TO THE MAX How Carlin racer took British F4 crown. By Stephen Lickorish
ax seems to be the name to have if you’re an aspiring singleseater star at the minute. While Max Verstappen has been stealing the headlines in Formula 1, Max Fewtrell has been racking up the podiums in British F4 before taking the title in October.
But the two drivers share much more than just a name. Both have been defying their lack of experience this year to take strong results. Both have been consistently achieving top six finishes, rarely making mistakes. And both have been very impressive indeed.
Those key characteristics have been crucial to Fewtrell’s success. Any driver who signs for the mighty Carlin team in this country is sure to be a title contender, but Fewtrell arrived in F4 very green. He had plenty of karting experience – both in Europe and in Asia, where he started his career – but had only a season of the short Indian-based MRF Challenge of singleseater racing under his belt. His only other racing experience was a couple of outings in a Proton Satria in the Pre-2005 Production Touring Car series last year, so he could get signatures on his licence.
That was in stark contrast to some of his fellow racers, such as Sennan Fielding, who first switched to the discipline in 2013.
“Racing someone like Sennan, who has been racing in the category for years, puts you on the back foot – you’ve got to be on it [to beat him],” says Fewtrell. “But from winter testing, the title was a realistic target.”
After a strong pre-season testing programme, the 17-year-old backed that up with a podium in his very first race.
“Being a rookie he started the season really strong as he was second in the first race and was just consistent all year,” says Carlin team manager Martin Knapman.
That first podium set the tone for Fewtrell’s season as he bagged 15 more ( see sidebar) to end the year with comfortably the most of anyone in the category. The next best were Fielding and Luis Leeds, both on 11.
It wasn’t long before he started winning either with Fewtrell’s first triumph coming at the second round at Donington Park.
“That definitely helped my confidence and then I just got more and more confident,” he says.
That certainly showed as the good results kept coming, although his next victory wasn’t until Rockingham in August.
While his many rivals (10 different drivers won races) endured contrasting fortunes from one weekend to the next, Fewtrell was able to consistently pick up the top six finishes, leaving him in title contention heading into the Brands Hatch season finale.
He took podiums in the first two races but it was in race three that he really shone. Fewtrell pulled away from pole and didn’t let the pressure of winning the title get to him as he finally claimed the championship by seven points.
“The key for me was the consistency – there’s 30 races and 30 opportunities to score points and maximise my points haul because of how close it was,” he says.
“It’s a nice thing to have [most podiums]. You want to win the most races as a racing driver but you’ve got to take what you’ve been given.”
Knapman was quick to point out how impressive Fewtrell’s consistency was: “He just kept his head together and sometimes other people did not – and he kept getting the results. He doesn’t really have any weaknesses and is a well-rounded character – anyone who can come into a championship as a rookie and can beat more experienced people has done a pretty good job.”
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Fewtrell though. His Thruxton weekend was compromised by a clash with team-mate James Pull in the first race at Club corner, which sent Fewtrell into a roll. But he bounced back quickly, taking a podium in the final race of the weekend.
That mentality was crucial to him taking the title and he was delighted to end the year with a win.
“It was a really nice feeling but I’m back to working hard for the next title,” Fewtrell explains. “We’re looking at Formula Renault Eurocup for next year. It’s going to be a big challenge but there’s a lot of benefits from doing it.”
He recently took part in the series’ rookie test and ended up seventh of 25 drivers.
“It was really good, Sennan and James were there as well and I was quicker than both of them, which was great,” he adds.
As he progresses up the motorsport ladder, if he continues to display speed and consistency like this season, Fewtrell might just find himself racing against that other Max in a few years to come. ■