The summer break ended early for the drivers in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series as racing got back underway a few weeks ago at Silverstone, where the situation at the top of the standings became a good deal tighter following two eventful races. A mere six points is all that separates the top three of Robin Frijns (Fortec Motorsports), Sam Bird (ISR) and Jules Bianchi (Tech 1 Racing), leaving each man with precious little room for error when the action resumes at the Hungaroring.
Already notable for the arrival of a new single-seater that has closed the gap even further on Formula One, the 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 Series season is turning out to be a remarkable one in many ways. Producing entertainment levels rarely seen before, the year’s 11 races have yielded seven different winners, with 14 drivers climbing on to the podium so far and 26 finishing in the points.
With eleven races gone, there are now just six chances left on the calendar for the drivers to pick up points. And six is also the number of points that covers the leading three drivers in the championship. Robin Frijns and Sam Bird have been taking turns at the top, while Jukes Bianchi made up for his non-point-scoring start at Motorland Aragon by storming back into contention at Silverstone. All three have posted two victories each, though Frijns and Bianchi have one more podium finish to their names than Bird.
A Formula BMW Europe champion in 2010 and the winner of last year’s Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, the championship-leading Dutchman Robin Frijns is competing in his first season in this level but has proved a match for the more experienced Sam Bird and Jules Bianchi, who will tune up for Hungary by taking part in the F1 young driver testing days at Magny-Cours. While the leading trio will be keeping a close eye on each other in the weeks ahead, they will also need to watch out for the men chasing them in the standings, who remain hungry for success.
Nick Yelloly (Comtec Racing), Marco Sorensen (Lotus), Arthur Pic (Dams) and Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) are the season’s other race winners, and though they are all still in with a mathematical chance of landing the title, their main and most realistic objective will be to keep scoring points and secure a top-five finish. Nico Muller (International Draco Racing) is also still in the frame as he continues to strive for a maiden FR 3.5 series win, a goal that is also being pursued by Antonio Felix da Costa (Arden Caterham), who has impressed since making a late entrance this season.
Kevin Korjus (Tech 1 Racing) and Alexander Rossi (Arden Caterham), two of last year’s stand-out drivers, are both in need of fresh impetus this time around. With no option but to step up a level, they will be ones to watch for the rest of the season.
Adding even more interest to the Hungaroring meeting is the debut appearance of home driver Tamas Pal Kiss (BVM Target), the first Hungarian to compete in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. Third in the 2010 Formula Renault 2.0 UK Championship, the 21-year-old from Miskolc had local fans on their feet that same year when he took part in both Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 races at the Hungaroring. Though new to the FR 3.5, Tamas Pal Kiss will be doing all he can to impress again in front of what is sure to be a supportive crowd.
Several of the drivers have Formula One engagements to fulfil in the build-up to the Hungarian leg of the World Series by Renault season. Frijns, Yelloly, Pic, Sorensen, Muller and the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 driver Stoffel Vandoorne have all been invited by Renault Sport F1 and Renault Sport Technologies to the Formula One Italian Grand Prix at Monza, while a part of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series field will be making an intensive two-day visit to Red Bull Racing’s Milton Keynes headquarters just before jetting off to the Hungaroring.