Confused about where America’s newest junior open-wheeler category fits into the racing landscape? We’ve prepared this handy primer to bring you up to speed on U.S. Formula 4.
WHAT IS THE PITCH?
FIA Formula 4 was conceived by the FIA Single Seater Commission as an affordable first step from karts into cars. Open to drivers aged 15 and above, F4 will be run as a series of national championships using the same specification of cars and similar-specifications of engines, potentially allowing for a point of comparison for drivers from different championships.
U.S Formula 4, which was launched on Thursday at COTA and will commence racing next year, joins previously announced F4 championships in the UK, Italy, Germany, New Zealand, Japan, China and Australia. More are expected to be announced soon.
All championships are run by FIA-affiliated national sporting authorities – SCCA Pro Racing, in the case of the U.S. championship – and will run on grade 4 FIA-certified tracks.
WHAT DOES IT COST?
By normal racing standards, not much. The chassis will cost $45,000 (the price is locked in for the next three years), which includes paddle-shift, data acquisition and an on-board camera. An engine lease is $6600 per year, and an engine will be owned by the lessee after three seasons. Engine rebuilds are pegged at $1600; tires are $250 each.
WHAT DO YOU GET FOR YOUR MONEY
An American-designed and built Crawford Composites chassis (ABOVE), a 158 horsepower Honda engine (LEFT), and bespoke tires from Pirelli. One you’ve got all of those bolted together – the car is not currently available as a turn-key, although that might change in the future – you get to race it through a 15-round season.
“Those [races] will, geographically, be mostly focused on the east side of the country,” said SCCA Pro president Robert Clarke.
“If you draw a line through Road America and COTA – basically, east of that. Starting in 2017 and 2018, in ’17 it’ll go up to seven events and 21 races, and ’18 will go to eight events and 24 races moving towards the west.”
One of the big selling points for the series is time in the cockpit: each race weekend will feature two practice sessions, one qualifying session and three races, for a combined total of three hours of track time.
The series offers prize money: a race win earns $1000, as does finishing as the overall winner for the weekend. The projected payout for winning the championship ranges from $25,000 in 2017 to $100,000 in 2018, depending on car count.
Drivers will also potentially be eligible for superlicenses, which are required to race in Formula 1. And in 2017, there are plans to bring the various national champions together to compete in a world final.
DOES THE U.S. NEED ANOTHER JUNIOR OPEN-WHEELER CATEGORY?
We’ll defer to Clarke (FAR RIGHT) again for this one:
“Many of you might be thinking, ‘Just what we need; another ladder series open-wheel series.’ And the answer is, it is. F4 is exactly what this country needs. Because F4 is not a car. F4 is a program, a very comprehensive program.
“It’s a program that is very well-conceived from the FIA to attract new, younger drivers into motorsports in a way that provides them with a contemporary, modern product; a very affordable means of operation. It gives them marketing support. F4 is perfect from that point of view.”