Coming from karting you never know how you are going to adapt to single-seaters. Many a karting champion has disappointed when making the transition to car racing. These seven Formula 4 debutants though, have shown they needed little to no adaption at all.
By Floris Visman
It’s exciting to see new talent come through, year after year. But it’s also pretty difficult to predict how one’s trajectory will be climbing up the feeder series ladder towards Formula 1. Not only talent is needed, or an excellent (top sport) mentality is needed, but also a pile of cash the size of Mount Rushmore is getting more important by the year.
For this list I left out the financial side and concentrated on the performance side mostly. How long did it take them to get up to speed, are they error prone, how consistent are they, do they possess raw speed? You should definitely keep an eye on the following seven Formula 4 rookies.
In alphabetic order:
Hugh Barter (15, Australia)
Usually a driver has to pay a hefty sum for a season of Formula 4 in any series, but Australian Hugh Barter didn’t have to pay a single cent because he won the Richard Mille Young Talent Academy 2020 (the brainchild of Nicolas Todt). The win got him a seat for the 2021 French F4 season. The jury verdict: “We felt that Hugh Barter had been the most consistent at each stage and his profile corresponds to our expectations in the field of young hopefuls that we wish to support towards the highest level of motor racing.” It was also the first time ever he drove an F4 car in the wet.
In testing ahead of the season at three French circuits Barter, who did karting in 2019 for Daniel Ricciardo’s Patrizicorse team back in Australia, was amongst the fastest drivers. It didn’t take Barter long to win a race in Formula 4. In just the third race of the season at Nogaro he recorded a victory, It proved to be the start of a four-race podium streak.
To date the Japan born, Melbourne, Australia raised Barter has recorded one victory and one fastest lap in the first nine races. If Barter will be the new Ricciardo remains to be seen of course, but a close third in the championship is a great start. His consistency seems to be his main strength (he finished all the races in the points), but he could work on his (qualifying) speed as he has no pole positions and just one fastest lap.
Maceo Capietto (15, France)
The French F4 Championship has been fairly strong the last few years. The likes of Caio Collet, Hadrien David, Arthur Leclerc and Isack Hadjar started their feeder series career in the series for instance. Maceo Capietto is likely to add his name to this list of drivers. The Frenchman has had a good karting career finishing runner-up in the French Junior Karting Championship in 2019 and third in the FIA Karting Academy Trophy last season.
Success came quick this season for the 15-year-old. He got his first podium in only the third race of the season at season opener Nogaro and bagged a further two fastest laps, showing outright pace. His first victory came the next round at Magny-Cours where he won the first race. Another victory and a maiden pole position followed at the Hungaroring, round three of the championship.
Despite not starting one race he is in second place and just 40 points behind the more experienced championship leader Esteban Masson. His strong start to the season, and because of the fact that his dad (Guillaume Capietto) is Prema’s Formula 2 engineer and team manager, he made his debut in Italian F4 at Imola. Those three races earned him 9 points in the Rookies’ Championship.
Jesse Carrasquedo Jr. (14, Mexico)
Together with French F4, Danish F4 is the only European Formula 4 Championship where 14-year-olds are allowed to race. And that’s something Jesse Carrasquedo and his entourage are taking full advantage of. Despite being one of, if not the youngest driver in Formula 4, Carrasquedo has a team that is very carefully planning his career. He is being followed by F1 driver Sergio Perez, having been part of Perez’s racing school back in Guadalajara. Since 2017 Carrasquedo has been karting in Europe and he is training with the Campos Racing Academy.
The main focus for the Mexican this season is the FIA Karting European Championship. But it is clear that single-seater racing has always been in the back of his mind and a clear goal. “In parallel to the tests I am conducting in F4 in preparation for my debut in 2022, I am focused on this season in OK.” He turned that goal into a reality this June when his age allowed him to make his debut in Danish F4. Against the likes of Juju Noda and Emerson Fittipaldi Jr., he took two victories on debut.
Despite a fantastic debut in F4, the Mexican still has some work to do. “Jesse has been involved in too many jostles or contacts at the start,” said his team about his performance in a karting round. “This caused him to lose valuable positions during these crucial moments in the race. It’s a pity, because he then showed himself capable of running at a very strong pace once the pack calmed down.” But being just 14-year-old, this seems solvable.
McKenzy Cresswell (15, UK)
Yes, McKenzy Cresswell was born in the UK and lives and competes in the UK, but the majority of his live he resided in Texas with his family. That’s where he started his karting career and eventually the family moved back to the UK when he was 12 and he continued his karting career there. In December of last year he signed with British F4 team JHR Developments for his first year in single-seaters.
Cresswell wasn’t shy when asked about his goals for the season. “Obviously, I want to win the championship, and I wouldn’t be racing if I didn’t believe that I could, but it’s my first year, and this is a very competitive series. A realistic goal is to win the rookie championship, but anything can happen, and I will be sure to be pushing as hard as I can.” His pre-season tests reinforced those words.
His qualifying speed has been very well, straight from the start. He got his first podium in only his third single-seater race at Thruxton and added another three in the six races after. It brought him a strong third position in the championship after three rounds, but unlike his team mate rookie Matthew Rees, he hasn’t won a race yet. If he can up his qualifying speed just a little and perfect his race craft, he might be able to challenge for the title in the second half of the season.
Dilano van’t Hoff (17, The Netherlands)
The Dutch and Spanish F4 have proven to be a fruitful combination the past few years. MP Motorsport took four out of five driver titles since the championship was conceived and twice a Dutch driver was behind the wheel: Richard Verschoor in 2016 and Kas Haverkort in 2020. The others were Christian Lundgaard (2017), Amaury Cordeel (2018) and Franco Colapinto (2019). It suffices to say the Dutch team is the place to be in Spanish F4, and that’s what karting driver Dilano van’t Hoff must have thought.
But before then 16 year old Van’t Hoff signed a deal with MP, he contested winter championship F4 UAE. It turned out to be a heated battle for the title with Enzo Trulli. Unbelievably Van’t Hoff lost out to Trulli by just one point. His qualifying stats were off the charts: he took all but two pole positions. The Dutch driver also recorded five wins in the first nine races, but failed to win a single one in the final eleven.
In Spanish F4 he continues winning and racking up pole positions though: four wins in nine races and six pole positions. The 17-year-old has almost double the points of his nearest rival Sebastian Ogaard and more than three times the amount of points his nearest team mate (one of nine!) in the standings Noah Degnbol has. If Van’t Hoff can keep a calm head in the second part of the season, he might break some records.
Matthew Rees (15 or 16, UK)
The road to single-seaters has not been easy for Matthew Rees. In 2019 he had to put his promising karting career on hold due to family illness. Half way 2020 he picked up his career and got the chance to do some testing in JHR Developments simulator and eventually he got to testing the real thing. JHR liked what they saw and contracted him for 2021.
It’s hard to ignore the talent the kid possesses. At Thruxton and Snetterton he took al four pole positions. Showing that kind of outright pace off the bat is not seen often. But it did not stop there. At Snetterton he took his maiden car racing win and added a second to it the same weekend. At Brands Hatch he added another pole to his name.
If it wasn’t for a wrong choice of tires in the first race of the season, Cardiff born Rees might have been leading the championship by now. But with a whopping seven rounds still to go, all is to play for. But he is happy to be doing what he loves and that is what drives him to keep developing: “I just want to make a name for myself in this sport and get paid to do what I love.”
Enzo Trulli (16, Italy)
Enzo Trulli, isn’t he in Euroformula Open? Isn’t that a Formula 3 series? Yes it is. Then why is he in this list? Well, you might not remember but Trulli made his Formula 4 debut in the 2021 F4 UAE season. The F4 series is an excellent preparation for a series like, for instance, Italian F4 or Spanish F4. There is no overlap as it is driven in the off season and there are super license points up for grabs. For drivers with ambition (and of course the money) an excellent first step into single-seaters.
But, to compete is one, to perform is a hard second. But from the bat it looks like he got his talent form his dad, former Formula 1 driver Jarno Trulli. While he didn’t take any pole positions or score as much wins as his main rival Dilano van’t Hoff, he was mega consistent. For instance he finished on the podium 13 out of 20 races. With a one-point difference to the Dutch driver, Trulli took the title.
The plan was then to participate in Spanish F4 with FA Racing by Drivex, but that deal turned into a move to Euroformula Open with Drivex. After three rounds though (and a podium at Portimao), a disagreement over the contract meant he was out of a seat. He missed the round at the Hungaroring, but surprised by returning at the next round at Imola when he signed a deal with Carlin. The jump immediately to EFO wasn’t an easy one, but he dealt with it well.
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