COOK F4 WINTER SERIES VICE-CHAMPION AS VERNON WINS ON DEBUT WEEKEND
Jake Cook and Kieran Vernon delivered yet more podium success for Hillspeed during the final event of the BRDC Formula 4 Winter Series at Brands Hatch in Kent over the weekend, 23rd/24th November, with category newcomer Vernon claiming his maiden victory in round eight of the campaign.
With two third place finishes in rounds five and six on Saturday, added to a brace of top four results on Sunday, Cook deservingly ended the Winter Series as Vice-Champion. Three podiums from four races for Vernon, meanwhile, enabled the F4 debutant to conclude the championship seventh in the points table despite missing the opening quartet of races at Snetterton at the start of the month.
Hillspeed’s third competitor, Dimitris Papanastasiou, rounded-off the Winter Series ninth in the driver standings – just five points shy of the top eight – with four top 10 results at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit, including a best of ninth position in round seven.
“Kieran did a fantastic job this weekend, he was under an incredible amount of pressure in the final race but he’s a smart driver and he could see what he needed to do”, said Richard Ollerenshaw, team principal of the Hathersage-based squad, “We knew he had to strike early and he did that with a great start. All three of our cars have now won a race in F4, which underlines how equal they are.
“It’s a shame we couldn’t win the title with Jake, it all came down to Saturday with qualifying not going to plan due to the red flag. He was on for pole, he only needed another 20 seconds to finish his quickest lap, and then they made a ridiculous decision not to re-start the session even though there were four and a half minutes left. It could have been pole and wins, instead it was two thirds.”
Starting the weekend within just two points of the championship lead, Cook had his work cut-out to close the gap to chief rival Matty Graham in round five on Saturday morning after qualifying fourth fastest as a result of the red flag stoppage. Even so, the Rotherham racer made a great getaway to instantly leap into the top three and he immediately set about pressuring Graham for second place.
With less than a second separating the pace-setting trio, the battle for the podium places was intense and Cook made his intentions clear with the fastest lap on the fourth tour. At the beginning of lap seven, though, the Safety Car was deployed due to an excursion for Gosia Rdest.
When the action re-started on lap 10, Cook held onto third and again pressed Graham for second but ultimately had to settle for the final step on the rostrum – his third podium of the campaign keeping him well within touch of the championship. Vernon, starting seventh on his F4 debut, moved into sixth on lap two before taking fifth on lap five and then setting off after the top four.
After the Safety Car period there was little to separate Vernon and Sennan Fielding in the fight for fourth place but the Hillspeed racer had to frustratingly hold station as both he and Fielding closed up to Cook during the latter stages of the race. Papanastasiou climbed into eighth position early on but an unfortunate excursion on lap three meant an eventual finish of 10th place for the Greek racer.
At the beginning of round six, Vernon made a good start from second on the grid while Cook produced a fantastic launch from fifth place and quickly climbed into the top three to importantly get ahead of Graham.
Vernon remained close behind pole-starter Fielding for the first five laps, with Cook right on the tail of his team-mate, and the Hillspeed duo continued to circulate just fractions of a second apart before ending the 25 lap encounter in that order, Vernon chalking-up his maiden F4 podium.
Papanastasiou once again showed improving pace and put together a strong drive, just missing out on snatching ninth position from Norwegian driver Fredrik Johansen by a mere 0.3 seconds after a good battle.
Vernon caps off strong F4 debut with excellent final round victory
Cook went into the final day of the Winter Series within only five points of the championship lead but the drying qualifying session didn’t work out in his favour, the title challenger having to settle for fifth on the grid for round seven with Vernon third and Papanastasiou ninth quickest.
Vernon slipped to fourth at the start, running just ahead of Cook, and the action at the front remained very tight for the opening third of the race. As light rain started to fall, the lead group really bunched up and Vernon saw his chance on lap 13 at Druids to pass Fielding for third.
One lap later, Cook leapt into the top four and the Hillspeed team-mates then began to swarm all over the back of second placed Pietro Fittipaldi’s car as the rain got heavier. Cook dived past Vernon for third on lap 18 and then took second place from Fittipaldi on lap 20 at Druids.
Unfortunately for Cook, though, all of his hard work was undone a lap later when a moment at Paddock Hill Bend dropped him back to fourth position, all but ending his title hopes – although Vernon profited to take second ahead of Fittipaldi. Papanastasiou pitted on lap 14 for wet-weather tyres and eventually ended the race in ninth position.
Vernon began the final round of the Winter Series from the front-row and after a great start he was able to grab the lead into Paddock Hill Bend before opening an impressive advantage over the first couple of laps.
From lap five onward, Vernon’s lead started to reduce as Fittipaldi closed in but he didn’t put a wheel wrong despite being under intense pressure throughout. Even though he hadn’t raced for more than a year prior to this weekend, Vernon showed no signs of rustiness and he went on to claim a memorable maiden F4 victory by 0.9 seconds.
Cook ran in the top three early on before being edged back to fourth, where he remained to the finish to seal the Vice-Champion’s spot in the championship. Papanastasiou rounded-out the Winter Series with another top 10 result, just 0.6 seconds behind regular rival Johansen at the flag.
“Dimitris has been a pleasure to work with throughout the Winter Series and he’s made some big improvements”, said Ollerenshaw, “He’s been running a very limited motorsport programme for several years but has shown well against drivers with significantly more seat time. We’d certainly welcome him back in the team next year.”
Final 2013 BRDC Formula 4 Winter Series Standings:
2nd Jake Cook, 152pts; 7th Kieran Vernon, 96pts; 9th Dimitris Papanastasiou, 85pts