The sun was poking through the clouds but it cooler and blustery conditions welcomed the Formula 4 cars for their second day of on-track action. Saturday saw Jake Hughes take pole position for Lanan Racing but failed to convert it into a race win.
An engine issue on the final lap saw the youngster drop to fourth with Pietro Fittipaldi – Emerson Fittipaldi’s grandson – inheriting victory after staying within contention of the leaders in the closing stages. Hillspeed’s Seb Morris took second with Charlie Robertson – who was stuck in fifth gear for the final few laps – taking the final podium spot.
Championship leader Jake Dalton crossed the line behind Hastings’ Jack Barlow in sixth place. HHC Motorsports Raoul Hyman took the chequered flag in eighth place which gifted him pole position for the second race.
Sunday brought two races around the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit – a favourite amongst the drivers – and with a competitive field, anything could have happened.
The cars lined up on the grid with Raoul Hyman looking to get his first race win of the season from pole position. Matty Graham and championship leader Jake Dalton started in second and third but could they maintain their position?
The sun emerged as the cars readied themselves for lights out, basking the cars in glorious sunshine. Off the line, Hyman managed to maintain his lead into Paddock Hill bend with a clean start but limited movement through the first few corners.
The leading duo started to eke out a slight lead over the chasing Dalton and Barlow as the cars crossed the line for lap one of the 15 lap round. However a slow run through the first turn backed Graham up into the clutches of the Mark Godwin Racing car with Dalton looking to make a move into Surtees but finding the door closed shut.
Three drivers battled for the lead early on with the top 12 separated by just five seconds. Graham got a stunning run on leader Hyman along the pit straight with the 17-year-old scything into the lead at turn one – albeit with a large lock-up of his right-front tyre. There was more movement behind with a dive up the inside on Jake Dalton by Jack Barlow. Race one pole-sitter Hughes capitalised on the poor run through Graham Hill bend to drop the championship leader down to fifth.
Yellow flags came out at Dingle Dell with Matt Bell failing to emerge into Sheene Curve. The leading three of Graham, Hyman and Barlow were split by the smallest of margins with Saturday’s podium finisher Charlie Robertson dropping out of the leading pack on lap five.
Race one winner Pietro Fittipaldi sat in eighth place by lap six, the position that he started in. Further forward, the gap to the lead car continued to extend by miniscule margins lap-by-lap with Graham extending a gap of just over one second by lap eight.
Squabbles continued to develop with Seb Morris closing in on Jake Dalton. Ross Gunn also joined the battling duo with Dalton seemingly not showing the pace witnessed earlier in the season. The leading eight were all dueling closely with Struan Moore dropping back and falling into the clutches of Menchaca and Greenway.
The leaders gap extended to over 2.5 seconds by lap 12 with the race moving in to its closing stages. Barlow dived from left and right as he attempted to find a way past Raoul Hyman but the Brit didn’t want to compromise his position with Hughes waiting in the wings.
As the cars moved on to the last lap, Barlow dived up the inside in an opportunistic move at Paddock Hill bend. That broke the momentum of Hyman and left him battling to keep his podium position.
So it was Matthew Graham who crossed the line to become the 10th different race winner of the season, taking the chequered flag with a 2.3 second advantage. Barlow moved up to second and another strong podium finish with Hyman holding on to third place. Hughes, Dalton and Morris collected a good haul of points with Gunn, Fittipaldi, Moore and Menchaca rounding out the top 10.
Greenway, Wauer, Fletcher, Sirui and Rdest rounded out the top 15 with Headlam, Lima, Robertson and Mayer c0mpleting the finishers – the latter was a lap down. Barlow set the fastest lap of the race with a 1m27.083.
Speaking on the win Graham said: “Every lap I just pulled out a little gap and by the end I had a comfortable gap.” Second place man Jack Barlow said: “There was an opportunity there so I took it. It was a fun race.”
Hyman spoke on another podium, revealing that his team made “a few changes to his car” but a small mistake gave Barlow the opportunity. Fifth place man Jake Dalton admitted after the race that he could have done “a lot better” after making an error half way through. He concluded overall that it was “not too bad.”
After a dramatic race, the drivers debriefed and prepared for the final race of the weekend.
With the drama of the Hungarian Grand Prix still rich in the air at Brands Hatch, the F4 cars lined up for the final race of the weekend with the British pack hoping to emulate Hamilton’s success.
Race one pole sitter Jake Hughes started the third round of the weekend from the same spot. Dalton, Menchaca and Graham were next up on the grid with Robertson and Fittipaldi rounding out the top six. It was a clean start to the race but contact further round saw Mayer spin mid-way through the race.
Menchaca managed to sneak ahead of Dalton into Surtees on lap two, the squabble giving Hughes a strong advantage. Further round the Brands Hatch circuit, Dalton dropped further down the order after running onto the grass at Hawthorns. Hughes had a three-second lead after three laps as the youngster attempted to regain the win that was lost in race one after an engine problem.
Fittipaldi dropped down the order after a problem during the GP loop with Charlie Robertson finding himself in trouble too. Barlow managed to advance ahead of Lima with Dalton dropping behind Gunn in a frantic first few laps of the race. Morris pressured third-place man Graham – who won the second race of the weekend.
As the drivers built confidence and found the grip, the pace picked up with the gap at the front slowly decreasing and the Fletcher setting the pace in the mid-field.
Dalton’s struggles continued after losing out to Williams, Greenway, Moore and Bell after losing momentum around the first part of the lap. Wauer and Sirui made contact whilst battling for 15th place with both drivers subsequently retiring from the race.
Hughes continued to manage the lead as the 20 minute race ran into the concluding third quarter with Menchaca failing to make the advances needed to put the 19-year-old under significant pressure.
Gunn – who was without a nose cone and hence off the pace – developed a small train with Williams, Greenway and Moore battling hard for a position in the top eight.
Lap 12 saw Fletcher attempt a move on Seb Morris but the door was firmly closed. Lima also looked competitive as the race moved in to its final stage. He attempted a dive up the inside at Paddock Hill bend but proved to be too far back as they moved in to the final lap.
After losing out on victory at the first race of the Brands Hatch GP round, Jake Hughes crossed the line to take victory in the third and final race of the weekend. The Brit had a two second advantage over Menchaca in second with Graham rounding out the podium finishers.
Morris just missed out on the podium in fourth with Fletcher, Barlow, Lima and Williams completing the top eight. Greenway and Hyman filled out the top 10 with Moore, Gunn, Bell and a recovering Fittipaldi taking 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th place. Jake Dalton – who went into the round as championship leader – dropped to 15th after struggling throughout the race.
Headlam and Rdest completed the finishers with Sirui, Wauer, Robertson and Mayer retiring from the race. Fittipaldi took the fastest lap with a 1m22.785.
Hughes said after the race “since qualifying we have had the pace” and after the disappointment of race one, the win “makes up for it.” Menchaca said: “It’s unbelievable to be up here, but now we have to get one step higher.”
That rounds out our coverage of the F3 Cup and F4 from Brands Hatch. Both series will be out racing at the Silverstone GP circuit on the 17th and 18th of August. Check out our Rising Stars week too with interviews and profiles on a number of F4 drivers along with those making their name in the feeder series to Formula 1.