Team Spotlight: Carlin
For 25 years Carlin have been at the forefront of single-seater racing and over half the current Formula 1 grid have raced for the team at one stage in their career. Founded by Trevor Carlin in 1996, his team have their roots in nurturing young racers, initially starting in British F3 before the outfit expanded to various junior championships across Europe.
Today Carlin compete at every level of the FIA’s recognised single-seater ladder and have a high-profile presence in the US-based IndyCar series. With regards to their Formula 4 history, the team have been involved since the inception of the ROKiT F4 British Championship certified by FIA in 2015. The Surrey-based squad set a high benchmark in the first year of F4, winning the title with future Formula 1 star Lando Norris.
“We were big supporters of Formula 4 from the very outset because we understood the value of having young drivers involved with us at an early age,” says team boss Trevor Carlin.
Prior to F4 being established in the UK, Carlin had organised their own academy where drivers aged 14 and 15 could test a Formula Ford-spec car at the Pembrey circuit in Wales, however the creation of a new series which enabled drivers under 16 to race meant it was a natural fit for the team to enter. In that inaugural season Norris was champion with eight wins, while his team-mate Colton Herta took four, to finish third overall.
“Because it was the beginning of a new series, in that first season we threw everything at it including experienced engineers and personnel. Out of that, the journey carried on with Lando into British F3, then FIA F3 and FIA Formula 2,” says Carlin. “It was important to have that continuation with a single driver throughout his career and for us it was great to see his talent blossom, as we love that process of nurturing young drivers.
“With the new-look F4, we see it as an opportunity to revitalise the team and get ourselves back up to the front, hopefully with a driver that will be with us next year and the following three or four years.
“When a driver gets to F1, they don’t change teams every year. If they want to be successful, they tend to stay in the same place – look at Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes – and the team keeps getting better around them. That’s a dream scenario for us to have that progression as it works well for everybody.”
Carlin won F4 again in 2016 with Max Fewtrell and Jamie Caroline in 2017. After taking a sabbatical in 2018, the Farnham outfit returned to F4 in 2019, with Barbados racer Zane Maloney taking ten wins on his way to the title.
From their early days competing in British Formula 3, in which they have enjoyed championship success with the likes of Takuma Sato, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, the team have always valued the UK as the best pace for overseas talent to learn their craft and achieve their full potential. As well as having high-profile teams, a level-playing field and well-attended events (with live TV), Carlin believes the British scene excels because of its circuits.
“When you drive around Hockenheim or Monza, they are wide open circuits. They are easy to drive because there are no track limits as such, so it doesn’t teach young drivers about precision,” says Carlin. “But you race around Oulton Park on a wet day and you absolutely have to be on it or you’re in the wall. Racing in the UK teaches young drivers about so many things, including wet-weather driving, cold conditions and managing tyre temperatures.
“In addition, racing in the Italian or German championship, sometimes as they are over-subscribed, they often don’t get many racing laps due to the amount of incidents on-track and there are often issues with Safety Cars or red-flags.”
Carlin is looking forward to the new-for-2022 ROKiT British F4, which will be using the next-generation Tatuus chassis, in combination with NBE-tuned Abarth engines and Pirelli tyres. The championship, which supports the high-profile British Touring Car Championship, will be promoted by Motorsport UK from next season.
“I’m looking forward to the series getting a boost,” adds Carlin. “The new Tatuus-Abarth-Pirelli package makes it easier for overseas drivers to come here and likewise for British F4 competitors to compete in Europe. 2022 will be a great opportunity with new teams coming in, which will help improve the quality of the drivers too.
“Finally, I think it’s worth adding that running an F4 car is in many ways harder than running a Formula 2 car. That’s because you have less than a quarter of the budget and you have to do five times the mileage with drivers, many of whom have never driven a car before – they are too young to drive road cars – and they aren’t often sure of what a clutch is.
“It’s a steep learning curve, but F4 is great to help teams like us train up young mechanics and engineers too who can follow the same journey through the motorsport ladder as the drivers. F4 is a great training ground for everyone involved.”