British F4’s Formula 1 hopefuls: Daniel Guinchard, Oliver Gray and Ugo Ugochukwu on their 2022

Oliver Gray, Daniel Guinchard, and Ugo Ugochukwu are three young drivers competing in British F4 2022 – however, they are perhaps better known for their coveted affiliation with Formula 1 Academies. At the 2022 British F4 launch, F1 Feeder Series had the opportunity to chat to these promising young talents, discussing their hopes for the season ahead, the support they receive from their academies, and their Formula 1 hopes.

By Aisha Sembhi

Of the fifteen confirmed drivers competing in the British Formula 4 championship, three have an additional commitment beyond their team within the paddock, belonging to Formula 1 junior academies. Carlin drivers Oliver Gray and Ugo Ugochukwu are affiliated with Williams and McLaren respectively, whilst Argenti Motorsport driver Daniel Guinchard is linked to Mercedes-AMG.

The season ahead: chasing the top spot

When asked their aims for this year, all three drivers agree on chasing the top spot. “Everyone wants to win,” Guinchard says, “That’s why we race – we always want to be on top.”

Both Gray and Ugochukwu, competing with Carlin, acknowledge their teammate Louis Sharp as a potential front-runner. “No one had really heard of him before! His first day in the new car has only been today, due to delays with ordering.” Gray states, “But he’s really impressed everyone, and I think he’ll definitely be strong when he becomes more experienced.”

Similarly, Guinchard highlights his teammate Aiden Neate as a driver to watch out for: “He’s shown flashes of brilliance, and he’s been good in winter testing.”

“And JHR, of course, are strong as a team, and their drivers will always perform,” Guinchard continues, “I think it’ll be a good mix this season. There’ll be drivers who are fast at different circuits, so it’ll be a really competitive season.”

Ugochukwu echoes this sentiment: “I think it’ll be so competitive. There’ll be different people at the top of different tracks. It’s hard to say now – I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!”

For Guinchard and Ugochukwu, the 2022 season marks a new challenge in their motorsport careers. “Me and [Ugochukwu] are rookies,” he explains, “It would be nice to perform right at the top, and that’s what I’m hoping for. But it won’t be too much of a surprise if I get to Round 1 and I’m not right at the front. But I hope to be later in the season.”

“As rookies, it’s important to learn as much as possible.” Ugochukwu reiterates, “For me, testing has gone well, and we’ve found some good potential. I think we can be fighting at the top.”

On the other hand, Gray, with previous experience in British F4, has an additional pressure in his journey: “I’m older than both [Guinchard] and [Ugochukwu], and this is my second year in F4. It’s a lot of pressure to perform. I really need to make the jump to FIA championships as soon as possible.”

“I need to just win this year!” Gray laughs, whilst Guinchard retaliates: “We won’t make it that easy for you!”

Testing the new Tatuus chassis & Pirelli tyres

For all three drivers, there is an emphasis on learning and development in testing that is prioritised over simply being the fastest on track. Gray, who finished P3 in morning testing, right behind Guinchard, describes this approach: “We’re just working through the motions at the moment, trying to understand the car more and more every session.”

“It’s been a really good morning,” Guinchard adds, “I ended up P2 overall in testing during the morning session, but we were all pretty close – it’s within hundreths of a second. It’s definitely going to be a competitive season. We’re a bit on the backfoot when you compare us to teams like Hitech, for example. But we’re getting there.”

2022 sees the introduction of a second-generation British F4 car with a Tatuus chassis and Abarth engine, as well as a move away from the Hankook tyre to the Pirelli tyre used in FIA Formula 3, 2, and 1. All three drivers agree that the change presents an additional factor for consideration within this crucial testing period.

Gray specifically acknowledges how the new tyre can potentially affect his race preparation, after racing with the Hankook tyre during his F4 UAE stint this year: “It was a bit of a reset coming back to the UK from the UAE series. This definitely negated some of the advantages you usually get by being a second-year driver. But I’ve got all that race experience behind me, whereas [Guinchard and Ugochukwu] are fresh out of karting. I’m hoping to use that experience to my advantage.”

Formula 1 academies

Gray, Guinchard, and Ugochukwu are members of different Formula 1 academies, though all three detail the same extra pressure to perform well every race weekend. “Getting picked up by junior programmes was a direct result of us doing a good job, and showing our Formula 1 sponsors what we can do.” Guinchard says, “I made junior karting history – that must’ve attracted Mercedes to support me this season, and hopefully into the future. It’s important to keep performing.”

For Guinchard, the application of pressure prompts an increase in motivation. “Mercedes knows what I can do, and it just encourages me to keep proving that to them every time I race. They provide a lot of support physically, especially with budgets this year. Pretty much everything I need to prepare as a driver – from sim work to nutrition plans – they provide. Mercedes have seen a lot of success, so it’s nice to be part of their family and see how they work together to achieve that success.”

“It definitely gives you more confidence,” Gray reiterates, detailing how Williams Academy supports his motorsport career, “There’s big support coming from Williams. I get to work with junior F1 engineers on the sim, and that allows for progression to F3 and F2 to become a little bit easier. We also get to attend quite a few of the F1 races this year. Just being with Williams and the garage, and working alongside the team bosses – it’s so valuable. I’m just learning as much as I can. I was one of the top rookies last year, and I feel so much more prepared this year.”

For Ugochukwu, his McLaren sponsorship allows for full focus on his British F4 debut: “McLaren are a great team in the sport, and they offer a lot of support throughout the junior series. It means I can just fully focus on this season, and nothing else. I’ve been at the factory a couple of times this year, for training and seeing how everything operates there. It just gives you that confidence to work throughout the season.”

Future plans

All three drivers agree that, in future, there is one championship in mind – Formula 1. However, Gray, Guinchard, and Ugochukwu also reached a consensus on the fact that there is no set plan to achieve this goal. “You just have to take it one step at a time,” Ugochukwu explains, “It’s kind of hard to know where you’ll be in four or five years’ time. You just have to focus on the job you need to do now, and the current season. Everything else will come later.”

Guinchard seconds this sentiment: “It’s difficult to plan future moves in motorsport because everything changes all the time. My position next year depends on how I perform this year. It’s just too hard to plan anything far in advance. That’s the same for everyone.”

Header photo credit: Mercedes, Williams & McLaren

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