Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Stephen Lickorish

The standout moments of the series that launched Norris as it reaches 250 races

British Formula 4 celebrated a milestone moment at Oulton Park last month when its 250th race was held.

The category was born out of the old British Formula Ford series and got off to a flying start back in 2015 when a host of drivers that are now stars on the international stage were among a talented grid.

Over the past eight years there have been plenty of unforgettable moments – from barely believable finales to a punch-up between team-mates and, of course, there has been some controversy along the way. Autosport has therefore picked out 10 of the most memorable races from British F4’s back catalogue.

With so many impressive performances and notable incidents, narrowing it down to just 10 was tricky - for example there is no space for 2021 champion Matthew Rees's history-making double pole on his car racing debut - but here's the selection we have gone for.

Norris becomes new series’ first winner – 4 April 2015 (race 1)

The category’s most successful graduate so far, Lando Norris, was triumphant in the very first contest (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

Of the 70 different drivers who have won British Formula 4 races to date, it is perhaps fitting that the category’s most successful graduate so far, Lando Norris, was triumphant in the very first contest.

That opening event at Brands Hatch in 2015 – when the series was called MSA Formula prior to formally adopting the British F4 name part-way through the following year, after BRDC F4 acquired the British F3 title – set the tone for the inaugural season.

While Carlin racer Norris did not qualify on pole, he was on the front row – and he impressively remained there throughout the year, never dropping below second-quickest as he showed signs of the F1 star he would become.

PLUS: Who will replace Hamilton on the British F1 throne?

In that maiden F4 bout, Norris grabbed the lead when polesitter Daniel Baybutt ran wide and never looked back to claim the first of eight wins that year en route to becoming the category’s initial champion.

Ticktum’s moment of madness – 27 September 2015 (race 27)

The 2015 season is better remembered for an unnecessary act of aggression from Dan Ticktum (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

While Norris was the star of that maiden 2015 season, it is sadly better remembered for an unnecessary act of aggression from Dan Ticktum.

The Fortec driver was in his first year of car racing and demonstrated some impressive pace but completely lost his cool in the third Silverstone race. After early contact with Ricky Collard left him down the order, he blasted past 10 rivals behind the safety car before cannoning into Collard at Luffield. Ticktum was excluded and subsequently banned for a year.

In a statement issued in the days after the crash, he said: “The red mist I saw at the weekend has lifted and I’m feeling devastated. I have been a fool and I intend to learn the important lessons I need to from this weekend.”

He rebuilt his career after that setback, although could never emulate Norris and reach the sport’s very highest level – and that Silverstone red-mist moment is still held against him today by some. It was not his first controversial clash of 2015, either, as he had earlier been thrown out of the Croft meeting after contact with Norris.

Carlin drivers’ punch-up – 14 August 2016 (race 50)

Carlin stablemates Petru Florescu and Devlin DeFrancesco came to blows (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

There is nothing particularly unusual about team-mates tangling on track in junior single-seater categories. But what made the collision between Carlin stablemates Petru Florescu and Devlin DeFrancesco across the start/finish line at Knockhill in 2016 more memorable was Florescu getting out of his car and punching his rival!

Unsurprisingly, the officials took a dim view of the incident and Florescu was excluded from the meeting while DeFrancesco, who now races in IndyCar, was given a 10-place grid penalty for causing the contact.

The Canadian admitted fault to Autosport afterwards, saying: “I made a little mistake and didn’t give him quite enough room.” He added he “wasn’t expecting” his team-mate’s response, however!

It proved to be a turning point in their seasons as well. Florescu arrived in Scotland as the championship leader but slumped to sixth in the final reckoning, while DeFrancesco – who headed the standings at the time of the crash – fell to fifth. Karma, perhaps?

Monger’s horrible crash – 16 April 2017 (race 66)

Billy Monger had a devastating accident at Donington Park in 2017 (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

Some of these key moments from British F4’s history are memorable for the wrong reasons. And Billy Monger’s devastating accident at Donington Park in 2017 is certainly one of those.

The JHR Developments driver was in his second F4 season, looking to push on from a mixed first campaign – that featured him cruelly being denied a maiden win with car woes on the final lap at Rockingham – when his life changed forever.

Monger was completely unsighted when he headed through Schwantz Curve on the fourth lap of the third race of that Donington weekend. With other cars in front jinking out of the way at the last moment, he had no idea Patrik Pasma’s Carlin machine was in strife on the racing line ahead. Monger ploughed into the car at unabated speed and it was instantly clear how serious the accident was.

“I was awake after the crash for about 45 minutes and was seeing all the doctors,” Monger told Autosport later in 2017. “Pretty much straight away I knew the crash was bad, but the first few minutes I felt OK because the adrenalin kicked in.”

The teenager was carefully extracted from the car and taken to hospital. Ultimately, he had both of his legs amputated following the injuries he suffered.

Yet the story had a positive ending. Monger inspirationally returned to the cockpit the following year in a specially adapted car in BRDC British F3 and has subsequently launched a new career as a TV pundit and podcast host.

Caroline’s history-making treble – 7 May 2017 (race 69)

Jamie Caroline made history by becoming the first British F4 driver to win all three races in a weekend (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

There was still a sense of shock around the paddock following Monger’s terrible accident when the series continued at Thruxton three weeks on. Away from the racing, a charity walk was attended by thousands on Saturday evening and there was positive news that Monger had been released from hospital. But what the series really needed was a feel-good story on the track. And it certainly got it.

Jamie Caroline made history in Hampshire by becoming the first British F4 driver to win all three races in a weekend. It was a masterful display from the Carlin racer in three highly entertaining contests.

Things got off to a tricky start as he fell to seventh in race one, before bouncing back to win – including a triple pass exiting the Club chicane. He then jumped from sixth to first leaving the Complex in race two – “I just saw a gap and went for it,” Caroline said – later repassing Linus Lundqvist in a close battle, before winning the finale more comfortably. And it is worth remembering future F1 drivers Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant were among his rivals that weekend.

It was all the more poignant because Caroline is good friends with Monger, the hat-trick hero admitting he “shed a tear for Billy” on the in-lap. But his memorable masterclass (and only three drivers have subsequently repeated the treble) was just the tonic the championship needed.

Red Bulls can collide in F4, too – 12 August 2018 (race 111)

Dennis Hauger and Jack Doohan came together at Rockingham (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

Who can forget the sight of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber’s Red Bulls spectacularly colliding in Turkey in 2010? Or Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen’s Baku bash in 2018? OK, it was not so dramatic, but two Red Bull-liveried cars had their own clumsy contact in F4 at Rockingham in 2018.

Both Dennis Hauger and Jack Doohan (who later went on to finish 1-2 in the 2021 FIA F3 points) were frontrunners for Arden that year but things did not always go to plan. And the third race at Rockingham was the most notable example.

The pair were fighting over second when Hauger made the fateful attempt into the Deene hairpin on the opening lap – but succeeded only in clattering into his team-mate and causing them both to retire to the pits.

“I just tried to get on the inside, but it was a bit damp,” Hauger admitted to Autosport – and, with refreshing honesty and having apologised to Doohan, he added: “It was a pretty dumb move from me.”

It certainly hampered any faint title hopes the pair were still harbouring. Hauger ultimately pipped Doohan to fourth in the standings by a single point, over 100 adrift of champion Kiern Jewiss.

Clash sets up close finale – 29 September 2019 (race 147)

Zane Maloney and Sebastian Alvarez clashed at Silverstone (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

A collision that was perhaps more significant than the Red Bull Arden drivers’ foolishness was one between Zane Maloney and Sebastian Alvarez in the third race at Silverstone the following year.

At the season’s mid-point, Carlin driver Maloney had been leading the championship comfortably with Double R’s Alvarez 77 markers behind. But the Mexican whittled that advantage down to nothing over the rounds leading up to the pair’s Luffield tangle.

Alvarez was furious: “I tried overtaking him round the outside [of Brooklands] – I clearly was quicker, I think he knew that I was quicker – then he just tried running me off the road. Then, once he successfully ran me out of the road, I was on the paint, I lost control and I went straight into him at the next corner.”

The clash meant the pair headed to the finale level on points and with tempers simmering. Yet Maloney – now a podium finisher in FIA F2 – emerged as the winner, taking victory in the final race as Alvarez’s season came to a smoky end.

The most incredible title showdown – 15 November 2020 (race 176)

Title rivals Zak O’Sullivan and Luke Browning headed to Brands Hatch tied (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

Think of recent remarkable title deciders and Lewis Hamilton’s last-gasp F1 glory in 2008 or defeat in 2021 come to mind. And the 2020 British F4 showdown was certainly in that league when it comes to dramatic finales.

Like with Maloney and Alvarez the year before, Carlin’s Zak O’Sullivan and Fortec’s Luke Browning headed to Brands Hatch tied. But Browning had eked out a 16-point lead come the final race, which featured a barely believable set of circumstances.

O’Sullivan powered past Browning into the lead at the start, before the pair both went off on oil at Clark Curve. While O’Sullivan quickly regained first place, Browning had spun and was languishing in 10th – all meaning the Carlin driver was on course for the crown. Yet there was to be one final twist as the threatening clouds finally burst, sending rain pouring down, causing the race to be red-flagged and with no time for a restart.

Carlin started celebrating but, with less than half the race completed, half points were awarded so Browning had won by four. “I was at the bottom of the world on the first lap,” a disbelieving Browning told Autosport. “But then the rain saved me!”

O’Sullivan was understandably annoyed and hit out at officials: “There was no need to red flag it – you have a safety car for a reason.”

It was a truly unforgettable race – the only shame being there were no fans in Kent to share the twists and turns, lockdown restrictions leaving the grandstands and spectator banks empty.

Dunne on top as new era begins – 23 April 2022 (race 207)

Alex Dunne blasted clear in his Hitech machine and took a comfortable first win of the season (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

It was all change for British F4 at the start of 2022. Governing body Motorsport UK had replaced the long-serving RacingLine as promoter, while a new second-generation, halo-shod Tatuus car was introduced, powered by an Abarth engine, to usurp the old Mygale-Ford.

And there was no disputing who the star of the new era was. As polesitting birthday boy Ugo Ugochukwu faltered off the line, Irishman Alex Dunne blasted clear in his Hitech machine and took a comfortable first win of the season. He may have only been a late entry – and provisionally just for that opening Donington Park weekend with an Italian F4 campaign originally the priority – but he quickly established himself as the driver to beat.

Interview: The second-generation racer taking British F4 by storm

Dunne went on to surge from ninth to second in the partially reversed-grid race before winning the Leicestershire finale as well. He never looked back from there, becoming the category’s most dominant champion to date.

Sharp’s remarkable victory – 23 April 2023 (race 238)

Louis Sharp’s triumph in the second contest at Donington Park was among the most remarkable (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

Out of British F4’s first 250 races, you could make the case that Louis Sharp’s triumph in the second contest at Donington Park earlier this year was the most remarkable. After all, the Rodin Carlin driver had stormed through from 20th on the reversed grid to win in a race lasting just 20 minutes!

Yes, tricky wet conditions aided the Kiwi’s climb and he was also helped by a safety-car period and Sonny Smith’s botched restart. But it was still a terrific triumph and one that will live long in the memory.

“Coming into the race, I wasn’t thinking about a podium – I didn’t expect a points finish – so it’s unreal [to win],” Sharp told Autosport about the “crazy” race.

There was one final twist to come afterwards as Sharp was initially handed a draconian 30-second penalty for overlapping other cars on the restart. But this was rightfully rescinded when Smith’s inconsistent speed was highlighted.

The Kiwi's reversed grid win from the back will be talked about for many years to come (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)
Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.