The Barcelona rain did not prevent the drivers and teams set to contest the 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 Series from enjoying a profitable second day of collective testing at the Catalunya track, as they gathered vital data in the wet. Nico Müller (International Draco Racing) set the day’s best time at the start of the morning session, while Richie Stanaway (Lotus) dodged the raindrops and the red flags to go fastest in the afternoon.
There was to be no repeat of Tuesday afternoon’s clearing skies in Barcelona, as the rain fell throughout the second day of testing on Wednesday to create some greasy conditions for the 26 drivers to contend with.
Taking the opportunity to put the new FR 3.5 through its paces in the wet, drivers and teams also collated valuable data on the new tyres developed by Michelin.
Looking very much at home when the track was at its wettest on Tuesday, Müller once again mastered the conditions by going fastest an hour into the day with a time of 1:48.116. As the rain intensified, so the chances of anyone bettering that mark disappeared, with many drivers opting instead to get some kilometres under their belts, among them Lucas Foresti (Dams), who chalked up more than 50 laps in the morning.
Finishing session one behind Müller were the in-form Danish duo of Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) and Marco Sorensen (Lotus), who had both impressed in the wet and dry on Tuesday. Completing the top five were Andre Negrao (International Draco Racing) and Robin Frijns (Fortec Motorsports).
The rainclouds remained firmly in place as the afternoon’s testing got under way, as the drivers saw their efforts to get some momentum going cut short by a succession of red flags. Leading the session virtually from start to finish was Stanaway with a time of 1:50.044, some way short of Müller’s best of the morning but good enough to push Sorensen into second and Negrao third.
Between Paul Ricard and Catalunya the 26 drivers have enjoyed an average of 200 kilometres of testing in the new single-seater, with the next sessions taking place on 18-19 April at Motorland Aragon, the venue for the season’s opening meeting on 5 May. Prior to that, Brendon Hartley will be taking the new FR 3.5 on a demo drive at the first leg of the 2012 FIA GT1 World Championship this coming weekend at Nogaro (France).
What they said:
Nico Müller : “The new treads are at their best when there’s a lot of water on the track. They offer an amazing amount of grip in extreme conditions. We need to learn how to look after these tyres, though, because they get worn really quickly if you’re not careful and then you’re in whole lot of trouble. We’ve still got a lot of work to do in the dry, but having the chance to work on a wet track has given us some useful preparation for the season ahead.”
Sam Bird (ISR): “The new Formula Renault 3.5 is a very efficient, well-balanced car and fun to drive too. Even in the wet you can feel how competitive it is. I really feel that this is the championship to be in this season if you want to prepare properly for the number-one category, which is Formula one.”
Andre Negrao: “We’ve tried a lot of things in an effort to get as much as possible out of these two days. I’ve got a bet on with my dad: if I don’t finish in the top ten this season, I’m going to give up single-seaters and switch to saloons.”
Nicolay Martsenko (BVM Target): “I get better every time I sit in this single-seater. I feel right at home here at BVM Target, and I’m very relaxed in my work. There are four Russian drivers this year and there’s some healthy competition between us. It’s important to finish first among the four of us, even though I’m the one who’s got the least experience at this level.”