ELEVENTH HOUR REPLACEMENT CHRISTO ALMOST ON F4 PODIUM FOR HILLSPEED
Experienced single-seater racer Riki Christodoulou almost claimed podium success for Hillspeed during a one-off outing in the BRDC Formula 4 Championship at Silverstone over the weekend, 30th/31st May, where he competed as a replacement for injured youngster Al Faisal Al Zubair.
While Omani teenager Al Zubair was prevented from taking part in the third event of the season after sustaining a leg injury, unrelated to motorsport, Christodoulou was drafted in as a last minute substitute and the former British F3 race winner certainly reconfirmed his pace on his F4 debut.
Posting a best finish of fifth in the third race of the weekend on Sunday, round nine, the 26-year-old West Midlander had been in contention for the rostrum in race one on Saturday afternoon but an unfortunate tangle with Harri Newey instead resulted in a frustrating retirement.
Regular Hillspeed drivers Sebastian Lanzetti and Ameya Vaidyanathan, meanwhile, secured best results of ninth and 13th position respectively after three hard-fought and incident packed BRDC F4 races for the category rookies.
“It’s been great working with a driver of Riki’s experience and calibre this weekend and despite very little time in the car he did, as you’d expect, a fantastic job”, said Hillspeed team principal Richard Ollerenshaw, “He deserved much more from the weekend but he raced very well and I want to say a big thank you to everyone at MSV for giving us permission to run Riki in place of Faisal.
“Seb and Ameya had three fairly tough races but they each picked up some valuable points and continued to learn and understand more about the car. It wasn’t quite the weekend we’d hoped for at Silverstone but, all in all, it’s not been too bad and there’s plenty to build on for Snetterton.”
Christodoulou was the highest placed of the Hillspeed trio on the round seven grid on Saturday, starting his first ever race in BRDC F4 from sixth position, with Lanzetti an uncharacteristic 17th and Vaidyanathan two places further back.
Making a great start and putting together a strong opening lap, Christodoulou moved into the top four and set about challenging for the podium but on lap five the tangle with Newey resulted in a bitterly disappointing retirement.
While Lanzetti and Vaidyanathan each had a literal mountain to climb, the team-mates managed to work their way through the order well. Avoiding any incident, by lap six the Hillspeed duo held 11th and 12th positions respectively where they remained to the chequered flag – Vaidyanathan doing a good job to keep challenger Michael O’Brien at bay.
Unfortunately post-race Vaidyanathan was handed a 10 second penalty, after being deemed to have been out of position at the start, so he was re-classified in 13th place. Lanzetti was also given the same penalty, but his position was unchanged. The issue arose when another driver initially took up the wrong grid position, leading to something of a chain reaction further down the order.
At the start of Sunday morning’s rain-affected contest, Christodoulou lined up in 18th position after his race one dramas but the former British F3 and Formula Renault UK ace made good use of his experience to carve his way through the order with some superb driving.
Into 14th position by the start of lap three, ‘Christo’ had climbed into the top 10 within just two more laps and also set fastest lap pace mid-distance. With a realistic chance of a top six finish at least, Christodoulou was into seventh with two laps to go but an unfortunate spin on the final tour at Club undid his hard work and resulted in an eventual finish of ninth.
Lanzetti and Vaidyanathan each had a challenging race in the wet conditions, the South African slipping to 16th midway through but managing to end the contest in 13th place. Vaidyanathan didn’t fare as well, finishing the race in 17th position, but after the contest he was elevated into 16th place when Chris Mealin was excluded.
For round nine, the track had dried and the weather improved so all cars were back on slick Pirelli tyres. Christodoulou started in sixth position and he maintained his placing over the first few laps, bottled up behind the group of cars ahead.
Swarming all over the back of Ciaran Haggerty’s car during the mid-part of the race, Christodoulou managed to sneak through to fifth on lap seven and then grabbed fourth from Jordan Albert on lap eight around the outside at Brooklands, a superb move. Albert hit back, though, on the final tour to edge the Hillspeed car back to fifth before the finish.
Lanzetti raced strongly in the weekend’s final contest, particularly during the early stages where he climbed into the top eight. Edged back to 10th place on lap seven, he remained there into the last lap where he moved up into ninth at the expense of Jack Bartholomew.
Starting in the top 15, Vaidyanathan was shuffled back to 17th position on lap one where he spent the majority of the 10 lap contest. Moving into 16th spot with a few laps to go, on the final tour the Indian racer profited from troubles for two rivals to move up into 14th position.
There is now a six week break in the BRDC Formula 4 calendar with rounds 10, 11 and 12 of the 2015 campaign set to take place over the weekend 11th/12th July at Snetterton 300 Circuit in Norfolk.
Provisional Duo BRDC Formula 4 Championship Driver Standings (after Rd9):
11th Sebastian Lanzetti, 89pts
16th Ameya Vaidyanathan, 69pts
17th Al Faisal Al Zubair, 54pts