For karting drivers Formula 4 is often the first big test in single-seaters (unless you are Max Verstappen and start in F3). In that rookie year you can usually spot who has that special something. These F4 rookies made the most of the chance they were given in 2020.
By Floris Visman
This covid-hampered year has limited the options for many drivers. Sometimes it meant less testing, while at other times it meant missing out on a seat or race weekend. Some series had reduced calendars, while F4 SEA was cancelled all together. That makes the performances by the drivers in this list even more impressive. Want to check out last year’s list first? You can find it here.
Here we go (in no particular order)!
Tim Tramnitz (Germany, 16)
Believe it or not, Tim Tramnitz was the only German competing in ADAC F4 this year (unless you count Paraguayan Joshua Durksen who drove under a German license). But that pressure didn’t seem to hinder him in the slightest. Signing with German outfit US Racing, the 16-year-old was paired with Vlad Lomko, Oliver Bearman and last but not least 2019 F4 SEA runner-up Elias Seppanen. The Flying Finn, who made our list last year, proved to be a good gauge for the German. Seppanen finished third, ahead in the standings of Tramnitz. Both won once, but the Finn took more podiums (10 against Tramnitz’s 6). But by finishing fourth in the standings the rookie did obliterate Lomko and Bearman points wise. Consistency seemed to be the key for Tramnitz: he finished every race and failed to score points only once. His highlight was undoubtedly winning the final race of the season at Oschersleben; his first.
Zak O’Sullivan (Great-Britain, 15)
Until the final seconds the title fight could have gone either way, but rain crushed Zak O’Sullivan’s title aspirations. The final race of the British F4 Championship was red-flagged and half points were awarded, handing Luke Browning the title trophy. But 15-year-old O’Sullivan had already made a lasting impression on both fans and his Carlin team. Proof? He recently got promoted to British F3 by his team. O’Sullivan had the most race wins (9 against Browning’s 7) and the most podiums (19 versus 16). His teammates Matias Zagazeta (12th in the final standings) and Christian Mansell (7th) proved to be no match for him.
Casper Stevenson (Great-Britain, 17)
Another British F4 rookie that made the list is Casper Stevenson. The 17-year old is the first winner of the series’ £35,000 scholarship award and he proved he was worth the prize by finishing third in the championship with Argenti Motorsport. His teammate Reema Juffali was pretty far off the pace and Nico Pino had to drop out halfway, so the Brit was pretty much on his own. But that didn’t stop him from producing a mesmerizing nine-podium-streak which stretched from the final race at Knockhill all the way until the final race at Croft. Stevenson has tested British F3 machinery but is likely to join the Formula Regional by Alpine Championship.
Gabriele Mini (Italy, 15)
One of the success stories of 2020: an Italian driver winning Italian F4 with an Italian team. At 15 Gabriele Mini is already Italy’s biggest F1 hope. Before the season started it didn’t necessarily look like Mini would destroy the field. That was not due to to any shortcoming of his own, but with Prema he joined arguably the best team on the grid. His teammates were no slouches either. Prema drafted karting star Dino Beganovic, Sebastian Montoya (Juan Pablo’s kid) and Brazilian ace Gabriel Bortoleto. But the rookie needed absolutely no time to adjust as he took pole position for the first race at Misano and continued to win it. In the end he took the championship with four wins and a total of twelve podiums, leaving the competition far behind. A mark of great outright speed: he scored nine pole positions during the course of his debut season. And before we forget, Mini participated in six ADAC F4 races and landed on the podium four times.
Francesco Pizzi (Italy, 16)
Pizzi’s debut in Formula 4 came early as he took part in winter series F4 UAE. The Italian joined top team Xcel Motorsport alongside Zdenek Chovanec, Lorenzo Fluxa and Nicola Marinangeli. His debut at the Dubai Autodrome couldn’t have been better; he won all three races and scored two fastest laps. Pizzi continued to win races (8 in total) and he took the title. Soon after he joined veteran feeder series squad Van Amersfoort Racing in Italian F4 and proved to be eventual champion Mini’s biggest challenger. Although he was coupled with Jak Crawford and Jonny Edgar (both on our list last year), that pair had ADAC F4 as a priority and thus didn’t compete in two rounds because of overlapping dates.
Dino Beganovic (Sweden, 16)
A Ferrari Driver Academy member making his debut for Prema in Italian F4 was Dino Beganovic. With third in the final standings, he had a great rookie season. But it wasn’t as easy as it seemed. The Swede seemed to struggle a bit early in the season with just one podium and three no points finishes in the first three rounds. Mugello looked to be a turning point for the 16-year-old. He took two podiums while retiring once. Monza was tougher with two non-points finishes, but the second Imola round proved to be the best of the season with three podiums of which one was his maiden win in F4. His outright speed is stellar, scoring two poles and four fastest laps. If he improves in consistency, he can get really far on the feeder series ladder. After this season he will say goodbye to F4.
Kas Haverkort (The Netherlands, 17)
MP Motorsport has a habit of producing Spanish F4 champions. They did so every year since the championship was started in 2016, bar 2019 when Drivex’ Franco Colapinto surprised them. This year Kas Haverkort led the team from his home country to the title in style: he won 13 out of 21 races and stood on the podium 17 times. And he did so by beating no less than five teammates. For next year the Dutchman is rumoured to join an F1 Junior Academy and Formula Regional by Alpine. He could prove to be the steal of the year for any F1 team.
Mari Boya (Spain, 16)
Kas Haverkort’s main challenger was teammate Mari Boya. The Spanish driver couldn’t match Haverkort but he did win most races after him (3). Apart from a couple of outliers, the 16-year-old had a very consistent season by finishing on the podium 14 times. Aragon was the Spaniards highlight: he beat Haverkort in two out of three races. For 2021 Mari Boya will leave Formula 4 behind him and join Formula Regional by Alpine.
Thomas ten Brinke (The Netherlands, 15)
Stepping in during a season without the proper preparation whilst being a single-seater rookie is no easy feat. Thomas ten Brinke did just that by joining MP Motorsport from Round 3 on and surprised everybody with his performance. The Dutch karting star finished second in his first race and proceeded to take four podiums in his first five races. He had to wait until the final race of the final round for his maiden win, but he did so in style by beating Haverkort and Boya on track. Ten Brinke has impressed some F1 team bosses and is rumoured to join an F1 Junior Academy, just like his countryman Haverkort.
Hunter Yeany (USA, 15)
Yeany became the youngest ever Formula 4 champion by winning the F4 US championship. Not an easy feat in a championship that has been getting ever more popular and regularly features thirty plus cars. His main rivals Jose Blanco and Spike Kohlbecker also had the benefit of their Toyota Racing Series experience. But in the end Yeany won the title by scoring seven wins and could even afford to miss the final round and make his debut in Formula Regional Americas. That’s also his destination for 2021, but in the longer term the young driver has his sights set on Europe, where he can really put his skills to the test.
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