Over the last three days a clutch of up-and-coming drivers have been getting their first taste of Formula Renault 3.5 Series action in the year’s final testing get-together, held at Motorland Aragón. Accepting invitations from Renault Sport Technologies, nearly 50 young talents from Formula 3 and Formula Renault 2.0 have been showing their mettle in the World Series by Renault’s blue riband event, a valuable stepping stone into Formula One.
The invites came as reward for their distinguished performances across the season, Renault Sport Technologies and stakeholders in each discipline handing the cream of the 2011 Formula 3 and Formula Renault 2.0 fields the opportunity to experience life at the next rung up the racing ladder and take another step on the road to Formula One.
The testing event proved a major success, with all the young hopefuls expressing delight at taking part. Among those behind the wheel for each of the three days were Formula 3 Germany champion Richie Stanaway, the winner of the recent Macao Grand Prix Daniel Juncadella, and the top three in the British Formula 3 International Series standings, namely Felip Nasr, Kevin Magnussen and Carlos Huertas.
Meanwhile, Colombian driver Carlos Huertas confirmed he will be driving for Fortec Motorsports in next season’s FR 3.5 Series championship, news that comes just a few weeks after 2011 team championship winners Carlin signed Kevin Magnussen.
Out on the track, Stanaway proved a cut above the rest, topping the timesheets with a lap of 1:42’.810 in a Gravity-Charouz Racing car and finishing first in each session bar the last, which was dominated by Will Stevens (P1 Motorsport). Reigning Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 champion Robin Frijns (Comtec Racing) also starred thanks to some clever driving and quick lap times, while Kevin Korjus (Tech 1 Racing), Arthur Pic (Epic Racing), Marco Sorensen (Gravity-Charouz Racing) and Stevens were just some of the many drivers to make light of the cold, foggy conditions and post quick times.
The final testing event of the year was also the swansong of this particular version of the Formula Renault 3.5 car, with a new single-seater due to be wheeled out for the next round of tests, to be held at Paul Ricard HTTT on 13-14 March 2012. Two further sessions are also scheduled before the start of the 2012 season: Barcelona on 3-4 April and Motorland Aragon on 18-19 April.
What the drivers said
Richie Stanaway (NZL), Formula 3 Germany champion: “It’s my first time on this track and in this single-seater. I’ve enjoyed myself over the three days, in all conditions, and it’s a real boost to see your name up there in first. I’ve worked really well with the Gravity-Charouz team and I hope to be on the grid for the Formula Renault 3.5 Series in 2012.”
Carlos Sainz Jr. (ESP), Formula Renault 2.0 NEC champion and Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 runner-up: “I’ve been very impressed by the Formula Renault 3.5 and I’ve never driven a car as powerful as this before. I had a day’s testing and it was a rewarding experience, especially as I set a good time on a damp track. I need to have a good season in the British F3 International Series next year, and then maybe I can move on to Formula Renault 3.5 Series in 2013.”
Felipe Nasr (BRA), British F3 International Series champion: “Driving a single-seater like this is all part of preparing for F1. That’s why getting a Formula Renault 3.5 Series drive is one of my priorities for next season.”
Yuhi Sekiguchi (JAP), Formula 3 Japan champion: “To my mind Formula Renault 3.5 Series is only just below F1. The tests went very well for me and I’m going back to Japan to try and set up a programme so I can compete in the event in 2012.”
Sergio Campana (ITA), Formula 3 Italy champion: “I raced in the 2008 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 season with Prema so I’m pretty familiar with the World Series by Renault. Moving from F3 to Formula Renault 3.5 Series is a big step and one I’d love to take.”
Carlos Huertas (COL), third in the British F3 International Series: “I wasn’t feeling that good in Barcelona and as far as I’m concerned this is the first real testing I’ve had. I’ve signed for Fortec Motorsports in 2012 and the arrival of the new car should make it an interesting year for a rookie like me. The introduction of DRS and all the technical changes are going to make the event even more exciting.”
Daniil Kvyat (RUS), third in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and Formula Renault NEC runner-up: “I felt at ease as soon as I got in the car. It’s been interesting to drive with a couple of different teams (P1 Motorsport and Carlin) because you get to see the different ways they operate. I hope to drive in FR 3.5 Series one day and I’m ready to make a start next season if anyone needs me.”
Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL), third in Formula Renault 2.0 NEC: “It’s a really powerful car with a lot of downforce. All in all I adapted pretty well. I was a bit apprehensive about the carbon brakes, which are totally different to Formula Renault 2.0, but I felt absolutely fine with them in the end. The teams are very professional at this level.”
Alex Riberas (ESP): “I’d like to thank Renault Sport Techonologies for this opportunity. What impressed me the most was the power of the brakes. They’re incredible. I’m off to Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 next year and I’m aiming to win the title.”
Dean Stoneman (GBR): “What with my illness it’s been 14 months since I last had a seat in a racing car. Obviously I’m not in the best physical shape but I’ve been training hard. I need to get my bearings back and assess where I’m at and how far I’m capable of going. I had my last operation only ten weeks ago and I still need a bit of time yet.”
Arthur Pic (FRA): “We did a lot of work on the set-up and we looked at several options over the three days. The work Epic Racing and Dams have done together has been very productive and everybody’s been really nice. I’ll probably be in Formula Renault 3.5 next year. I just don’t know which stable yet.”
Kevin Korjus (EST): “We did a lot of work on tyre use (new and worn) and on other things. It’s been a bit weird being here today because the last single-seater I was in was an F1 car and the track temperature was over 30ºC, the exact opposite to the conditions at Motorland. Next year I’m going to continue with my programme in Formula Renault 3.5 Series.”