Aiden Neate (left) and Louis Sharp (right) hug in parc fermé while in race kit

British F4 Brands Hatch preview: Can Rodin Carlin remain untouchable?

Louis Sharp and the Rodin Carlin team were nothing short of impressive at Donington Park in Round 1 of the 2023 British F4 Championship. The team left the weekend with three drivers in the top three of the drivers’ standings and the fourth leading the Rookie Cup. It’s one thing to impress in the season opener, but it’s another challenge entirely to continue that form all season and sustain a championship challenge.

By Gerren Scapens

Donington Park brought both wet and dry conditions, and the forecast suggests that the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit could feature much of the same. There will be some natural changes as well, with some of the drivers who had unlucky weekends at Round 1 bound to step back up and make their mark on the championship.

Daniel Guinchard is one such driver. At Donington, the young Brit featured on the podium in Race 1 before impacts to the rear of the car in both the reverse-grid Race 2 and Race 3 left him out of the points in the former and beached in the gravel trap in the latter.

Another driver who had a topsy-turvy weekend was Fortec Motorsport’s Aiden Neate. After qualifying in seventh, the Alpine Academy driver fell to 11th in Race 1, finished second from 15th in the reverse-grid Race 2 and then dropped from seventh to 11th again in Race 3.

Both drivers will be looking to fight at the front with more consistency this weekend, but they’ll have to contend with a Carlin team that is confident for multiple reasons. Sharp has built on his already impressive 2022 season to progress a step further already in 2023, winning the first two races at Donington and doing so from 20th in the second race. And not only have all of Carlin’s drivers shown great pace so far in race trim, but Sharp also topped the Brands Hatch Indy test for them in mid-March.

Neate did not take part in that pre-season test, which may prove pivotal. Not only did Sharp top the timings, but Guinchard took second place just 0.026 seconds behind. Also missing the test was Noah Lisle, who currently sits second in the standings and is the only driver besides Sharp to win a race in 2023. Lisle will, however, miss this round to race in Spanish F4’s season opener at Spa.

Hitech’s Will Macintyre and Carlin’s Dion Gowda were third and fourth in that test, just 0.100 and 0.133 seconds off Sharp. Gowda is 18 points off Sharp after a strong opening round, but Macintyre, like Neate, will be looking to jump up the order from seventh and join the frontrunning group.

The top 19 in qualifying at Donington Park finished within a second of Lisle’s pole time of a 1:04.527. British F4 cars can lap Brands Indy in less than 45 seconds, meaning the margins are likely to be even tighter and consistency even more important. The main question remains whether anyone can be consistent and fast enough to take the fight to Sharp.

Header photo credit: British F4 / Jakob Ebrey Photography


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