Formula Renault 3.5 Series championship leader Sam Bird (ISR) dominated Friday’s collective testing at the all new Moscow Raceway, getting off on the right foot at the first WSR meeting in Russia by going fastest in both the morning and afternoon sessions.
It was a partly damp track that greeted the Formula Renault 3.5 Series drivers at the Moscow Raceway on Friday morning. A little bit of history was made before the session started, as 16-year-old Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin, who has been competing in Auto GP and Italian Formula 3, replaced Giovanni Venturini to become the youngest ever driver to take part in an FR 3.5 Series meeting.
There was drama also as Tech 1 Racing’s appeal against Jules Bianchi’s disqualification in race one at Motorland Aragon was rejected, leaving the championship standings unchanged.
Session one of collective testing was all about fact-finding as the drivers strung together as many laps as they could in a bid to gather as much data as possible. Caterham F1 Team driver Alexander Rossi (Arden Caterham) was the first to show, the American gradually picking up the pace before Marco Sorensen (Lotus) and then Sam Bird (ISR) took to the top of the timesheets. Posting an unbeaten time of 1:25.910, it was the British driver who ended the session fastest, with Sorensen second and Nico Muller (International Draco Racing) third.
As track grip improved in the afternoon so too did performance, though Bird remained out front, dictating the pace to the rest of the field. The Mercedes AMG F1 Team man made light of several interruptions to improve on his morning time, producing a lap of 1:25.165 to lead at the mid-session stage from Frijns, Sorensen, Bianchi and Arthur Pic (Dams).
Bianchi hit back by becoming the first driver to move under 1:25 with a time of 1:24.562, but when the new tyres came out at the end of the session, Bird regained control by going round in 1:23.677, while Frijns moved up to second. The Dutchmen than took a seat in a Formula One car for the first time as he completed an exploratory session in preparation for Saturday’s Red Bull Racing demo drive.
There was still time for Bianchi to set the day’s fastest lap of 1:23.594. Unfortunately for the Sahara Force India reserve driver and Ferrari Driver Academy member, the time did not stand as he had passed two times under the chequered flag in completing it, leaving Bird on top at the end of the day, ahead of Sorensen and Frijns.
What they said:
Sam Bird: “We suffered at the Nürburgring and we just weren’t with it, which is why I’m glad to get this weekend started. It’s a demanding track where you can’t afford to make any kind of mistake if you want to post a good time. I got better and better as the day went on, and what I need to do now is build on these two testing sessions, which have been very useful.”
Jules Bianchi: “We didn’t get any rhythm going this morning and I don’t really understand why, probably because there wasn’t much grip on the track. We need to work on tomorrow now, but it’s been a positive day. Now that there’s a bit of grip it’s a good track.”
Sergey Sirotkin: “I know the Zytek engine well and it’s not the power that impressed me the most but the braking and efficiency round the corners. I still need to put in a lot of laps to understand how the Formula Renault 3.5 works, though. The circuit is very technical and I was expecting it to be bumpier. It’s a nice track though. We’re in Russia, but when I’m in a race environment I could honestly be on any track in Europe.”