Esteban Ocon (ART Junior Team) and Oscar Tunjo (Josef Kauffman Racing) finished the latest round of collective testing at Paul Ricard with the best times on days one and two respectively. French driver Ocon set the fastest lap in dry conditions on Tuesday, with Colombia’s Tunjo going quickest in the wet today. British driver Oliver Rowland (Manor MP Motorsport), meanwhile, impressed by finishing second on both days.
The latest stop for the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 teams was Paul Ricard, where they completed the second of four rounds of pre-season collective testing. The 38 drivers present took advantage of their tweaks and fine-tuning from Motorland Aragón as they sought to take their pre-season preparations up a level. There were gusty winds and intermittent showers throughout the two days of testing, which forced the teams to modify their original development programmes. The weather also allowed the drivers to test their cars in a range of conditions, on a track that was dry at times but mostly drenched.
On day one, Esteban Ocon and Oliver Rowland were the first drivers to brave the elements. The pair were duly rewarded for their courage, with their names appearing at the top of the timesheets several times. But at the very end of the morning session, a third contender entered the frame. Steijn Schothorst (Josef Kauffman Racing) came out on slick tyres and made the most of the drying track to snatch the fastest time. Esteban Ocon restored order in the afternoon session by dominating on a track that was, by now, completely dry. The Frenchman’s efforts ensured he walked away with the fastest time of the two days of testing.
The wind and rain returned on day two at Paul Ricard, making lap times something of a secondary concern. The drivers, then, made the most of the opportunity to set benchmarks and gain experience in the difficult conditions. On Wednesday morning, Steijn Schothorst repeated his performance from day one by beating Oliver Rowland to the fastest time in the final moments of the first session. In the afternoon, Oscar Tunjo removed his Josef Kauffman Racing team-mate from the top and finished ahead of Rowland once more. Esteban Ocon and William Vermont completed the top four on the final day of collective testing at Paul Ricard.
What they said:
Oscar Tunjo (Josef Kauffman Racing): "I really like Paul Ricard circuit and it’s always great to drive here in the rain. We set off on the right foot by setting some good times right from the start of the sessions. Our performances here show that we’re going in the right direction, both technically and on the track. We’re working to optimise our car, but we’re also interested in the lap times. You have to combine the two, and that’s what we’ve done here at Paul Ricard. It’s always nice, and encouraging, to finish on top."
Oliver Rowland (Manor MP Motorsport): "The new car is great, and significantly better than last year’s. The wind has been so strong at Motorland Aragón and Paul Ricard that it’s been very difficult to get an idea of where we are compared with our competitors. I’m sure we’re on the right track and that we have room to improve. But I don’t want to get too specific just yet. I’m very happy with the two days of testing we’ve had here in France."
Williams Vermont (Arta Engineering): "These two days have been important in helping us move forward in our search for the best set-ups. The wind and rain compromised that work, as there was a risk of aquaplaning and poor visibility less than five metres behind other drivers. That said, these tests have still been productive and rewarding."
Esteban Ocon (ART Junior Team): "After these two days of testing, I think we have the potential to be at the front. We set the best time of day one. It was particularly satisfying for us, because we had to do a lot of work on the car to get there. On Wednesday the conditions were changing constantly, so analysing the lap times probably won’t tell us very much."