Viewed from the rear, eight racecars are lined up nose to tail on asphalt as green trees cascade behind them in the distance

How ADAC F4’s demise illustrates the fall of German motorsport

There were rumblings surrounding the future of ADAC’s junior formula series with recent reports ranging from a cancellation of the 2023 season to a complete end to the series. And now, with the 2023 season officially cancelled, we might have seen the last race of ADAC Formula 4 already.

By Jan Husmann

After eight seasons of continuous running, even throughout a global pandemic, ADAC Formula 4 will not accept entries for the 2023 season. While unconfirmed reports surfaced in the last two weeks that this might happen, the confirmation still shocks the world of junior single-seaters, as ADAC F4 was once the top Formula 4 series.

While ADAC Motorsport is continuing to strengthen its GT program by acquiring the rights to DTM, single-seaters have seen a big downturn in recent years. ADAC F4 barely ran with more than 10 cars at the end of 2022 after having 30 or more competitors in earlier years.

ADAC confirmed to F1 Feeder Series that a return of the series in the future is still possible if teams show enough interest. But, with more national Formula 4 series in Europe, this interest might not be there for some time. US Racing have already planned not to contest ADAC F4 for 2023; PHM Racing will compete in FIA F2 and F3; and Prema will find a different series besides Italian F4 to give their drivers as many opportunities as possible, with ACI’s Euro 4 series, expected to be announced soon, a likely destination.

ADAC Formula Junior Team in French F4

ADAC will instead focus on driver development. “We have a lot of talented motorsports athletes in Germany. However, in recent years a large number have been unable to make the step up to Formula racing due to very high costs,” ADAC Sport President Gerd Esner explained.

While local hero Tim Tramnitz finished runner-up in the 2021 season, there have not been more than two German drivers competing at an ADAC F4 race weekend since 2019.

In 2023, two German drivers will compete in the French F4 Championship with financial support from ADAC through the new ADAC Formula Junior Team. The application process has already started, with drivers born in 2006, 2007 and 2008 eligible. Drivers must pay a participation fee of €99,000 plus €9,000 in insurance to take part in French F4.

This price tag is lower than what most teams expect for a whole season of Formula 4, especially if the ADAC–backed drivers will have a competitive team around them. But with more than €100,000 needed to race, there will still be racing talent lost because of lack of financial backing.

For the long-term future, ADAC wants to keep its options open. ADAC’s plan is to expand the junior team in the upcoming years. Additionally, a French F4 race on German soil is not off the table, even for 2023, ADAC confirmed to F1 Feeder Series, and both a merger with French F4 and a new Germany-based series, among other options, have also been taken into consideration.

Lack of participation and funding

But even with a lot of optimism from ADAC, it is undeniable that the cancellation of their F4 series is a blow to German single-seater racing.

Nico Hülkenberg will be the only German driver at F1 race weekends in 2023, with no German driver expected to compete in either FIA Formula 2 or FIA Formula 3 as long as new Trident signing Oliver Goethe continues to compete under a Monégasque license in FIA F3. Furthermore, no German driver is part of any F1 driver academy after Mick Schumacher’s departure from the Ferrari programme.

For a country that won 10 of 17 Formula One World Drivers’ Championships from 2000 to 2016, this is incredibly disappointing. Today, ADAC is bearing the bad news, but the underlying issue is something the German automobile association is struggling with itself.

Motorsports are underfunded and declining in interest in Germany. Formula One is no longer available on German free TV, Mercedes’ F1 team has all its facilities outside of Germany, and neither big sponsors nor government institutions care enough to put the German Grand Prix back on the F1 calendar.

Formula One is growing in popularity all over the world, especially among young people, but the positive momentum has not carried over to the German single-seater scene. Two drivers in French F4 will not make a significant impact, and Audi’s F1 entrance is still three years away.

Audi will have most of its motorsport facilities in Germany, and there is hope that Audi’s (and potentially Porsche’s) F1 entry will bring more sustained interest and financial investment from German sponsors. Until then, lean years are ahead for formula racing in Germany.

Header photo credit: ADAC F4


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