LIMA SIXTH IN CHAMPIONSHIP AFTER CONSISTENT START TO F4 SEASON
Gustavo Lima ended the opening event of the 2014 BRDC Formula 4 Championship season sixth in the driver standings for Hillspeed, thanks to three very consistent race performances at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit over the weekend, 26th/27th April.
The Brazilian driver, who has switched to the Hathersage team for his second year in the category, produced a best finish of sixth position in round one on Saturday afternoon before adding seventh and ninth place results in Sunday’s pair of encounters.
Returning Malaysian racer Rahul Raj Mayer also secured his best result during the season-opening race, claiming ninth position, while Mexican rookie Alfredo Zabalza bounced back from two highly unfortunate non-finishes to claim his first points with a very respectable 16th position in race three.
“Gustavo and Rahul have both had a decent weekend”, reflected Hillspeed team principal Richard Ollerenshaw, “It’s always important to try and get the season off to a clean start with three finishes and they both achieved that. We’re very comfortable with the wet-weather pace we have, there’s a little bit of work to do in dry conditions but we’re sure we’ll be right there at Brands Hatch.
“It has been a tough first weekend for Alfredo, it’s unfortunate a couple of incidents in the first two races stopped him getting the race mileage he needs under his belt. He really needed to get a finish in race three and he did that with a strong drive – that was important.”
Lima impressed during rain-lashed officially timed testing on Friday, 25th April, with the second best time overall – less than 0.2 seconds shy of the outright pace – while Zabalza was an excellent ninth on his category debut and Mayer was 13th fastest.
Repeating his front-running form in the wet qualifying session on Saturday, Lima posted the third fastest lap to secure a spot on the second row of the round one grid with Mayer a lofty sixth quickest – by far the best performance of his career – and rookie Zabalza 17th fastest.
Race one of the weekend was fully dry and although Lima was shuffled back to fifth on lap one and lost another place soon after, the Brazilian lapped with top three pace but ultimately had to settle for sixth position.
Mayer also lost out at the start, slipping to 10th place over the course of the first couple of laps, but he battled back into ninth on lap three and cemented the position during the second half of the race as he pulled clear of the chasing pack. Zabalza, meanwhile, unfortunately retired from his debut race on lap two following an excursion which damaged the front of the car.
With the grid for round two taken from the result of Saturday’s encounter, with the exception of the top eight finishers which were ‘reversed’, Lima started the first of Sunday’s races from third on the grid while Mayer was ninth and Zabalza lined-up in 21st position.
Beginning under dark skies, round two was affected by some light rain but not enough to cause too many difficulties for the slick tyre-shod cars. Lima launched well from third on the grid and found the required grip through the slippery turns at Maggots and Becketts to move into the lead.
Despite heavy pressure, the Brazilian maintained first place until lap three when George Russell managed to edge ahead. Then under pressure for second, Lima did a great job of fending off his pursuers until three laps from the finish when he was shuffled back before the flag to fifth.
The misfortune blighting Zabalza’s maiden weekend in BRDC Formula 4 continued in round two when he was forced to retire on the second lap. Team-mate Mayer, meanwhile, lost out on the opening lap to slip from ninth to 14th position. Edged back to 15th on lap two, he then battled his way back into 13th place. On the final lap, though, the Malaysian slipped to 14th again.
Round three on Sunday afternoon was fully dry and Lima was, once again, the highest placed of the Hillspeed trio on the grid in seventh position with Mayer 12th and Zabalza in 19th place. Over the course of the first lap Lima moved up into the top six and, despite sustaining a damaged front wing, he saw off strong early challenges from William Palmer and Chris Middlehurst.
Edged back to seventh on lap three, though, the Brazilian was then elbowed down to 10th on lap five but managed to retain the placing to the finish. Mayer almost unseated Lima for the final top 10 spot late on, but he had to settle for 13th in the end after being attacked twice over the final two laps.
Zabalza had an incredibly tough challenge from 21st on the grid but the inexperienced Mexican produced a superb first lap, remarkably climbing into 16th position. Although shuffled back to 18th place, Zabalza eventually managed to make 17th position his own on the last lap. Post-race, though, several penalties elevated Lima into ninth, Mayer into 11th place and Zabalza into 16th position.
Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit in Kent will host rounds four, five and six of the BRDC Formula 4 season over the weekend 17th/18th May. Before then, Hillspeed’s Ginetta Junior Championship team will be back in action at Thruxton in Hampshire next weekend, 3rd/4th May.
Provisional 2014 BRDC Formula 4 Championship Standings (after Rd3):
6th Gustavo Lima, 45pts; 12th Rahul Raj Mayer, 29pts; 22md Alfredo Zabalza, 5pts