Only one thing stands between Carlin and its third consecutive British Formula 4 title: Arden’s Oscar Piastri.
More than 65 points behind championship leader Jamie Caroline, taking the title won’t be easy for Piastri, but the 16-year-old has brought that gap down from 90.5 at the midpoint of the season.
After showing strong pace in preseason testing, Piastri had to settle for second best in the season opener at Brands Hatch. He chased after race winner Caroline in races one and three, but couldn’t catch the Carlin driver, finishing third and second, with a sixth in the second, reverse grid, race.
Piastri took two fifth places in two close fought races at Donington Park before claiming second in the shortened third race.
Whilst Caroline claimed a hat-trick of race wins at Thruxton, Piastri was stuck battling in the midfield. Though he managed a third in the reverse grid race, he was now 86 points behind the points leader.
After finishing seventh in the opening race at Oulton Park, Piastri finally claimed his maiden F4 victory.
Seventh put the Australian on pole in the reverse grid race two. It was a lights to flag victory for Piastri, but far from simple as he had to defend the lead from Logan Sargeant. The race was brought to an end early, though, when Caroline crashed, meaning Piastri only took half points for his efforts.
Piastri and Sargeant continued their battle the following race at Croft, finishing second and third whilst Caroline could only finish fourth.
Starting fifth for race two, Piastri stormed up though the field to third before an early safety car, with Caroline just ahead. He tried to take his championship rival on the restart but couldn’t pull off the move. He had to wait for the following lap to move into second, behind team-mate Alex Quinn.
Another good start allowed Piastri to pull up alongside Caroline in the third race. He battled to find a way past his title rival but it was only when Caroline ran off at the chicane that he could find a way through.
Piastri finished third, leaving Croft with a hat-trick of podiums and closing the gap to Caroline.
Piastri kicked off the second half of the season with a win in the opening race at Snetterton. He held off early attacks from team-mate Ayrton Simmons off the line but eventually pulled away to claim a comfortable second victory.
After a seventh in the reverse grid race, Piastri battled with Sargeant for the lead in race three. Piastri defended hard and was able to take his third win of the year.
The Arden driver continued the success at Knockhill, but it was a mixed weekend for Piastri. He took victories in the first of the four races but mechanical problems hindered his progress in race two and contact with Linus Lundqvist dropped him down the order in race three.
Things improved in the final race where he led an Arden 1-2-3, taking his fifth win and closing the gap to Caroline to just 45.5 points.
Slowly, the championship was beginning to swing in Piastri’s favour, but it wouldn’t continue at Rockingham. The Australian was involved in a collision in the opening race and was forced to retire, putting him at the back of the grid for race two. Trying to turn his weekend around, Piastri stormed up to seventh in a stunning opening lap, only to collide with Caroline on lap two and drop back down the order again. He slowly worked his way back up the order to finish 10th, salvaging a single point.
His disasterous weekend continued in race three when he was spun on the opening lap. He was able to continue, but his engine gave out on lap two, forcing another retirement.
Now 74.5 points behind Caroline, Piastri needed to outscore his tutle rival at Silverstone to keep his title hopes alive. Not the easiest of tasks, but something Piastri had achieved three times already.
After the opening two races, both drivers had claimed 30 points. Piastri claimed the podium finihes, both third places, whilst Caroline had followed a fourth in race one with second in race two.
A perfect race three, when Piastri started on pole, secured his sixth victory of the season and a chance at Brands’ final showdown. Caroline finished second, meaning Piastri only took seven points from the championship lead, but it was enough to keep Piastri in the running.
Image credit: Caroline Rhea