2012 Formula Renault 3.5 Series Preview

The first round of this year’s Formula Renault 3.5 Series season is due to be held at Motorland Aragón this weekend.  Just like GP2, Formula Renault 3.5 is a popular stepping stone into Formula One, with eight drivers having previously driven in the series, including world champion Sebastian Vettel.  Don’t be surprised if a number of these drivers end up in Formula One, as this year there is a very competitive grid with a lot of promising young drivers.

The series will run over nine weekends this year, running as a support race to Formula One at Monaco, and also going to the newly built Moscow Raceway in July.  With its long practice sessions at each event, Formula Renault 3.5 actually offers more total track time than GP2, giving its drivers vital experience behind the wheel.

This season is the first in which the chassis used will be Dallara’s T12, and also features a new V8 engine, the ZRS03, which promises to deliver 50bhp more than the old Nissan engines, as well as a Drag Reduction System (DRS) like Formula One’s.

Here’s your guide to the teams and drivers:


Carlin are the current Formula Renault 3.5 champions, and last season took Robert Wickens and Jean-Éric Vergne to first and second in the championship respectively.  Having been in the sport since 2003, Carlin have an established history of winning in Formula Renault 3.5 and will likely continue that this year and challenge strongly for the title.
I predict – 4th

1.            Kevin Magnussen
The son of former Formula One driver Jan Magnussen, Kevin Magnussen was runner-up in last year’s British Formula Three championship, in which he also drove for Carlin.  As part of McLaren’s Young Driver Programme it’s clear that others believe he has what it takes to make it in motorsport, and with a seat at Carlin he will probably be one of the title challengers.
I predict – 6th

2.            Will Stevens
Will Stevens has graduated to Formula Renault 3.5 from Formula Renault 2.0, where he took fourth place in the championship driving for Fortec Motorsport last year.  Stevens is a solid driver, if somewhat unspectacular so far, and should take some podiums this year.
I predict – 13th

Fortec Motorsports

While they have never won either the drivers’ or teams’ titles in Formula Renault 3.5, Fortec Motorsports has a strong history in motorsport, and even with the challenge of an all-rookie team, should do well this season and challenge for wins.
I predict – 5th

3.            Carlos Huertas
In last season’s British Formula Three championship Huertas finished third, and this year graduates to Formula Renault 3.5.  Given that this season is his debut, he might need this season to get used to Formula Renault 3.5, so a podium finish might count as a good result.
I predict – 14th

4.            Robin Frijns
The reigning Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 champion, Frijns beat the highly rated Carlos Sainz, Jr. to the title last season, and now makes the step up to Formula Renault 3.5.  Also a European Formula BMW champion, Frijns learns quickly and has some experience in World Series by Renault, and so could challenge for the title this season.
I predict – 4th


Czech team ISR provided the seat for Daniel Ricciardo last season before he graduated to Formula One.  ISR managed to win races in its debut year in 2010, and last season won the round at Monaco.  With a strong driver line-up they should pick up more wins this season.
I predict – 6th

5.            Sam Bird
For the last two seasons Bird has been the test driver for Mercedes GP Formula One team and driven in GP2 and now moves to Formula Renault 3.5.  Despite being a highly rated driver, and having some decent drives, Sam Bird never managed to make much impact upon GP2 Series.  Now that he is driving in Formula Renault 3.5 it is possible that he will be able to get more running in Formula One, and as an experienced driver should get up to speed quickly.
I predict – 9th

6.            Jake Rosenzweig
English-born American Jake Rosenzweig returns for his third season in Formula Renault 3.5.  Despite having some good race seats he has never managed to finish higher than 4th in a race in his two years in the series.  If he is ever to step onto the podium, this would be the year to do so now that he has two years experience and a good team behind him.
I predict – 15th

Tech 1 Racing

Tech 1 Racing are one of the top outfits in Formula Renault 3.5, having taken the Teams’ Championship 3 times and the Drivers’ Championship once.  Since taking their first race win in 2007 the team have always won at least one race each season.  This season Tech 1 have one of the best driver line-ups on the grid, and will probably finish as one of the top two teams.
I predict – 1st

7.            Kevin Korjus
2010’s Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup champion, Kevin Korjus made his debut in Formula Renault 3.5 last season, and despite being a rookie managed to take 3 wins on his way to 6th in the championship.  Currently the youngest driver to ever win a Formula Renault 3.5 race, Korjus should be a title challenger this season, and his main challenge will be to beat his team-mate.
I predict – 1st

8.            Jules Bianchi
Part of the Ferrari Driver Academy, Bianchi grabbed attention when he won the 2009 Formula Three Euroseries championship in dominant style.  For the last two years Bianchi has been driving in GP2 Series, where he finished 3rd in the championship in both seasons.  This season Bianchi will be combining running in Formula Renault 3.5 with test duties for Force India.  A very talented driver, but needing time to mature before Formula One (last season Bianchi crashed a few too many times), if he can perform consistently and avoid the walls and other drivers he should be a title contender.
I predict – 3rd

P1 Motorsport

Norfolk-based team P1 Motorsport were originally created in order to compete in the British Formula Three championship before moving to Formula Renault 3.5 in 2007.  In 2008 the team took Giedo van der Garde to the drivers’ championship, but in recent years have struggled to make the same impact.  This year I do not see things improving much for them.
I predict – 11th

9.            Walter Grubmüller

The high point of Walter Grubmüller’s career so far has probably been coming 2nd in 2009’s British Formula Three championship.  Since then he has been racing for P1 Motorsport in Formula Renault 3.5, but has failed to win a single race or even step on to the podium yet.  While he does now have two seasons’ experience under his belt, I think this season will most likely see more of the same.
I predict – 23rd

10.          Daniil Move
Daniil Move is the oldest driver competing in Formula Renault 3.5 this season and has competed in the series since 2007.  Coming into his 6th season in the series, Move has hardly prospered so far, though he has never been atrocious either.  This season stepping onto the podium will probably constitute a success.
I predict – 20th


Formula Renault 3.5’s Lotus is not the same Lotus that competes in Formula One (which is really Renault...or Benetton...or Toleman...), or even the same Lotus that competes in GP2 (which is really ART).  No, this Lotus is Czech team Charouz Racing System.  With two rookies driving for the team in 2012, whether they have a successful season or not will depend on how quickly these drivers adapt.
Lotus – 2nd

11.          Richie Stanaway
Aiming to be the first Kiwi driver in Formula One since Mike Thackwell in 1984, last season Richie Stanaway won the German Formula Three championship in convincing style, taking 13 wins from 18 races over the course of the season.  Stanaway is a very talented driver, and has already racked up an impressive number of titles: in addition to being German Formula Three champion, he has also won the ADAC Formel Masters and the MTA Formula Ford Championship.  He should take well to Formula Renault 3.5, and could easily win races in his first season.
I predict – 2nd

12.          Marco Sørensen
Joining Stanaway at Lotus is the driver he beat to last season’s German Formula Three championship, Danish driver Marco Sørensen.  Sørensen clearly has some talent to him, but I would expect him to be outclassed over the course of the season by Stanaway, just like he was last season.
I predict – 10th

BVM Target

Last season was BVM Target’s first in Formula Renault 3.5.  Despite having never competed in the series before the team performed well, taking a podium and finishing 8th in the teams’ championship.  This season sees them team up with Max Travin Racing, who originally had made a bid to enter Formula Renault 3.5 as a team.  Now that they have a season’s experience they could well improve on that performance and finish higher in the championship.
I predict – 10th

15.          Giovanni Venturini
In his debut season in Auto GP last year Venturini took two wins, and now moves into Formula Renault 3.5, having spent the end of last year testing.  It is possible that he could do as well as securing a podium finish, but I think that finishing regularly in the points would constitute a positive result for him this season.
I predict – 21st

16.          Nikolay Martsenko
When Max Travin Racing were looking to enter Formula Renault 3.5 they were intending to have Nikolay Martsenko as one of their drivers.  Now that Max Travin Racing are partnering BVM Target, Martsenks has been placed at the Italian team.  Martsenko is lucky to have friends in high places, otherwise he probably wouldn’t have made it into Formula Renault 3.5.
I predict – 26th

Team RFR

Team RFR (Russia France Racing) is the new name of KMP Racing which competed in Formula Renault 3.5 last year.  While there is still a French influence in the shape of team principal Bruno Besson, the driver line-up is definitely Russian.  Given that the drivers have so much experience in Formula Renault 3.5, the team should finish higher than last season’s 10th place.
I predict – 8th

17.          Mikhail Aleshin
It is clear that Mikhail Aleshin definitely has the talent to win Formula Renault 3.5, as he has done so before, in 2010.  I feel, however, that he should really be in Formula One by now, and it increasingly looks like he will never make it there.  Last season he was unfortunate to be driving for Carlin in GP2 as both he and the team made their debuts in the series, and it contributed to both struggling to make an impact before Aleshin was replaced.  Hopefully this season Aleshin will return to form and pick up at least one race win.
I predict – 8th

18.          Anton Nebylitskiy
Continuing the Russian theme at Team RFR is Anton Nebylitskiy.  This will be Nebylitskiy’s 4th season in Formula Renault 3.5, so he is definitely experienced.  Despite his experience, however, he has looked little more than average so far.  I think he should finish in the points reasonably consistently this season.
I predict – 25th

Pons Racing

Pons Racing began on two wheels rather than on four, being a leading motorcycle team.  They have been successful at this level, however, taking Heikki Kovalainen to the last World Series by Nissan title.  Since then they have not experienced a similar level of success, and will probably struggle again this season.
I predict – 12th

19.          Zoël Amberg
Swiss driver Zoël Amberg was 2010’s Formula Renault 2.0 Middle European champion, finishing either 1st or 2nd in every race he entered, but last year he had a difficult season in GP3.  He had a better time in the European F3 Open; despite only entering the last three rounds of the season he won one race and took 50 points on his way to 8th in the championship.  Hopefully his Formula Renault 3.5 experience will be more like his time in European F3 Open than his time in GP3.
I predict – 16th

20.          Yann Cunha
Yann Cunha had a torrid time last season; he was adjudged to have broken British F3’s rules about in-season testing, landing him a penalty which left him on negative points for the season.  He did a little better in the races he drove in European F3 Open, winning one.  Last season was not representative of his talent, in my opinion, so he should do better in Formula Renault 3.5.
I predict – 22nd

International Draco Racing

In the first three seasons of Formula Renault 3.5 International Draco Racing finished 2nd in the teams’ championship and won it in 2009.  Last season, however, they were not at the level they have come to expect, and they finished 12th.  As a decent team, International Draco Racing should improve this season, and get back to something approximating their previous form.
I predict – 9th

21.          Nico Müller
In GP3 over the last two seasons Nico Müller has performed well, finishing 3rd in his debut season and 4th last season.  In pre-season testing he has been running well, and given that he seems to adapt well he could take a win this season.
I predict – 12th

22.          André Negrão
André Negrão drove for International Draco Racing last season and took 20 points, all but 6 of the points that the team picked up as a whole.  This season he returns and will hope to improve.  Managed by Ricardo Tedeschi, who previously managed Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa, Negrão should perform well and continue to build on his debut season.
I predict – 18th

Comtec Racing

Of the teams that competed last season, Comtec Racing finished bottom, scoring only two points, these coming in the last race of the season.  Given that they were over 20 points away from 12th place last season, even an improvement may not lift them far up the rankings.
I predict – 13th

23.          Vittorio Ghirelli
In his two seasons in GP3 Vittorio Ghirelli failed to score a single point.  An Italian karting champion, Ghirelli does still have time on his side in his open wheel career, given that he is only 17 years old.  Hopefully he’s taken some lessons from his tough time in GP3 and will apply these in Formula Renault 3.5.  If he does he could score some points.
I predict - 24th

24.          Nick Yelloly
Nick Yelloly is another GP3 graduate.  His last season was not excellent, except for an inspired weekend at Silverstone where he picked up all of his 7 points, including a 3rd place finish in the feature race.  He also drove in 3 rounds of the Formula Renault 3.5 season, taking 2nd place at the final race at Catalunya.  Given how quickly he adapted to Formula Renault 3.5 last season, he could carry this form into the new season and do well.
I predict – 17h

Arden Caterham

Christian Horner’s team Arden International make their debut in Formula Renault 3.5 this season, teaming up with Formula One team Caterham.  The combination of these two teams and a very strong driver line-up makes Arden Caterham a force to be reckoned with, even without experience of the series.
I predict – 3rd

25.          Alexander Rossi
Representing Caterham in the marriage of the two is American Alexander Rossi.  A force in Formula BMW, last season he finished 3rd in the Formula Renault 3.5 championship driving for Fortec Motorsport.  Assuming that Arden Caterham do adapt well to Formula Renault 3.5, he should mount a title challenge this season.
I predict – 5th

26.          Lewis Williamson
Representing Christian Horner’s teams is Lewis Williamson, a recent recruit to the Red Bull Junior Team.  Lewis Williamson has already been recognised for his potential as a young driver, winning the BRDC’s Rising Star award in 2009, and winning the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award in 2010.  Last season he competed in GP3, winning one race in his debut season, and also got a chance in Formula Reanult 3.5, deputising for Daniel Ricciardo.  He could also challenge for the title, if he is able to beat his team-mate.
I predict – 7th


The second team chosen to join Formula Renault 3.5 this season was DAMS, a successful team in many other series including GP2.  DAMS last competed in Formula Renault 3.5 in 2005, but made the decision to return as a result of how strong the series has become in their absence.  As an experienced motorsport outfit they should get up to speed quickly in Formula Renault 3.5
I predict – 7th

27.          Lucas Foresti
The highlight of Lucas Foresti’s career so far has probably been winning the Formula 3 Brazil Open two years in a row, both last year and this year, dominating each time.  A Formula Renault 3.5 rookie, Foresti will probably pick up points, but might struggle to get wins against more experienced competitors.
I predict – 19th

28.          Arthur Pic
Arthur Pic is the younger brother of Formula One driver Charles Pic, and last year made his debut in Formula Renault 3.5, driving for Tech 1 Racing.  Like current Formula One driver Jean-Éric Vergne, Arthur Pic is a former Formul’Academy Euro Series champion, winning the title in 2008.  Pic will hopefully improve upon his performance last season, but it might be difficult to make much ground in a new team.
I predict – 11th

No comments:

Post a Comment