ADAC Formula 4 Championship returned last weekend after a one-month absence as the Nürburgring Sprint Circuit hosted the fourth round of the season. Against all odds, Prema returned in almost full force, but remarkably it was Taylor Barnard who came out as the star of this event. Here are F1 Feeder Series’ three biggest takeaways from the weekend.
By Alexander Studenkov
Stating that Taylor Barnard has experienced a tough pair of years in car racing would be an understatement: a few challenging rounds with AKM in 2020 and an effective no-showing with backmarkers BWR last year put the driver from Norwich out of the public eye, with his karting success being overshadowed by his anonymity in Formula 4 – until now.
Having shown flashes of speed in rounds beforehand, Barnard came to the Nürburgring with momentum on his side, as he had secured a maiden podium in Italy a month prior. Qualifying harboured a shock for all watching with the Brit taking pole position for Race 2 by just a single tenth (!) against the only other polesitter this year, championship leader Andrea Kimi Antonelli.
It was a penalty for a jump start that demoted the Italian to second in Race 1, gifting victory to Barnard who had managed to stay within the five seconds throughout the race. On Sunday things would get even better as a fierce battle between the two rivals ended with Barnard picking his lines right and crossing the finish line first to take back-to-back victories. Another podium from eighth place in Race 3 demonstrated that the Brit has not lost any of his speed and with second-placed Rafael Câmara being forced to skip this round after contracting COVID-19 Barnard sits just four points behind the Brazilian in the standings.
PHM have arrived
Following a successful debut outing in the UAE at the beginning of the year, PHM Racing’s founder Paul Müller said this to F1 Feeder Series: “The interesting thing will be when we can hit our stride in the European season.”
It appears as this moment has now arrived. After a few teething problems with the car’s setup at the start of the year, notably struggling to be competitive at Spa-Francorchamps in the first round of the ADAC season, the German team has been slowly improving their results, getting a few podiums at Hockenheim and proving to be a small thorn in the side of the dominant Prema team. The Nürburgring showed that this thorn has now developed into a serious opponent, one which can take victories away from the Italian outfit.
The aforementioned podium lockout by Barnard was further sweetened by Nikita Bedrin, who took home two third-placed finishes after a positive weekend. His skirmishes with Antonelli in Race 2 show that PHM are a front-running operation with room to grow, especially with their rookie Valentin Kluss, they could be set for more trophies towards the end of the year.
Title fight? Forget it
The absence of Ferrari junior Rafael Câmara from this round meant that Antonelli could move further away from his only real challenger in the standings. Indeed, despite his mistake at the start of Race 1, the Italian still finished in the top four in all three races, building up a staggering gap of 98 points to his Brazilian adversary.
With two rounds to go, the title is not yet sown up mathematically, as there are still 150 points to be distributed, but in reality, there is no hope for neither Câmara, nor the resurgent Barnard, to steal Antonelli’s championship from underneath his grasp. As disappointing as an early title lockout is, the mind-blowing consistency and overall speed of the 15-year-old can only be applauded.
Header photo credit: ADAC
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