Spectacular, winged, open-wheeled … the 20 Formula 1® cars that will contest the Formula 1® Rolex Australian Grand Prix 2019 won’t be the only race cars fitting that description on the Albert Park circuit this year.
Looking like a F1® car that’s been too long in the wash and has shrunk, Formula 4 cars will race at the Australian Grand Prix this year for the very first time.
Formula 4 is a global junior development category, introduced to Australia four years ago, that is the first step in the international pathway that ultimately leads to Grand Prix racing.
The category bridges the gap between kart racing, where most aspiring Grand Prix stars begin their motorsport careers as youngsters, and the move into racing cars, and ultimately up through the ranks of Formula 3 and Formula 2 to Formula 1®.
Just as the Grand Prix paddock at Albert Park will as ever be full of young drivers with aspirations to be World Champion, so too will the Formula 4 paddock, where dreams of a career in the sport are the first step, and maybe one day they too will be back at the Melbourne track in the Formula 1® pit lane.
Formula 4 has been conceived to introduce young drivers – the minimum age is 15, the oldest in the field in 2018 was 18 – to modern open-wheeled racing cars, which is why they look like scaled-down Formula 1® racers.
Built by French manufacturer Mygale, the Formula 4 racer is the same the world over.
The monocoque chassis is made from carbon fibre with impact-absorbing front and rear structures, with anti-intrusion side panels, and a roll hoop. It has a removable seat, foam head restraint, wheel tethers, on-board fire extinguisher system, retractable steering wheel and column, plus an on-board camera and a data recorder, and accident data recorder system.
There is a heavy emphasis on safety, just as there is in Formula 1®.
Power comes from a Ford Ecoboost 1.6 litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing about 120kW, mounted in the rear behind the driver, hooked up to a Sadev six-speed racing transmission, operated by a sequential paddle shift system.
Suspension is traditional racing car … a double-wishbone independent system front and rear featuring pushrods, twin dampers and an adjustable anti-roll bar. Brakes are vented discs all round with two-piston calipers, wheels are 13in diameter, 8in wide at the front and 10in at the rear.
Aerodynamics are provided by adjustable front and rear wings.
This specification has been deliberately developed to be a scaled-down version of a Formula 1® car, to give Formula 4 drivers real-world experience and understanding of racing car dynamics, which will be vital to track performance as they progress up the motorsport ladder.
Formula 4 will contest six Championship rounds over four race meetings in 2019, not only making its first-ever appearance at the Australian Grand Prix event but also at the new facility near Tailem Bend in South Australia called The Bend.
Other rounds will be at Sydney Motorsport Park and Phillip Island.
Australian Formula 4 competitors won’t just be racing for Grand Prix glory at Albert Park this year and of course the Championship title, but also for three spots in the inaugural Asia Pacific Cup, which is to be raced in China in 2020.
The Australian Formula 4 Championship will contest three races across the Formula 1® Rolex Australian Grand Prix 2019 weekend, 14-17 March.