After 15 hard-fought races in the first five rounds, the Formula 4 United States Championship stages its biggest event of the year at Circuit of The Americas to draw the curtains on a thrilling 2022 season. A season-high 26 entries will battle it out at the home of the United States Grand Prix, with two drivers, Lochie Hughes and Bryson Morris, separated by just seven points at the top of the standings. F1 Feeder Series caught up with them in Austin for an exclusive interview.
By Michael McClure
Jay Howard Driver Development rookie Hughes leads the championship on 215 points, with four wins, two poles and eight total podiums to his name. Hughes, a native of Australia’s Gold Coast, returned to racing in 2022 after missing the pandemic-affected 2020 and 2021 racing seasons.
Though he had never raced on any of the circuits on the F4 US calendar, 20-year-old Hughes made an immediate impression by winning the season-opening race at NOLA Motorsports Park. He has led the championship for most of the year since, with only Morris briefly usurping him at NOLA and at the last round at Virginia International Raceway (VIR).
Despite being two years younger than Hughes, Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport’s Morris is the more experienced of the pair when it comes to F4 US, having contested a partial season in the championship last year. The Tennesseean driver finished the season sixth with a win in his first weekend – a run of form that made him an easy favourite for this year’s title.
Morris has taken three wins, one pole and 10 total podiums this year. These results include an eight-race streak of podium finishes stretching back to Mid-Ohio that was snapped only by a spin in Race 3 at VIR. His efforts – along with those of teammates Ryan Shehan, Gabriel Fonseca, Lucas Fecury and Maddie Aust – have lifted Crosslink Kiwi to the top of the teams’ standings, where they sit 46.5 points ahead of Velocity Racing Development.
Behind Hughes and Morris, Noah Ping and Shehan are also still in the championship fight, albeit 44 and 57.5 points off the lead. There are 75 points on offer across the three races this weekend.
F1 Feeder Series: Lochie, heading into 2022, what was your goal? How did it measure up?
Lochie Hughes: The season’s been pretty good. It’s had its highs; it’s had its lows, as all seasons do. I was pretty happy with the season. I’m leading the championship at the moment, but I haven’t raced the last two years. I was stuck at home without budget during COVID, so I’m just happy to be racing, really, this year.
F1FS: How much did this lack of track time affect you?
LH: It affected me a little bit, to be honest. At the start of the season, it’s just like when you haven’t been doing it for so long and testing’s one thing, but then going back to racing, getting your race craft back and all that. I struggled a little bit – not too much obviously. We won the first race!
F1FS: Bryson, what were your goals before the start of the season, and how did it measure up?
BM: The goal would obviously have been to win the championship, and I’m in a pretty good spot to do that right now. It’s been a good year so far. I’m second in the championship, seven points behind. I’ve got the one race left to go and I think I’m pretty good at the track, so I’ve got high hopes to end the year.
F1FS: Last year, you had this partial campaign in which you finished sixth. How much did that add pressure, or did that give you extra confidence going into this season?
BM: I’d say it’s definitely extra confidence. Going into that, there was zero pressure, just seeing how I did. I had never driven the car before my first weekend in it, so it’s definitely helped me out this year, knowing that I have the pace to run up front and that I can win races and get podiums.
F1FS: What was your best race of the season?
LH: My favourite race this year would probably be Race 2 at Mid-Ohio, coming from eighth to win the race and we were really quick. I woke up that morning a little bit sick as well, so just the whole day was a bit strange, and then in the car, we were just really quick, overtaking a car every lap, so that was a cool race. I had Noah Ping right behind me the rest of the race, so there was no mistakes. It was a highlight of the year probably.
BM: Race 2 at VIR. I was able to win that one from I think fifth on the grid. Just happy about that one because I had struggled at Road America, which has a lot of high-speed, high-draft kind of racing. To be able to come out at VIR and be quick and be able to win the race by a few seconds, that was the best one for me.
F1FS: What was your most disappointing race or weekend?
LH: Most disappointing weekend for me was probably VIR. It wasn’t the best weekend, but Race 1 was obviously very disappointing, crashing on Lap 1. That was my fault, being too aggressive. But then also Mid-Ohio Race 3 was very disappointing because we were really quick and I basically threw it away on Lap 1 and went back to last. It’s hard to choose between those two. At least at Mid-Ohio, we came back from last to finish fifth, but those two are both eating me up a little bit.
BM: It’d definitely have to be Road America. In the first race, I was in a pretty decent position, then I got forced off track, which made me fall back pretty far, I think to last. I was able to come back to ninth but still only two points for the championship, so not much. And then the other two races, I would have got fifth in both of them, so overall, the weekend just did not go as planned.
F1FS: What would you say was your toughest opponent on track?
LH: I’d definitely say Bryson. Battling him for the championship, he’s been there all year.
BM: It’s gotta be the same thing. He’s quick at every track he goes to. Have you ever even been to any of these tracks? [Lochie shakes his head.] He’s quick wherever he goes. It’s super tough to show up to the track knowing that he will be a competitor.
F1FS: What’s something that you wish more viewers knew about your 2022 season?
LH: I don’t really know, to be honest! I don’t really care what people think or anything. I guess they don’t know the struggles and stuff you go through, but that’s like most things in life. I don’t really know – maybe more personal stuff behind the scenes.
BM: It’s a tough question for sure, but maybe some of the things that are just out of your control. Some things you can help, but sometimes you get forced off track or in an incident that’s not your fault – just things like that that you can’t really tell from video or interviews.
F1FS: What’s next for each of you after this season? How about five years from now? Where do you see yourself racing?
LH: Obviously, I’d like to be racing IndyCar. I’m going racing USF2000 next year, so on the road towards IndyCar, so that’s obviously my plan, hopefully, if everything works out.
BM: It’s kind of the same goal for me with IndyCar being at the top. Obviously, F1 is the dream goal, but it’s super difficult to get there nowadays, so I’d say IndyCar is definitely a more achievable goal. I’ve also been running a double programme with sports cars, GT cars, so maybe try to get a factory deal with BMW, Porsche, something like that.
F1FS: Bryson, are you looking at all towards Europe?
BM: I have done some races in Europe. I raced in Dubai, which is not Europe, but Mugello and Barcelona, and we won one of them, leading for 12 hours of the other one. It’s been pretty good so far in Europe, but things can change pretty fast.
F1FS: Who in particular has made this season special or really helped you get to this position?
LH: Firstly, obviously, my dad. I couldn’t go racing without my dad. He tries to pay the bills. Then obviously Jay Howard. He’s been the guy helping me do everything this year, taught me everything, so Jay, and also Joseph Hidalgo. He’s been my engineer. We have a really good relationship. I’ve had mechanics throughout the year who I’ve had great relationships as well with. All those people have made this year special especially since I didn’t know anyone before I came here. They’ve welcomed me and made it a good year.
BM: Definitely my family, coming out to the races to support me, and then on the team side of things, it would be Garry [Orton] and Gill [Kaszuba]. They run the team; they’ve been with me since I started racing the F4 programme. And also Stephen [Giles]’s been my engineer. He basically decides everything that goes on with the car. Things I want to change, stuff like that, so I wouldn’t be at this, where I’m at, without them.
F1FS: What would winning this championship mean to you?
LH: It’d be nice. Just another motorsport box ticked! But of course, I want to win everything I do, but at the end of the day, it’s just racing. It’s not like I got cancer or anything. I’ll do everything I can to win, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. Obviously I would be [happy]. It just makes all the hard work worth it, especially for me not racing the last two years. So I’m obviously very hungry.
BM: I’ve won a championship in 2020 [X30 Senior and KA100 Senior class titles in the SKUSA Pro Tour] and 2021 [Lucas Oil Formula Car Race Series], so it’d be nice to keep that streak going. It would also help out a lot with the scholarship for next year, going into Formula Regional, being able to run that. But at the same time, it’s not the end of the world if I don’t win this series. Like I said, I have the dual programme going on, so it’d definitely help out a lot, but if I don’t win, I don’t win. I think whoever wins deserves it. I think any of the four that are still in it, it would definitely be good for them to win.
Header photo credit: Bryson Morris PR + Jay Howard Driver Development PR
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