers will continue to fall leaving just the big teams – a scenario that has happened plenty of times before (British F3 springs to mind).
At the moment, teams are restricted to running four cars each so such a situation would leave just a dozen cars on the grid.
Clearly, it’s a difficult balancing act for organisers. Series chief Sam Roach is open about wanting British F4 to attract the best drivers and be the toughest F4 category to win.
If too many restrictions or budget caps are introduced, the large teams – and best drivers – will go elsewhere. But it’s tough to combine that competitive desire with a large entry and it’s unlikely numbers will balloon any time soon.
However, there are green shoots on the horizon. Scorpio Motorsport is set to enter later this year and one or two of the ex-formula Ford teams could join them. In order to secure the category’s longterm future it’s vital that they do.