On Sunday evening in the humid oasis of Abu Dhabi, Lewis Hamilton capped off a triumphant year for British open wheel racing: for the first time ever, the GP3, GP2 and Formula 1 champions have all heralded from the United Kingdom. The successes of Alex Lynn, Jolyon Palmer and now Hamilton reflect the depth of talent that Britain currently boasts, and although it may sound like the cause for an outpouring of patriotism, the success of Britain’s single seater drivers is definitely something to marvel at.
Alex Lynn – GP3 Series Champion
A current scholar to the Red Bull junior programme, Lynn has been well backed throughout his open wheel career. After experiencing success in the British Formula Renault and Formula 3 championships Lynn headed to European Formula 3 with series giants Prema Powerteam. He came third in an intensely competitive 2013 championship and rounded off the year in style with a commanding win at Macau. Lynn’s switch to GP3 in 2014 proved to be the ideal move, as he scored eight podiums which included wins at Catalunya, Spa-Francorchamps and the Red Bull Ring. However, he had to wait until the final weekend of the season to secure his title, as championship rival and compatriot Dean Stoneman failed to secure pole for the feature race. Lynn later admitted that it seemed strange to win the title during qualifying, but in the end it didn’t matter how he did it.
The GP3 finale further cemented opinion that Lynn is a worthy candidate for the now vacant second Toro Rosso F1 seat, and while the other contenders (a list that includes Carlos Sainz Jr and Antonio Felix da Costa) may have more racing experience, there is little doubt that Lynn is more than capable of being competitive at the highest level. Interestingly, the 2014 GP3 Series in general has been a positive one for British Motorsport. With six of the top ten drivers hailing from the United Kingdom, it’s clear that Britain’s depth of junior racing talent doesn’t merely stop at Lynn.
Jolyon Palmer – GP2 Series Champion
Jolyon Palmer’s GP2 success has been a long time coming. Despite being only 23 Palmer is already a veteran of the series, having made his debut back in 2011 with Arden. This year the second-generation Palmer racer was on impeccable form, finishing in the top ten in every race bar the last at Abu Dhabi. Palmer’s dominance was confirmed at the new Sochi Autodrom, where he overcame pole-sitter Stoffel Vandoorne to win his fourth race of the year and the series crown. What has been particularly impressive about Palmer this year is his tenacity and fighting spirit. A particular highlight was Palmer’s outstanding wheel-to-wheel battle with Felipe Nasr in Hungary—the image of the Briton sweeping around the outside of Nasr on lap 27 will resonate with GP2 fans as one of the most exciting moments of the season.
The future is very bright for Jolyon Palmer. After such a dominant GP2 season in which he beat the likes of McLaren junior Stoffel Vandoorne and New Zealand protégé Mitch Evans, as well as now-Sauber driver Nasr it was no surprise that he was invited to take part in this week’s post-season test at Abu Dhabi for Force India F1. His positive mindset and matching results have shown the Formula 1 community that he could be Britain’s next single seater star. This latest triumph has put him in a position that is realistically lining him up for a full-time Formula 1 seat, and he deserves it.
Lewis Hamilton—Formula 1 World Champion
Hamilton described last weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as an even greater experience than his first title win in 2008. The Mercedes driver has had to wait six years for his second championship, although many now believe that he can go on to win three or even four.
Although his year got off to a frustrating start at Albert Park (where his Mercedes power unit suffered terminal teething issues at the start) Hamilton soon stepped into gear. Four wins on the trot in the ensuing rounds allowed him to build a reassuring lead over Nico Rosberg in the standings. Of course, reliability issues and that incident at Spa set Hamilton back through the European leg of the season, but ultimately his performances in the second half of the year showed the world that he is one of Britain’s all-time greats.
Perhaps Hamilton’s defining moment was his victory in the Italian Grand Prix. After three difficult races, he had a complete mental overhaul before the event at Monza, which was ultimately reflected in his performance. He chased Rosberg down incessantly before the German driver locked up at the first corner, taking the win and going on to record five straight victories. This was arguably the cornerstone to Hamilton’s year, and one of the main reasons why he ultimately came away with his second world championship.
2014 has been the year of the Brit. Even aside from Formula 1 and its feeder championships there have been several outstanding performances from British drivers that have made the global Motorsport community stand up and listen. Oliver Rowland’s fourth place in the Formula Renault 3.5 series highlighted the bright future that the Racing Steps-backed driver has ahead of him, while Formula 1 ex-patriate Anthony Davidson won the World Endurance Championship for Toyota, breaking Audi’s stronghold on global endurance racing in the process. With these multiple success stories being shared through the media, public interest in Motorsport is at a high. And, as long as the drivers are delivering at the highest level, the sport’s popularity in the United Kingdom will continue to flourish. It’s now becoming clear that Britain is experiencing a golden era in Motorsport.
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