The season reaches its conclusion in Catalunya next weekend, with Jules Bianchi heading the standings by a mere five points from Robin Frijns, while Sam Bird lies a further 19 points back in third. The Briton is by no means out of it, however, and could yet steal the title if things do not go to plan for his rivals.
For the first time this season, Jules Bianchi will head to Spain as the Formula Renault 3.5 Series leader. Recently back from the Korean Grand Prix, where he took part in the opening free practice session with Sahara Force India, the Ferrari Driver Academy member will have to work hard to seal his first title since winning the 2009 Formula 3 Euro Series, which came two years after his French Formula Renault 2.0 Championship triumph.
Second-placed Robin Frijns has nothing to lose as he sets about the task of catching the Frenchman. Drawing on his talent and grit, the 2011 Eurocup Formula Renault champion has lit up the Formula Renault 3.5 Series in his rookie season, grabbing four pole positions, three wins and seven podium finishes. A clutch of Formula One teams are keeping a close eye on the Dutchman, and the title would do his chances of stepping up a level no harm, especially as he would be the first newcomer to win the championship since Robert Kubica in 2005. He would also be the first driver to win the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and Formula Renault 3.5 Series titles back to back.
But despite his consistency throughout the season, Robin Frijns still finds himself playing catch-up after experiencing his worst weekend of the season in the previous round at Paul Ricard, which could yet prove to be the pivotal moment of the campaign, with the Dutchman collecting a mere eight points in the south of France to Jules Bianchi’s 37.
The third man in the championship frame is Sam Bird, who has plenty of ground to make up but will be buoyed by the knowledge that the last meeting of the season is usually an eventful one, especially when there is a title at stake. If he is to pull it off, the Mercedes AMG Formula One Team man almost certainly has to win Race 1, which means he will need to improve on his recent performances in qualifying, which have damaged his championship hopes.
Nick Yelloly (Comtec Racing), Marco Sorensen (Lotus), Antonio Felix da Costa (Arden Caterham), Arthur Pic (Dams) and Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) have all won races this year and, as thoughts start to turn to 2013, they will be looking to end the season on a high note. Also out to top the podium, albeit for the first time in 2012, are Nico Muller (International Draco Racing), Kevin Korjus (Lotus), Alexander Rossi (Arden Caterham) and Will Stevens (Carlin), who have two opportunities left to break their ducks.
The battle for the team crown is between Tech 1 Racing and Fortec Motorsports. The French outfit, represented by Jules Bianchi and Daniel Abt, are aiming for their fourth title in the category, while Richard Dutton’s stable, formed by Robin Frijns and Carlos Huertas, are hoping for their maiden success. Meanwhile, Antonio Felix da Costa’s two recent wins have catapulted Formula Renault 3.5 Series new boys Arden Caterham up to third, six points ahead of ISR, with Lotus also still in with a chance of taking the last place on the team podium.
While the Formula One drivers of tomorrow map out their future, a former knight of the Formula One grid is preparing to return to action. Damon Hill, the 1996 world champion, will be taking his first drive in the 2010 world championship-winning Red Bull RB6. The British legend secured 20 Grand Prix poles and 21 wins in a Renault-powered car, and his Red Bull Formula One Team demo drives are sure to be one of the highlights of the last meeting of the year.