Arriving on to the motor racing landscape in 2005, the Formula Renault 3.5 Series quickly became the ideal pre-F1 development category thanks to a competition-price ratio that had no equal. Over 11 seasons, the category took many talented drivers to the highest level of the sport in demonstrating the quality of its training scheme.
2005 – 2007: THE PIONEERS
Taking its inspiration from the biggest motor racing happenings, Renault Sport launched the World Series by Renault in 2005. This concept was quickly adopted by the sport’s community, the media and most importantly the public.
The on track highlight, a race car built by Dallara, powered by a 425 horsepower Renault V6 and named Formula Renault 3.5. At the wheel of this “mini F1”, Robert Kubica took the top honours of this maiden season. Impressive during his test with the Renault F1 Team, the Polish driver joined the world’s most prestigious championship and it wasn’t long after that he won a Grand Prix.
Alx Danielsson and Alvaro Parente followed Robert Kubica in the record books. The Swede now competes in the World Rally-Cross Championship, while the Portuguese native has become a factory McLaren driver in GT. He was a race winner in the FIA GT Series before winning the GT3 championship in the International GT Open.
2008 – 2011: THE CONFIRMATION
2008: A new car and new V6 engine with 480 horsepower! Making the best use of the new car and motor, Gierdo can der Garde confirmed his predisposition to compete in F1 before being placed into the reserve driver role for a long period. The Dutch driver got his chance five years later with Caterham then Sauber.
Bertrand Baguette took the title in 2009. He crossed the Atlantic to try his luck in the IndyCar Series before winning the FIA WEC Endurance Trophy and the LM P2 class in the 24-Hours of Le Mans in 2013. Still eclectic, Bertrand Baguette races these days in the Super GT and Super Formula Japan.
In 2010 and 2011, Carlin took Mikhail Aleshin then Robert Wickens to the crown. For the Russian, the British team rebuilt his confidence in the GP2 Series, but an injury and lack of budget slowed the progression of his career. He moved to the IndyCar Series in 2014, picking up a podium result before participating in the development of the BR Engineering BR01 in the European Le Mans Series.
Supported by Marussia Virgin Racing, the Canadian had more success in taking part in the first free-practice at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and then being recruited by Mercedes. In the DTM since 2012, Robert Wickens has won three times and finished fifth overall in 2013.
2012 – 2015: THE PERFORMANCE
The arrival of the New Formula Renault 3.5 in 2012 brought a lot of change to the discipline. Now powered by a 530 horsepower V8, it saw Robin Frijns complete a feat never to be equalled: the title in his rookie year after taking the crown in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 the preceding season. Enlisted as a reserve at Sauber and Caterham, the Fortec Motorsports driver was left frustrated before just barely losing out in the title fight in the 2015 Blancpain Sprint Series.
In 2013 and 2014, the DAMS team dominated the category with Kevin Magnussen then Carlos Sainz. After a season to learn the series, the young McLaren hopeful confirmed with style. Promoted to F1, he took a podium result in his first Grand Prix but McLaren didn’t bring him back for the 2015 season. A different destiny for Carlos Sainz whose mission was to win the championship to preserve his F1 dream. One year later, the Spaniard reached his objective when he signed with Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2015.
History will show that the last champion in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series was Oliver Rowland. A pure product of the promotion formulas organised by Renault Sport and guided in his career by the Racing Steps Foundation, the Englishman broke all the records on his way to winning the championship with Fortec Motorsports. While his future is still uncertain, Oliver Rowland will cross swords with Robin Frijns this weekend in Formula E! One will race for Mahindra Racing, the other with Andretti.
AN ENDLESS SOURCE OF TALENT
Over the course of 11 years, the Formula Renault 3.5 Series continued to participate in the emergence of new talent. Among them, four-time World F1 Champion, Sebastien Vettel and Grand Prix winners Pastor Maldonado and Daniel Ricciardo.
For their part, Markus Winkelhock, Kamui Kobayashi, Karun Chandhok, Jérôme d’Ambrosio, Pastor Maldonado, Charles Pic, Jaime Alguersuari, Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Éric Vergne, Jules Bianchi, Roberto Merhi, Will Stevens and Alexander Rossi all made it to the motor racing summit. Stoffel Vandoorne, Sergey Sirotkin, Pierre Gasly and Nyck de Vries could be the next to make it they are more successful Davide Valsecchi, who had a brief spell as the Lotus F1 Team reserve driver.
Racing in Formula E, Oliver Turvey experienced glory with LM P2 class win in the 2014 24-Hours of Le Mans. A form of racing that the top rookie in 2007, Filipe Albuquerque, has stood out as a factory Audi driver. And finally, two former adversaries Will Power and Simon Pagenaud now star as team mates with the legendary Team Penske in the IndyCar Series.
Renault Sport sends its best wishes to RPM Racing for the future of the category and that it enjoys as much success as it has the last eleven years!