By Cassidy Charette
As Hugh arrived at Magny-Cours for the final race of the FFSA French Formula 4 Championship season, he held his head high with clear goals for the weekend.
Going into free practice, he had a set of re-used tyres from the prior round at Circuit Paul Ricard. He continuously improved over the session, setting his fastest time on his final lap. Following the session, he reviewed the data with his race engineer and identified a couple of small issues to address ahead of qualifying.
Although getting a slipstream at Magny-Cours did not prove to be as significant as in Monza, Hugh still tried to optimize this tactic in an attempt to gain an extra tenth where possible. His main approach to qualifying was to get the tyres up to temperature before setting his best laps at the end of the session. Being a perfectionist, Hugh was quick to identify minor mistakes to be improved on, but he was pleased with his pace and knew he had the speed to make a bigger impact in the races ahead.
He qualified third for Race 1, and qualified second for Race 3.
Starting third on the grid, Hugh was quick off the line. After overtaking the car ahead to move into second place, he was able to build a gap to the drivers behind. As he pulled ahead, both Hugh and the leader had a largely uneventful race. Hugh continued to demonstrate his technical ability and speed, lapping on average a full second faster than the remaining competitors. He retained his position, crossing the finish line in second and secured the fastest lap of the race.
Hugh lined up in 9th for a reverse grid lineup for the second race. He began to pick off the people ahead quickly, moving himself up the pack until he slotted himself into fifth place. As he started closing in on the drivers ahead of him, a dramatic collision between two cars ahead greatly impacted his race. Another driver crashed into Esteban Masson, spinning his car around into Hugh’s racing line. Unable to avoid Masson, Hugh made direct contact and both cars left with damage.
Still wanting to salvage as many points as possible, Hugh drove into the pits to dislodge Masson’s front wing from under his car. As he remerged on track a full lap down, Hugh fought hard to catch up to the rest of the pack under the safety car. Once green light racing resumed, he continued to maximize overtake opportunities, eventually finishing the race in seventh. However, post-race penalties and other exclusions were applied, moving Hugh up to fifth in the second race rankings.
The final race of the season started in an eventful manner. He started second on the grid, but the race was red flagged very quickly following a large crash caused by a stalled car. Once the debris was cleared from the track, the cars lined up again in the pit lane and the race resumed behind the safety car. As the green flags waved, the leader was able to pull ahead with a big lead, leaving Hugh with the challenge of closing the gap. Lap after lap, Hugh inched closer to the car ahead until he was within striking distance throughout Adelaide and Burburgring corners.
On the last lap of the race, the car behind in third tried to make a late-attempt overtake on Hugh, ending in disaster as they collided into the car ahead in first. Luckily, Hugh was able to avoid the carnage, driving away and crossing the finish line in first and scooping up the fastest lap as well.
When asked about his thoughts on the weekend, Hugh expressed that “this weekend was really strong, the pace was there across qualifying and all three races, and I was pretty happy to have set two fastest laps. It would have been even better had I gotten pole for race 1 and race 3, but overall it was a near-perfect execution.”
As the season came to a close, Hugh placed second in the *overall preliminary standings. With eight podiums, including two wins, he feels proud of what he has accomplished this year. Given it was his first season in single-seater cars, he had to learn quickly and overcome many challenges. Looking ahead, he wants to focus on improving his qualifying performance and race starts, but he has grown even more confident in his race craft and pace.
*Subject to review