Canadian takes Formula Renault 3.5 Series points lead
Canada’s Robert Wickens celebrated his first victory of the 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 Series season this weekend as the Toronto racer proved to be a dominant force in Round 2 hosted at the renowned Spa-Francorchamps Circuit in Belgium.
Saturday’s victory, from pole position, was followed up on Sunday with the Carlin entrant taking another podium finish, Wickens placing second to team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne. Robert’s commanding performances elevate the 2010 GP3 Series Runner-up into the championship lead on 71 points, with a total of three podiums and two poles earned from the first two double-header rounds of the pan-European ‘World Series by Renault.’
The 22-year-old’s weekend started faultlessly with Wickens comfortably in control of Saturday morning’s qualifying session. A best lap of 2m02.855s around the 7km circuit captured the pole position by over a tenth of a second from Spain’s Albert Costa.
Saturday afternoon’s 22-lap charge witnessed a faultless drive from the Marussia Motors-backed Canadian as he led off the line. While the other 25 drivers gave chase, Robert showcased his mastery of the famed drivers’ circuit, leading every lap of the race and underlining his speed by setting the fastest lap along the way. At the checkered flag Wickens led-home a Carlin 1-2 finish with France’s Jean-Eric Vergne in second and front-row starter Costa taking third.
Sunday morning’s Race 2 qualifying session produced a third place effort from Robert, with his team-mate Vergne on the pole accompanied by Italy’s Daniel Zampieri. The afternoon’s race proved to be a more eventful outing with Wickens quickly up into second on the first lap having passed Zampieri into the La Source hairpin.
Chasing down Vergne but with no clear opportunity to pass, Robert executed his mandatory pit-stop on the sixth tour and dutifully assumed the lead of the race when Vergne’s own stop, a lap later, proved to be marginally slower. From there the two Carlin racers were locked in an exclusive battle for the win. The Canadian ultimately lost the lead to his team-mate five laps from the finish after his French rival made his move around the outside at Les Combes.
Locking-up to avoid a potential crash, Robert surrendered P1 but successfully held on to second place despite the state of his now flat-spotted, and deteriorating tires. With the top-two reversed from the previous day’s race, Vergne and Wickens celebrated a Carlin sweep while New Zealand’s Chris Van der Drift rounded out the podium.
“Well I’d have liked two wins from the weekend but I’m naturally happy to have taken the points lead here in Belgium,” stated Wickens. “We’re in a good championship position although it’s still early in the season. That said, I like to lead from the front so we have to keep the momentum on our side and build on what’s been a great weekend at Spa. Yesterday’s result was obviously fantastic! I thought things were looking good today also but I might have pushed too hard as my tires seemed to go off quickly and I lost rear grip. Second is fine, I’ll take the points!”
Round 3 of the ‘World Series by Renault’ heads to Italy and the historic Autodromo Nazionale Monza – home of the Italian Grand Prix, Saturday 14th – Sunday 15th May. For further information on the World Series by Renault please log on to: www.worldseriesbyrenault.com
About Robert Wickens:
Robert Wickens (22) is recognized as one of the brightest Canadian driving talents to have emerged in recent years with a track record of success forged on both sides of the Atlantic leading him well placed on the path to Formula One. A multiple karting champion in North America, Wickens won the 2006 Formula BMW USA title before graduating, and winning races in the Formula Atlantic Series the following year. Chasing his F1 dream, Robert moved to Europe in 2008 winning races in both the World Series by Renault and the F3 Euro Series.
He raced his way to the runner-up spot in the FIA F2 Championship in 2009, again a multiple race-winner, before tackling the 2010 GP3 Series. Another strong title-challenging campaign saw Robert claim the runner-up position but more importantly, his 2010 efforts attracted the backing of Marussia Motors – Russia’s first supercar manufacturer and an owner in the Marussia Virgin F1 team.
About Marussia Motors:
Founded in 2007 by former racing driver Nikolay Fomenko, renowned brand strategist Efim Ostrovsky and award-winning technology entrepreneur Andrey Cheglakov, the creation of Russia’s first high-performance car company is a remarkable story of vision, focus, innovation and ambition. The dramatic mid-engined B1 design, was first unveiled in Moscow in 2008, followed by the launch of the Marussia B2 in the autumn of 2009 – with these designs, the Russian supercar had arrived. In 2010 the company partnered with Virgin Racing F1 and at the end of the season Marussia Motors acquired a majority stake in the team – now called Marussia Virgin Racing – www.marussiamotors.ru / www.virginracing.com
About Formula Renault 3.5 Series:
The Formula Renault 3.5 Series has been successful in launching several drivers directly into Formula One with the notable stand-outs including 2010 Formula One World Champion Sebastian Vettel, as well as Grand Prix winner Robert Kubica. Both Vettel and Kubica made their F1 starts graduating straight from successful seasons competing in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series – part of the ‘World Series by Renault’ package. In 2011 the series sees 26 cars competing in 17 races across 9 of Europe’s leading circuits including the likes of Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium), Monza (Italy), Silverstone (UK) and Monaco – www.worldseriesbyrenault.com
source: Stuart Morrison
Alexander Rossi in P3 of WSr Championship after points Spa-Francorchamps
Starting from 15th position, American Alexander Rossi produced a solid performance to finish 7th in race two of the World Series by Renault round at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium today.
After a difficult qualifying session this morning, where Rossi struggled with car set-up and admitted to not maximising his track time, Rossi lined up his Fortec Motorsport car in P15 on the grid for the afternoon’s race.
Once again Rossi made a great race start, keeping out of trouble when a first corner clash spun his team mate, Ramos, 360 degrees. Rossi moved up into P11 as the pack forged on to Eau Rouge and then he skilfully took Rosenzweig for 10th place on lap two where he ran until the pit stop window opened. His Fortec Motorsport team opted for an early stop strategy as they did in Aragon, and Rossi entered the pits as soon as the window opened on lap five. Re-joining the field in clean air, Rossi was soon able to capitalise on position gain and was running with good race pace in P7.
He then had to close the gap to Zampieri ahead, but with the leaders now running at similar speeds and due to his early pit stop, Rossi was struggling as his tyres dropped away in the closing stages, making it impossible for him to achieve a realistic challenge for P6.
Rossi took the chequered flag at the end of the 22-lap race in P7, as he did in race one, and picked up a further six Championship points to bring his tally to 55, with the Fortec Motorsport team now on 67 points. Rossi now sits in P3, only two points behind today’s race winner Jean-Eric Vergne, with his Fortec team in P2 in the World Series by Renault FR3.5 Championships.
Alexander Rossi commented; “We made a lot of changes overnight – some good, some not so good – but I did not maximise some of my laps in qualifying and probably could have found a few more tenths which cost us a few positions, but I will learn from that. My race start was good and after the pit stop we showed some genuine pace, which is really positive. As we stopped early though, my tyres were quite gone by the last few laps, so I could not improve on my times in the last stint. However, it was a good weekend for us and we will take away these experiences and move on. We cannot get too disappointed about our results this weekend, but we have to move forward significantly as the Championship is quite tight.”
Jamie Dye, Team Manager, Fortec Motorsport, added; “Our pace in the race was good and the lap times were there. Catching and passing the other cars is another thing, however, and that is what we have to work on again for our cars in the next race. If we were getting a tow in the fast parts of the track Alexander was able to pass, but we were losing out in the slow parts. We obviously have some fine tuning to do to get more out of the car, but Alexander drove a great race, and to finish 8 seconds behind the leader after starting P15 is a very good overall achievement. We have some small tweeks coming for Monza which will help, but the Carlin’s are doing a mega job, so we shall be working towards closing the gap technically as quickly as we can.”
Alexander Rossi Grinds Out Championship Points in Spa
American driver, Alexander Rossi fights to bring home more important championship points from second round of World Series by Renault at Spa-Francorchamps.
Despite the calm weather conditions, the Belgium venue played host to some drama in the closing stages of Qualifying 1, when two red flag situations interrupted running. Rossi and his Fortec Motorsport team had difficulty exiting the garage cleanly due to two cars blocking them in the fast lane of the pits while waiting for the session to re-start. However, once back out on track Rossi ended the session in 11th position losing out on pace to the dominant Carlin cars.
In the afternoon Rossi had a great start to the race, making up three places during the chase to the first corner and up to Eau Rouge on the first lap. He was also able to take advantage of an incident at La Source and make pass on Ricciardo to take P7 before the yellow flag was raised on lap three.
In clearly the faster car, Rossi was then able to close the gap, lap by lap, to Daniil Move ahead, and at the halfway stage was the leading ‘rookie’ running in P7. Rossi continued to keep up with the front runners, but was unable to find the momentum to pass Move while creating a four seconds advantage over the pack dropping away behind.
Despite pushing hard for the remainder of the 22-lap race, Rossi was unable to improve on his position. Not being able to preserve his tyres stuck behind the parade of front runners, Rossi took the chequered flag as the first rookie in P7 and with it six Championship points to now sit in second place on the Drivers’ Championship table, with Fortec Motorsports in P2 of the Team Championship.
Alexander Rossi commented; “We struggled to find good balance for the car in qualifying today and I think I got the maximum out of it. We went into the race having made a few big changes and I had a good start, but then got stuck behind Move and that was wearing on the tyres. After that, I was not able to improve on my position beyond 7th and although we had the pace of the other teams, the Carlin’s were something else.”
Jamie Dye, Team Manager, Fortec Motorsport, concluded; “We were happy with our initial pace in qualifying this morning, but with two cars parked in front of us when the red flags were out, we could not get out of the pits cleanly at the session re-start and were then held up behind a much slower car. Alexander’s race pace was good enough, but he could not get past Move. The car is performing well in clean air, but we need to make some improvements for overtaking opportunities tomorrow. Having said that we are happy enough with our result today; as series rookies our drivers did a great job, but we are hoping to be back up where we were in Aragon for the race tomorrow.”
After another difficult qualifying session for Race 2 at Spa-Francorchamps where Rossi and Team Fortec struggled with car set-up, Rossi lined 15th on the grid for race producing another solid performance to finish 7th and additional six valuable championship points.
Once again, Rossi made a great race start, keeping out of trouble when a first corner clash spun his team mate, Ramos, Rossi moved up into P11 as the pack forged on to Eau Rouge and then he skilfully took Rosenzweig for 10th place on lap two where he ran until the pit stop window opened. His Fortec Motorsport team opted for an early stop strategy as they did in Aragon, and Rossi entered the pits as soon as the window opened on lap five. Re-joining the field in clean air, Rossi was soon able to capitalise on position gain and was running with good race pace in P7.
Rossi then had to close the gap to Zampieri ahead, but with the leaders now running at similar speeds and due to his early pit stop, Rossi was struggling as his tyres dropped away in the closing stages, making it impossible for him to achieve a realistic challenge for P6.
Rossi took the chequered flag at the end of the 22-lap race in P7, as he did in race one, and picked up a further six Championship points. Fortec Motorsport team now on 67 points in 2nd place. Rossi now sits in 3rd in driver’s Championship with 55 points, two points behind today’s race winner Jean-Eric Vergne and Robert Wickens leading with 71.
Alexander Rossi commented; “We made a lot of changes overnight – some good, some not so good. I probably could have found a few more tenths in qualifying which cost us a few positions. My race start was good and after the pit stop we showed some genuine pace, which is really positive. As we stopped early though, my tyres were quite gone by the last few laps, so I could not improve on my times in the last stint. However, it was a good weekend considering as I’m still closely in 3rd from Robert and grabbed 12 valuable points that will come in handy this year. It’s a long championship and will be fight to the end I’m sure, there is a lot of talented drivers and good teams in the paddock.”
Jamie Dye, Team Manager, Fortec Motorsport, added; “Our pace in the race was good and the lap times were there. Catching and passing the other cars is another thing, however, and that is what we have to work on again for our cars in the next race. If we were getting a tow in the fast parts of the track Alexander was able to pass, but we were losing out in the slow parts. We obviously have some fine tuning to do to get more out of the car, but Alexander drove a great race, and to finish 8 seconds behind the leader after starting P15 is a very good overall achievement. We have some changes coming for Monza which will help, but the Carlin’s are doing a mega job, so we shall be working towards closing the gap technically as quickly as we can.”
source: alexanderrossi.com, teamrossimotorsports.com
Van der Drift keeps his word: Podium in Spa-Francorchamps
Because of his last minute deal to race in World Series Formula Renault 3.5, Chris van der Drift considered his first race weekend in Spain as a test. Without any pre-season testing, the 25 year old Kiwi promised to get up to speed for the second round in Spa-Francorchamps. He kept his word and came home with a strong third place in the second race. “A fantastic race weekend we are becoming stronger and stronger”, says Van der Drift.
While other drivers in this competitive field of young talents got up to eight days of testing, Van der Drift started the season with absolutely nothing. Already during the first race weekend at Motorland Aragón he impressed his team Mofaz Racing with strong results. But that was just a warming up for Spa.
Van der Drift started his weekend where he left in Spain. While fighting for a top ten place during the first race, he was not yet satisfied about the performance of the car as he knew there was more to come. He knew he could do a quicker lap around the Belgian circuit and worked closely with his engineers to find more speed.
In his second qualifying session for race two, Van der Drift drove a solid lap and got rewarded by a top spot on the grid. “We found something to go quicker in the corners and we were very fast on old tires I was quickest right up till the end which was nice to see P1 on the pit board”, says Van der Drift who qualified fourth by the end of the session. “The new setup made the car much more constant and stable, but we missed a little bit exiting the corners.”
Van der Drift remained fourth after the start and kept an eye on the front runners. Quick lap times and a solid pitstop promoted the fast driver to third and he finished the race in this position. “We had a problem with the radio it completely stopped working, so I came in for the pitstop two laps later than planned. But luckily we came out in third.”
“It was fun working with the team and especially my engineer to make the car go quicker. We have become stronger this weekend and it was a pleasure driving the car. The team was very happy with the results, so I hope I can stay for the next race”, says Van der Drift who was asked by the team to drive first two rounds of the season, also thanks to the Malaysian sponsors.
Chris thanks his team and sponsors making this race weekend possible. He is proudly supported by: Stockholm Fashion, Vision Racer, Titan Meats, Alla Fonte, Wang Selamat, MIS Race Insurance, Real and Giltrap Group.
source: chrisvddrift.com, photos: dutchphotoagency.com
Nelson Panciatici in the rhythm at Spa Francorchamps
The KMP Racing team and their manager Bruno Besson were very confident when they reached the difficult track of Spa Francorchamps for the World Series by Renault. Nelson Panciatici would confirm this with a position in the top ranks right from the free practice on Friday where he finished 5th.
For the first session of qualifiers, Nelson managed to reach an excellent 4th place in one lap before being blocked, which was a shame because the first line was in view!
Nelson Panciatici then fought hard for 3rd place right up to the last lap of race 1 when he was overrun and crossed the line in 5th position.
For the qualifiers the next day, the drivers of KMP Racing pulled off a combined attack with Nelson 8th and his co-driver Anton Nebylitskiy 9th, but fell foul of the traffic once more and the young Frenchman would be left with a few more regrets.
In race 2, after a lively start which saw him lose a few places, Nelson Panciatici lined up some fast laps before taking a late pit stop which should have seen him come out in the lead positions. Unfortunately, he was immobilised for some long seconds following a problem with the gear box selector and came out in 11th place. Nelson would eventually finish a very disappointing 10th considering the extremely fast times he had clocked at that point in the race.
Nelson Panciatici: “We had the speed but success evaded us all weekend, whether in the qualifiers or the race. The championship is far from over though, and we’re still in this despite everything. The new points allocation system also means we just need a good weekend to be back in the running, we just need to grab the opportunities! »
“Nelson is still 5th in the championship despite our problems,” added Bruno Besson, the Team Manager for KMP Racing, “ we have got to work hard and do everything we can to eliminate any unknowns because we’re still in this to win. Nelson had two very good races and the ranking does not reflect his performance at all, his race times prove it. Nelson also spends a lot of time with his engineer and the two of them have really hit it off, it’s their strong point. I’m optimistic for what’s to come even though I know it won’t be easy considering the exceptionnally high level of the championship this year but we have nothing to envy the others, up to us to attract our success! »
The next meeting in the World Series by Renault will be on the F1 Monza track on the 13, 14 and 15 May.
For more information concerning Nelson Panciatici, please visit www.nelsonpancia.com