Meritus has hosted the its second annual Meritus Awards Gala at Astro’s All-Asia Broadcast Centre. The 2017 edition recognises the emerging talents that stood out during the past Formula 4 South East Asia (F4 SEA) season, which took place from 29 October to 15 April.

The overall champion, Daniel Cao from China, was crowned at the event – he also took home the gongs for the fastest lap at Sepang and at the Clark International Speedway in the Philippines. Kane Shepherd from Thailand came second and also secured the title of rookie champion, while Belgian Ugo de Wilde clinched third place as well as the fastest lap at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand.

“I consider myself lucky to win the title tonight as there are a lot of good drivers out there last season. I would like to thank [F4 SEA promoter] Peter Thompson for the great effort in putting up the challenge. I’m setting my eyes on bigger things this coming season including [the] Asia Renault race and Formula 3,” said Cao.

China’s Daniel Cao was crowned the season’s overall champion

Japan’s Hibiki Taira and Malaysia’s Muizz Musyaffa were the second- and third-placed rookies respectively, with the latter also bagging a scholarship from the Sepang International Circuit to continue competing in F4. Cao, de Wilde, Shepherd and the 2016-2017 season champion, Indonesian Presley Martono, also won a trip to Woking to receive a evaluation by Formula 1 team McLaren.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Nazim Azman was given the Best Drive award for his drive to victory at the support race for the final Formula 1 Malaysian Grand Prix last year, while Ireland’s Luke Thompson received the Best Recovery award and Frenchman Alessandro Ghiretti the Up and Coming Talent award.

Rounding out the winners were Azizul Azfar for Best Engineer and Shah Effendy for Best Mechanic. Meritus also gave a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award to F4 SEA’s former race director Syed Abdul Hamid bin Syed Osman, who passed away in an accident earlier this year. The award has been renamed the Syed Hamid Award in his honour.

Muizz Musyaffa received an SIC sponsorship to continue competing in F4

“F4 not only helps grow racing talent but provides an abundance of career paths,” said Peter Thompson, who is also CEO of Asian Autosport Action (AAA). “We train and employ technicians, mechanics, engineers, cameramen, journalists and even TV producers!

“The Meritus Awards Gala is designed to reward, motivate and inspire motorsport careers. To ensure the long-term sustainability of the motorsport industry here in Asia, we must foster careers, starting from F4, the [FIA’s] grassroots development formula,” he added.

Fuel and lubricant sponsor Petron Malaysia’s head of retail business Faridah Ali said, “We are also proud to play a part in the careers of these homegrown talents that are quickly moving on to the top of the F4 SEA Championships. We hope that through our participation in the competition we are able to discover more local and regional talents and help create the next generation of professional racing drivers from South East Asia.”