Formula 4 has been around for a quarter of a century, however, the FIA didn’t make it into a standard until 2014. It's easy to get a little confused with all of the Formula vehicles out there but it's easier if you look at it in the form of tiers, with Formula 4 filling the fourth tier position.
Formula 4 racecars are now 2nd generation racecars with 160hp engines. Of course, 160hp doesn’t sound like a whole lot, especially when compared to the F1, however, these cars still zip around the fact due to their aerodynamics and the fact that they weigh less than half a ton.
In fact, a 160hp F4 racecar is capable of reaching 60mph in 3.5 seconds with a top speed of 155mph. While they’re nowhere near the same league as F1, F4 racecars are plenty fast on their own and they’re also a good starting point for those seeking to climb the ladder to Formula 1 racing.
Formula 1 racing is one of the most popular types of motorsports in the entire world. At that level, everything is saturated with the most high-powered F1 cars available, the most televised races, tons of advertising money, and billions spent on tracks, cars, drivers, teams, and more.
If you are new to formula racing, you can look at the Formula racing tiers like minor leagues. When it comes to the NBA or the NFL, it's like semi-pro teams that exist below the professional sport, and college football is the next tire below semi-pro.
It's the same concept here, with Formula 4 being the newest kid on the block. In fact, there were many who claim that F4 is ridiculous and completely unnecessary. It was largely because of that crowd that it took F4 a while to become a standardized form of Formula racing.
F3 was adopted all the way back in 1950 if that gives you a sense of scale. As we stated above, F4 didn’t become standardized until 2014, so that is a 64-year break between the FIA standardizing a new Formula.
Formula 4 is the category in which your youngest and newest drivers begin their careers. Most will never make it to F1-level racing and only some will make it as high as F2. Then you have to throw in Formula E, F2000, Super Formula, and Formula challenge, which can make things pretty complicated for a newbie.
Formula 4 replaced Formula Ford, which ran with 1600cc engines and was largely considered to be the entry-level race format for beginners. Formula Renault also became a sort of semi-fill-in role for those who were considered to be entry-level.
The FIA’s acceptance of Formul 4 was largely an effort to consolidate multiple “beginner” levels into a more cohesive and sensical Formula 4.
There are several countries that have their own version of what we call an F4 racecar. So the specs are mostly the same across the board, with some slight differences here or there, many of which consolidate at later times.
The thing about F1 to F3 racing is that it is clearly designed and clearly exists as an entry point where new drivers can test themselves and perhaps ascend to the next level. Unlink the other Formulas, everything at these levels is sealed and nothing is changeable.
There are no alterations to gearbox ratios, no alterations to the engine, and no alterations to the transmission. Everything is sealed and remains fixed in place. Without any of the tiny potential advantages and disadvantages out on the track, it's all about driver skill and talent—nothing more.
However, there is a little bit of breathing room in that there are four different chassis and six engines in F4 racing.
There are four chassis options at the F4 entry level. While F4 cars are limited to four-cylinder engines and a maximum of 160hp, drivers have some choices.
F4 racing has the advantage over the other Formulas in that drivers can enter with a single choice of six engine types, manufactured by different companies. Of course, all of these engines can only max out at 160hp and they must be 4-cylinder engines, so there is a bit of a limitation there as well.
In other words, all of the engine options have to meet homologation requirements, which is a funny word for defining the above-mentioned terminology.
With four chassis and 6 engines, there is certainly a little more variety for fans to look into at the F4 level.
F4 racecar horsepower is limited to a maximum of 160hp. That doesn’t mean that an F4 car can’t have less than 160hp, just not more. Now, most of them are going to have 160hp or something very close. So, ultimately, there is very little in the way of disparity amongst F4 cars.