The drivers had some inclement weather to contend with on the first of two days of Formula Renault 3.5 Series collective testing at Barcelona, with Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) proving the pick of the pack in all conditions. The British Formula 3 International Series runner-up defied the rain to go quickest in the morning and proved too quick for everyone once more when the track dried out and the times came down in the afternoon, clipping nearly 2.5 seconds off the lap record in setting the day’s fastest time..
Preparations for the 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 Series season are continuing apace in Spain, as the championship’s 26 drivers converged on the Catalunya circuit for the year’s second collective testing session, some three weeks after the first at Paul Ricard.
After experiencing dry conditions in France it was the first time the field got a feel of the new FR 3.5 in the wet. The red flags were out time again as the rain came down in Tuesday’s first session, though Magnussen, the son of former Formula One driver Jan Magnussen, kept his head above water by posting the morning’s fastest time of 1:47.140 on his third lap. Completing the morning’s top three were Sam Bird (ISR) and Nico Müller (International Draco Racing), though few drivers were prepared to take risks in a hazardous, stop-start session.
The track dried quickly as conditions improved in the afternoon, with Müller the first to put on slicks at 15:30, the Swiss driver sending out an immediate message by topping the timesheets with a lap of 1:34.795.
As the pace hotted up, Richie Stanaway (Lotus) went close to Albert Costa’s FR 3.5 track record of 1:32.343, the prelude to first Robin Frijns (Fortec Motorsports) and then Jules Bianchi (Tech 1 Racing) eclipsing Costa’s mark. The two continued to fight it out, with Frijns eventually going round in 1:31.219, dipping under the time of 1:31.582 set by Davide Valsecchi in 2007, albeit on an alternative and faster track layout.
When Marco Sorensen (Lotus) posted a new record of 1:30.166, Frijns tried to respond, putting on one last set of new tyres and going within a thousandth of Sorensen’s mark. Biding his time until the closing minutes, Magnussen ended the day as he started it, on top, the Dane recording a lap of 1:29.952 to push Sorensen and Frijns into second and third.
What they said:
Kevin Magnussen: “I couldn’t manage to get the best out of the tyres in the wet because I lost performance after two or three laps. Things went really well in the dry, though, and we knew where we could gain time. It’s just great to be first today.”
Marco Sorensen: “It’s good to have two Danes up at the top, isn’t it? It was interesting driving on a damp track this morning, though it was all too easy to make a mistake because the grip was changing all the time. The circuit dried out quickly in the afternoon and we put down three good laps straightaway, although the red flags prevented me from using my second and third set of new tyres.”
Robin Frijns: “I got into a rhythm straightaway on new tyres but lost momentum thanks to a red flag. I made two or three mistakes on my fastest lap, but the car is fantastic. I feel very much at home at Fortec Motorsports, and I’m delighted to be in the leading group again, just as I was at Paul Ricard. The key is to be consistent at every track.”