Yesterday, I must have been one of only a handful of motorsport fans in the country not watching Jenson Button take his maiden F1 title for Brawn GP.
Instead, I was watching the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, one of the places where it all began for the boy from Frome.
Jenson won the famous Festival in 1998 and this year’s crop provided an exciting day’s racing, which more than made up for me missing the race in Brazil. Although it’s probably not one of those ‘where were you when…?’ moments for Button winning the title, I was stuck in traffic on the South Circular listening to the guys on Radio 5Live go bananas. Entertaining stuff.
A look down the list at past Formula Ford Festival winners throws up many F1 graduates: Mark Webber (who of course won in Brazil), Eddie Irvine, Johnny Herbert and Anthony Davidson to name four. But Button is now unique in having won both the Festival and the F1 title, which is sure to be an incentive for this year’s crop of challengers.
So what of this year’s Festival? It’s hard to think of a better value motorsport event in this country. Brands provided as spectacular a setting as ever, and the racing was quick fire and action packed, without major delay.
Formula Ford is an exciting Formula generally. Take away the wings seen in more senior Formula, including F1, F3, Formula Renault and GP2, and you create less downforce. This leads to closer racing and overtaking manoeuvres aplenty.
This year’s winner Chrissy Palmer was one of several drivers to end up with a suspicious looking hole in his front nose cone. This was from driving right under the gearbox of the driver in front. These young guys aren’t afraid to push their way through, which certainly created an extra thrill factor the crowd.
No Festival winner has gone on to graduate to F1 since Davidson in 2000, but with Festival entries increasing and some of the prestige returning to the event, I wouldn’t bet against some of this year’s crop following Button into F1 one day.