BRDC Formula 4 2014 - Donington
With his fourth victory of the season in the final race of the BRDC Formula 4 meeting at Donington Park on Sunday, September 21st, Lanan Racing's rising Indian star, Arjun Maini, displaced his team-mate, George Russell, from the head of the championship table which the Wisbech, Cambridgeshire teenager had occupied since the start of the 2014 season at Silverstone in April.
Maini - who will not be 17 until December – has hit a rich late-season run of form, with two wins included in his four podiums from the last six races. Only once in the last nine F4 races has he finished outside the top four. At Donington - with fourth place finishes in both Races 1 and 2 to add to his Race 3 triumph - he was once again the weekend's top performer, netting 74 points to head Russell in the title race by 21 points as the season heads for its conclusion at Snetterton, Norfolk on 25/26th October. There are, however, a possible 95 championship points still on offer from the season show-down, and four other drivers still mathematically in contention for the title.
From pole position in Race 1 on Saturday, HHC Motorsport's Sennan Fielding became the second driver this year to score four wins with a close-run lights-to-flag victory ahead of Russell with Struan Moore (Lanan) third and Maini, as noted, fourth. Seventh place from eighth on the grid in Sunday's Race 2 and a disappointed ninth (after tangling with Palmer) in Race 3 topped up his points haul for the weekend to 61, elevating him from fourth to third in the championship table, just twelve points behind Russell. In the process, Fielding displaced to fourth his HHC team-mate, South Africa's Raoul Hyman, who had finished seventh in Race 1 before converting a front row start to victory in Race 2 and then failing to finish Race 3 after a collision - which eliminated them both - when contesting the race lead with Russell. Only five points separate Fielding and Hyman, with the latter having lodged an appeal against a ten place grid penalty (at Snetterton Race 1) he has incurred for his encounter with Russell.
Realistically, the two final contenders with a theoretical shot at the title will just be striving to improve their positions in the table, with Struan Moore (Lanan Racing) trailing Hyman by 36 points in fifth place, and HHC's Comma-sponsored Will Palmer sixth, a further nine points behind Moore. (Mexico's Diego Menchaca (Douglas Motorsport) - who was Donington's second highest achiever after Maini with 66 points from sixth place in Race 1, third in Race 2 and back on the podium, second in Race 3 – has risen to seventh from ninth in the title race, but is still 72 points behind Palmer).
In Race 1 – which saw the top four drivers finish in the positions they started – Moore claimed the third podium spot four seconds behind the winner, was fifth from sixth on the grid in Race 2 and tenth in Race 3. With fifth place from ninth on the grid in Race 1 and second to Hyman from fourth on the grid in Race 2, Palmer's weekend was on an ever-improving curve until it all went pear shaped in Race 3. Disputing third place with Fielding, Comma's man not only eliminated himself but was also held accountable for the collision that ensued and for which he – like Hyman in the same race – was dealt a ten place grid penalty for Snetterton, Race 1.
There was a curious symmetry in what happened to the championship table at Donington. The top two swapped places, as did the third and fourth and fifth and sixth. You can't conclude anything from that of course.....except perhaps that Snetterton's certain to provide a tumultuous climax to the season. Time to place your bets and enjoy the fireworks!
Comma – a brand of Cosan Lubricants International - is Technical Partner to BRDC Formula 4, and in addition to sponsoring Will Palmer in the 24 race series, supplies lubricants, coolants and maintenance chemicals to all teams competing in the championship. All rounds of the BRDC F4 Championship are broadcast free-to-air on ITV 4 in an hour-long standalone show screened one week after each of the eight events in a prime-time Sunday evening slot. Coverage on ITV4 also includes a further weekday evening repeat.
For live race reports, championship details, driver interviews, news and inside information on the championship, teams and drivers, visit the excellent BRDC Formula 4 website at www.formula4.com