As Lando Norris showered champagne over the Red Bull Ring (becoming the newest recruit to the Formula One podium club), it’s worth remembering that it was only five years ago that he made his single seater debut in a Carlin FIA F4 car, racing in the newly launched MSA Formula.

Norris was British F4’s inaugural champion that year, winning eight times and claiming ten pole positions, but such was the depth of talent amongst those vying to progress their careers that we saw nine winners in all, and nine drivers delivering fastest laps.

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Fast forward to 2019 and British F4 continued to deliver world class racing from some of the finest young drivers from five continents. Carlin’s rookie Zane Maloney, sporting the now famed #31, drove superbly to take his maiden single seater title, the Barbadian winning ten times; yet he was just one of eight (from the twelve who contested the full season) to taste the victor’s spoils.

There’s something compelling and pure about the racing in Formula 4. The cars, the engines and the tyres are all the same, and tightly controlled too, leaving it down to the teams and the drivers to make the difference; and for many, it will ultimately mean the difference between holding on to their F1 dream or switching to a career in sports cars and GT racing.

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The Class of 2019 was one of the finest we’ve seen yet: Mexico’s Sebastián Álvarez took the title battle right to the final round whilst Louis Foster was simply breathtaking at times and breathtakingly unlucky at others. Local heroes Josh Skelton and Luke Browning each showed exceptional pace, as did the USA’s Carter Williams, taking the first of his three wins later in the season at Thruxton. Australian Formula Ford star Bart Horsten might only have scored one win but he also raced to nine podium finishes, whilst his teammates, Tommy Foster and young rookie Alex Connor were both regular top-six finishers, Foster winning at Snetterton whilst Connor raced to his maiden podium at the last race of the Brands Hatch finale.

An increased grid of sixteen cars with drivers from nine different countries looks set to take to the track when the 2020 season finally kicks-off at Donington Park in a few weeks time. Series returnees Luke Browning and Alex Connor will be joined in the race for title honours by Ginetta’s Junior Champion James Hedley and Rookie Champion Zak O’Sullivan, whilst Australia’s Christian Mansell, Peru’s Matias Zagazeta and Brazil’s Roberto Faria can all be expected to stake their claim to not only much of the silverware but equally to the opportunities that will follow.

So here’s a guarantee: Take a look at the images below because what we’re going to see this year will be just as close, just as fast and at the very least, just as thrilling. Formula 4 is junior single seater racing at its best and as Lando Norris showed us on Sunday, if you can star in F4, there’s no telling how far you might rise.


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    Zane Maloney didn’t just win the 2019 title, he did it in style with a brace of victories at the Brands Hatch Finale. And here he is, also at Thruxton, the track where he started a remarkable series of seven wins from eight consecutive races.


    Sebastián Álvarez never let Maloney out of his sight, though often, it was from his mirrors: Indeed, for 17 of the 30 races, the Mexican finished ahead of the champion, proving just how costly a DNF can be.


    I raved about Louis Foster all season long and I’ll carry on raving now. The former Ginetta Junior Rookie Champion (2018) commanded such speed and presence that you might be forgiven for thinking he was an old hand. He doesn’t always win, but that won’t stop you from cheering him all the way.


    Two seasons in British F4 saw Skelton mature from a good karter into a fine racer. He was P1 in the Media Day test and went on to take wins at Croft and Thruxton.


    Browning is another like Foster; brilliantly quick and matures more after every race. A second season should see him deliver a capable title challenge.


    I first saw Carter Williams at the 2018 Formula Ford Festival where two stunning drives saw him placed in P4 in his heat and P4 in the semi-final. Sadly, he was involved in an incident at the start of the final and that was that, but I’d seen enough of this daring young American to know that he harnessed true speed and talent. He won three times in British F4, taking his well-deserved maiden victory at Thruxton to the delight of a packed crowd.


    Horsten is one of those drivers who seldom leads but is never far behind. Ten podiums, including a win at Donington shows what this young Australian is capable of.


    Foster is a little like his teammate Bart Horsten; not quite on the pace of the lead group in qualifying but one hell of a racer when the lights go out. He won at Snetterton, podiumed at Thruxton and thrilled almost everywhere else.


    I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone so excited to be driving a racing car as Alex Connor, but don’t be fooled into thinking he’s just a nice kid with a lucky break; as soon as he’s out on track, he’s exceptionally fast and feisty too. A second season will see him mature well and we can expect far more than the single podium he delivered in 2019.


  • Two drivers to really watch out for this year are going to be 2019 Ginetta graduates James Hedley (Junior champion ) and Zak O’Sullivan (Junior runner-up and Rookie champion). Both were exceptional, Hedley hardly ever off the podium, and O’Sullivan often right by his side. They know how to race hard and fast and will very quickly find themselves enjoying the grip from their slicks and wings machines.

    But the last word has to go to Lando Norris. Not only has he done himself and his team proud, he’s done all of us proud too. He’s one of the most instinctively natural racers I’ve seen; of course he’s had to work incredibly hard to get where he is, but flair comes from deep within and even as a young 15-yr-old, stepping out of a Formula 4 car at Rockingham, Lando already had loads of it.


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Images: Steve Hindle (The Black Stuff).