The summer break is over and the Formula Renault 3.5 Series is raring to go once again. Silverstone is the first port of call in what promises to a thrilling second half of the season, with the remaining three races taking the drivers to the Hungaroring and Circuit Paul Ricard before the season finale at Circuit de Catalunya. Robin Frijns (Fortec Motorsports) currently tops the leaderboard and is bidding to become the first rookie to win the title since Robert Kubica in 2005. Sam Bird (ISR), Jules Bianchi (Tech 1 Racing), Marco Sorensen (Lotus) and Nick Yelloly (Comtec Racing) are among a pack of drivers snapping at his heels.
The first half of the 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 Series season was more competitive than ever, with an astonishing seven winners in nine races, 12 drivers achieving podium finishes and a total of 23 earning points. With eight races to go, the 26 drivers in World Series by Renault’s flagship event still have everything to play for. Battle recommences at the FIA World Endurance Championship at Silverstone.
British drivers Sam Bird, Nick Yelloly and Will Stevens (Carlin) and British teams Carlin, Fortec Motorsports, P1 Motorsport, Comtec Racing and Arden Caterham will be looking to build upon their nation’s success at the recent London Olympic Games – and what better place to make their mark than on home soil?
There is one thorn in the Brits’ side, however, and he goes by the name of Robin Frijns – the Dutch driver who currently sits at the top of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series pile. The Fortec Motorsports driver was recently given his first taste of life behind the wheel of a Formula One car, with a prize demonstration run in the Red Bull-Renault RB6 at Moscow Raceway. He also went into the summer break at the top of the leaderboard, with a ten-point lead over Sam Bird. Frijns, who turned 21 earlier this month, won the Formula BMW Europe series in 2010 and the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 in 2011. He is now looking for his third title in as many years, but has his work cut out over the coming weeks. Having secured two pole positions, two wins and three third-place finishes, he has proven to be a consistent performer so far this season. However, his main challenge comes in the shape of Sam Bird and Jules Bianchi, two experienced drivers with Formula One pedigree.
Sam Bird is currently 10 points adrift of Frijns in the drivers’ standings. He will be looking to capitalise on home advantage and overtake the leader in the weekend’s two races – an achievement that would see him leapfrog Robin Frijns to the top of the leaderboard. Jules Bianchi, meanwhile, is 26 points behind the Dutchman, but could still end the weekend on top of the pile. Silverstone is one of the Frenchman’s favourite circuits. He raced to victory here in last season’s GP2 Series and took part in the rain-soaked first free practice session of this season’s British Grand Prix, behind the wheel of a Sahara Force India F1 Team single-seater car. Both Bianchi and Bird will be looking to secure their second victory of the season.
Marco Sorensen, Nick Yelloly, Arthur Pic (Dams) and Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) have also made promising starts, and all four drivers will still fancy their chances of finishing at the top of the drivers’ standings come the final day of the season. Nico Müller (International Draco Racing), Kevin Korjus (Tech 1 Racing), Walter Grubmüller (P1 Motorsport) and Alexander Rossi (Arden Caterham), meanwhile, will need to get the second half of the season off to a flyer if they want to stand any chance of winning the championship.
The Silverstone meeting will take a slightly different format from other weekends, as it coincides with the FIA World Endurance Championship. The drivers will have an extremely busy Saturday, with the first qualifying session taking place at 9:30am, followed by the first race at 1:00pm and the second qualifying session at 5:15pm. The weekend’s second race gets underway at 9:40am on Sunday. Unlike the season’s other meetings, there will be no compulsory tyre change during race two.