The Catalunya track was bathed in glorious sunshine as 25 drivers, nine of them rookies, assembled for the start of post-season collective testing in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series on Tuesday. Valtteri Bottas (Tech 1 Racing), a former Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 champion and the winner of this year’s GP3 Series, went fastest in the morning, though the best time of the day was posted in the afternoon by Kevin Magnussen (Carlin), the runner-up in the 2011 British F3 International Series.
One absentee from the 25-strong field on the first of two days of FR 3.5 Series testing at Barcelona was Nathanael Berthon (ISR), whose single-seater could not be repaired in time following his accident in the final race of the year. A further four drivers will be joining the field for further testing on Wednesday, and over the course of the two days a total of 11 drivers (Carlos Huertas, Lucas Foresti, Rio Haryanto, Andrea Roda, Daniel Abt, Benjamin Lariche, Vittorio Ghirelli, Nikola Martenko, Yann Cunha, Adderly Fong and Robin Frijns) are getting their first chance to get to grips with the single-seater in an official session.
Tuesday’s two sessions saw Bottas back behind the wheel for Tech 1 Racing, a team for whom the Finn performed testing last year. Similarly, Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) found himself in a car he had had the opportunity to drive during the 2009 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 season, the Dane taking a seat in the single-seater driven by 2011 FR 3.5 Series winner Robert Wickens. Adrian Quaife-Hobbs (Comtec Racing) was also in familiar surroundings, having taken part in post-season testing last year, while Marco Sorensen, second in the ATS Formel 3 Cup, was also on duty, with Gravity-Charouz.
There were numerous interruptions in the first four hours of the day. Having moved to P1 Motorsport, Arthur Pic found reward for his consistency by topping the timesheets along with Nick Yelloly (ISR), Marco Sorensen and Nico Muller (Epic Racing). With an hour to go before the chequered flag, Tech 1 Racing decided to bolt on new tyres, allowing Korjus and Bottas to leap up the standings. The Estonian and the Finn, respective Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 champions in 2010 and 2008, occupied the top two places before Yelloly muscled his way between them. Bottas then clocked a fastest time of 1:33.897 to close the session out ahead of Yelloly, Korjus, Daniel de Jong (International Draco Racing) and Quaife-Hobbs.
The afternoon session began with air temperatures in excess of 30 degrees and little in the way of action on the track, the drivers taking the opportunity to get some installation laps in. Rio Haryanto (Epic Racing), Korjus and Walter Grubmuller (P1 Motorsport) set the quickest times before the new tyres came out for the end of the session. The only driver to top Bottas’ morning time, however, was Magnussen, the Dane taking the day’s honours ahead of the Finn and Grubmuller.
What they said:
Kevin Magnussen: “I took part in Formula Renault 3.5 Series collective testing with Pons Racing in 2009 and 2010, and it was good to do these tests with Carlin, my F3 team, here today. I know the way they work and I feel right at home. I’d love to carry on with them in 2012 and in this event.”
Valtteri Bottas: “We put new tyres on pretty early in the first session, and it was the right time because the air temperature went up quickly. Then during the second session, as it was very hot, we did an installation lap with a pit stop. We don’t know where we’re going to be driving next season, though Formula Renault 3.5 Series is one of the options we’re looking into at the moment.”
Adrian Quaife-Hobbs: “I felt at ease when I drove a Formula Renault 3.5 car last year and I got my bearings straightaway today. It’s a single-seater that really suits my driving style. I’m going to do some testing with another team at Motorland Aragon, and before that I’ve also got the Abu Dhabi F1 rookie test with Marussia Virgin Racing. I can’t wait to try out the new car. It all depends on the budget, but Formula Renault 3.5 Series is one of the priorities for next season.”