Despite the incredible performances from all three drivers, there has to be a little bit of disappointment in the JHR Developments camp. 2016 was as full of near misses as it was success.
1. Brands Hatch Indy Race Two: Sennan’s first win
Sennan Fielding averaged a race win every other round of the championship, his first coming in the second race at Brands Hatch at the very start of the season. It would be a dramatic race, with rain, safety cars, and red flags all adding to the usual Formula 4 madness.
Fielding started the race from fifth on the grid, and didn’t immediately shoot forwards. A lot can happen in twenty minutes… The JHR Developments driver navigated the opening few laps without too many problems as the heavens opened, dumping rain on the Kent track.
A safety car was brought out to retrieve stricken car and, not long after the restart, the red flag was brought out due to the wet conditions. Fielding and the rest of the Formula 4 grid returned to the grid and wet weather tyres were strapped onto the cars. Fielding would restart the race from second, but wheel spin on the restart meant he wouldn’t take the lead just yet.
Fielding stuck close behind Jamie Caroline and James Pull, who were battling at the front of the field. Then, with three laps remaining, the JHR Developments driver dived down the inside of turn one. The trio ran three abreast, but it would be Fielding to emerge in front. Fielding kept the lead for the remainder of the race, taking his and JHR Developments’ first win of the season.
2. Donington Park Race Two: Jack’s first Formula 4 Points
Taking points wasn’t going to be an easy task for Jack Butel. The Channel Islander had retired from the first Donington Park race, putting him at the back of the grid for the second race of the weekend. Butel was yet to score points in the opening four races of the season, but that would change soon.
A tight line at the start of the race helped Butel charge up through the pack, taking several drivers in one swoop. As the race wore on, overtaking got harder. Butel was stuck at the back of a gaggle of cars that were all jostling for positions. A courageous move around the outside of the fast Redgate corner took him through the pack. The move put the JHR Developments driver into the points and Butel was able to hold on until the end of the 20 minute race, taking seventh overall.
3. Thruxton Race Two: Jack’s podium near miss
Butel very almost followed up his points finish with a podium the following round, but it wasn’t to be. The revese grid had put the youngster on pole for the second race of the weekend, perfect for bettering his P7 result from the first race.
Though Butel was able to hold onto the lead going into the first corner, there were plenty of challengers, and Butel had to get defensive early. It was a tough fight, and Butel dropped back to fifth, but the race wasn’t over yet. Butel ran side by side with two other drivers in the fight for fourth, late breaking earning him the position – and a damaged front wing – before a safety car put a stop to the battle.
After the restart, the JHR Developments driver was back on the hunt for the podium. A move around the outside of Carlin’s Devlin DeFrancesco moved him up alongside the third place man at the chicane. The track tightened and, as there wasn’t room for two cars, the pair collided. The damage to Butel’s car was too much to continue and the youngster retired from the race.
4. Thruxton Race Three: Billy’s best result of the season
Billy Monger’s best result of the season would come in the third race at Thruxton. After already taking his first podium of the season the race before Monger was in for his best round yet. The teenager would start fifth on the grid, behind his team mate Fielding and three of the four Carlin drivers.
It wasn’t a mad dash at the start of the race that would earn Monger his best British Formula 4 results. The JHR Developments driver held his fifth position, whilst Fielding battled for the lead of the race. Slowly, Fielding was able to close in on the battle until, in the closing stages of the race, it became a five way fight for victory.
As Devlin DeFrancesco led the race in the penultimate lap, Monger, Fielding, and Carlin’s Max Fewtrell all ran three abreast, trying to snatch second. Monger blinked last, breaking last and taking second ahead of Fewtrell and Fielding.
5. Snetterton Qualifying: Sennan takes his first pole position of the season
Having not seen a win since Donington or a podium since Thruxton, Sennan Fielding admitted he was beginning to doubt himself when he arrived at Snetterton for the start of the second half of the season. What better way to get rid of that doubt than to set the fastest time in qualifying?
Fielding left it late to set his pole position time. He and Devlin DeFrancesco were both fighting in the dying moments of qualifying for the best spot on the grid. Though the Carlin man was faster in the middle sector, spectacular first and final sectors were enough to put Fielding more than three tenths clear of DeFrancesco, topping qualifying for the first time this season.
6. Rockingham Race Three: Billy almost takes his first race win
A fantastic race ended in a cruel fashion for Billy Monger at Rockingham. The JHR Developments driver started from pole for the final race of the weekend and did a fantastic job to hold onto the lead of the race from a fast moving Petru Florescu.
Florescu soon fell away from the JHR Developments driver, only to be replaced by Max Fewtrell and Fielding. Still, Monger held onto the lead of the race, despite a mechanical problem hindering his progess.
Just when it looked like Monger might finally take his first win, the mechanical problem became too much. On the final lap, Fewtrell and Fielding both managed to get past Monger, demoting him to third. It was still an impressive result for the youngster, but bitter sweet with the win so close.
7. Silverstone: Sennan retakes the lead of the championship
Silverstone probably won’t go down as Fielding’s best ever British Formula 4 weekend, but the strong round put him in the lead of the championship, a position that had belonged to one of the Carlin drivers since early in the season. Fielding took two podiums – a second and a third – and a fourth place at the iconic British track, put him five points ahead of anybody else in the championship fight with only one round to go.
8. Brands Hatch GP Race Three: Sennan just misses out on the championship
The second, third, and fifth place Sennan Fielding scored in the final round of the championship was nothing to complain about, except for the fact it put him seven points behind Max Fewtrell in the championship fight. Whilst, looking back, Fielding will undoubtedly be proud of his season, losing the championship in the final race was devastating for the youngster.
Going into the final race of the weekend – and the season – Fielding had a lead over Fewtrell of just three points. Fewtrell starting from pole though gave him the advantage in the final race, with Fielding already on the back foot with his sixth place grid position. It didn’t take Fielding long to move up into third, but rookie Ayrton Simmons proved a little more difficult to pass. Fielding tried from the start to the very finish to get past the Arden driver, but it was no use. Fielding would eventually cross the line third, meaning Fewtrell would have seven more championship points than the JHR Developments driver.
Image Credit: Caroline Rhea