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Aug 23

Renault Sport Academy mid-season review

Foreword from Cyril Abiteboul

2017-01-19_0132The 2017 members of the Renault Sport Academy have so far enjoyed a challenging and successful season of racing as many of the youth single-seater championships enter their final sprint.

We are into the second year of the Renault Sport Academy and this year’s driver line-up is full of talent and promise as we aim to help them progress through the racing ranks and nurture them into the stars of tomorrow.

There have been many notable performances from the six drivers who compete across four championships so far this season.

Jack Aitken retained his place on the Academy after a bright year in 2016. Jack ended the first-half of this season’s GP3 series on a high note by winning in Hungary and he is well placed to be in contention of winning the Drivers’ Championship.

Christian Lundgaard is in his first season in single-seat machinery since graduating from karting and he has already claimed the SMP F4 NEZ title with a round to spare after a number of victories and podiums.

Reigning British F4 champion Max Fewtrell, Jarno Opmeer and Sun Yue Yang are a trio of rookies competing in the Formula Renault Eurocup. Max has the top rookie accolade within reach and he ended the first part of the season with a maiden victory in Austria which sets him up well for the final three rounds.

Finally, we welcomed Marta García to the Academy after an impressive karting career across Spain and Europe during her youth. There isn’t too much to report from Marta’s 2017 progress as the majority of the Spanish Championship is completed in the autumn months.

Mia Sharizman – with a wealth of knowledge across the motorsport world – oversees the Academy and is tasked with managing and directing the six drivers. As well as the racing, the drivers are put through their paces with training camps, gym work and social media coaching to fully understand what it takes to get to the top of the sport.

Each member has their own specific target to achieve by the end of the season with the collective aim of each member being to become Formula 1 world champion with Renault.

Jack Aitken

Date of birth: 23/09/1995

Nationality: British/Korean

Season so far:

Jack’s second season of GP3 began with a bang with his new ART team, through storming to pole position in the opening round in Barcelona in May. That turned out to be his only points of the weekend as engine problems restricted Jack’s running in the races.

The 21-year-old dusted that off and went to the Red Bull Ring, Austria in July with a point to prove, qualifying second and holding that position in race one, then taking fifth in the second race, after starting from seventh.

At his home race in Silverstone, Jack impressed, taking fourth in the opening race before sealing a second podium of the season after finishing second in Sunday’s Sprint.

Jack took his first win of 2017 after leading from lights to flag in Hungary’s Feature race. The cherry on top for Jack was taking the fastest lap, meaning he took the maximum 31 points from that race to close the gap to George Russell in the Drivers’ championship to nine points.

With eight races to go, Jack is targeting a string of podiums and wins as he chases down the GP3 Drivers’ title.

Results:

Driver/Race Bar RBR Sil Hun
Jack AitkenP2 – 83 points RET and P12 P2 and P5 P4 and P2 P1 and DNF

 

My standout moment:

Taking a season-opening pole position in Barcelona.

“A lot of things haven’t quite gone to plan this season, but the very first chance we had to show our stuff was qualifying in round one and we went ahead and poled it by two tenths. Hopefully there are a few more of them to come.”

 

Jack Aitken quotes:

“The start of the season was really good and getting pole in Barcelona was great, but unfortunately the races didn’t go right for me. We moved onto the Red Bull Ring and I managed to get a second and a fifth which was a solid points haul. Silverstone was difficult, but we fought our way up to fourth and second in the races and Budapest went really well by taking the hat-trick and the maximum 31 points in race one.

“Overall, the season has not been straightforward, but we’ve shown our pace with two pole positions, a win and a couple of podiums. I’m nine points behind the championship lead and I think we are only going to get stronger.”

 

Sébastien Philippe (ART) : “Jack is a very clever guy, a hard worker and his attitude inside and outside of the car is very professional. We made a good start in Barcelona with a pole position but engine issues meant we didn’t score any points in the races. Jack’s absolute pace in Austria was very good and we made a return to the points. Silverstone was challenging but Jack persevered and took a strong second and a fourth.

“In Budapest, Jack found confidence in qualifying and pushed the car to the limit and took a second pole of the season; taking his first win of the season in the first race. Jack’s understanding of data is excellent, and he takes a very ‘scientific approach’ to things. Hopefully we can combine everything together for the final four rounds.”

 

Jack Aitken Career Highlights:

2017 – GP3 Series (*2nd)

2016 – GP3 Series (5th)

2015 – Formula Renault Eurocup (1st), Formula Renault Alps (1st), Pro Mazda Winterfest (1st)

2014 – Formula Renault Eurocup (7th)

2013 – Formula Renault NEC (2nd)

2012 – Dunlop Intersteps Championship (3rd)

Max Fewtrell

Date of birth: 29/07/1999

Nationality: British

Season so far:

Max entered the 2017 Formula Renault Eurocup series on the back of a title winning rookie season in the British Formula 4 Championship.

Max currently sits second in the rookie championship and seventh in the overall classification after a bright start to life in the Eurocup. The 18-year-old grabbed his first win in the class in the final round before the summer break at the Red Bull Ring, Austria as he continues to battle hard to be crowned best rookie of 2017.

Up until Austria, Max’s best result came at Silverstone in round two where he took a brace of fourth place finishes.

He followed that up with a seventh and fifth in Pau and added more points to his tally at the Hungaroring and the Nürburgring.

With three rounds left on the calendar, Max will have his sights firmly set on building on his impressive outing in Austria and beating his close rivals in the race to be the top newcomer where he currently trails the leader by a slim three points.

Results:

Driver/Race Mon Sil Pau Mon Hun Nür RBR
Max FewtrellP7 – 109 points P8 and P8 P4 and P4 P7 and P5 P16 and P13 P13, P6 and P9 P6 and P7 P1 and P4

 

My standout moment:

Winning my first Eurocup race in Austria.

“I was second on the grid and overtook the pole-sitter at the first turn. After that it was a long, hard race where I had to stay focused after being under attack. I kept my cool in the end and I was able to get the win which was an amazing feeling.”

 

Max Fewtrell quotes:

“It has been a decent season so far with a few ups and downs but I feel like I have made a big step forward after Austria where I got my first win. I’m hoping to carry this confidence and performance into the rest of the season.

“I had a strong weekend at my home race in Silverstone with two fourth places; one of those coming from tenth on the grid. Monaco was a special experience – the results weren’t quite there but nevertheless it was a dream come true to drive. Red Bull Ring was really great especially to take my first win – there’s no better feeling. I want to build on that now and finish the season well with more podiums and wins.”

 

Simon Abadie (Tech 1 Racing): “The first part of the season has been very positive. Max was quickly up to speed with the fastest drivers of the Formula Renault Eurocup but as a rookie, he sometimes failed to take advantage of this speed. This is the normal learning process and he clearly is on the right path.

“We knew we could place him on the top step of the podium and that’s exactly where he ended thanks to his superb job at the Red Bull Ring. Max had an ideal weekend to boost his confidence before the summer break. His first win was the logical outcome of his recent performances. We will do our utmost to clinch the rookie title with possibly an overall Top Five finish.”

Max Fewtrell Career Highlights:

2017 – Formula Renault Eurocup (*7th, 2nd rookie)

2016 – F4 British Championship (1st)

2015 – MRF Challenge Formula 2000 (11th)


 

Jarno Opmeer

Date of birth: 4/11/2000

Nationality: Dutch

Season so far:

Jarno is in his rookie season of the Formula Renault Eurocup having finished runner-up in the SMP F4 NEZ Championship in 2016.

Racing for MP Motorsport, Jarno’s best finish so far this season came in Hungary where he finished eighth to claim four points.

The 16-year-old Dutchman showcased his wet racing skills at the Nürburgring in round six, making up 14 places to finish sixteenth in torrential rain with only six laps of racing completed.

Jarno has endured some difficult rounds, but is showing some encouraging signs of improved race pace with stronger qualifying a key target for him.

Jarno will be aiming for a bright second-half of the season as he targets catching up a number of rookies ahead of him in the standings including both of his MP Motorsport team-mates.

Results:

Driver/Race Mon Sil Pau Mon Hun Nür RBR
Jarno  OpmeerP19 – 4 points P18 and P21 RET and P15 P11 and P22 P13 and RET P8, P14 and P12 P16 and P16 P13 and RET

My standout moment:

Driving in Monaco

“When I drove around Monaco, it really was a dream come true and a special moment for me.”

 

Jarno Opmeer quotes:

“So far this season I have been able to learn a lot. We have found some good improvements in the set-up and I have improved throughout the year, but we have a long way to go and lots more to improve. I have developed my driving style, but there is still more to come. I have shown really good pace at times especially in races, I just need my qualifying to be a bit better in order to be better placed ready for the races.”

Sander Dorsman (MP Motorsport): “Jarno has shown a huge amount of promise and potential during his first season in the Formula Renault Eurocup, which is arguably the most competitive championship in the world at this level. He is a very quick driver, which we already knew from his time with MP Motorsport in Formula 4, but his maturity and professionalism are two of his biggest attributes.

 

“Being a rookie driver in the Eurocup, he needed to adapt to the car and championship, however his first points finish in Hungary was an indicator of what we know he is capable of doing. There is undoubtedly much more to come from Jarno. We’re all looking forward to the last three events of the season, building on everything he has learnt so far and pushing further forward.”

 

Jarno Opmeer Career Highlights:

2017 – Formula Renault Eurocup (*19th, 10th rookie)

2016 – SMP F4 NEZ Championship (2nd)

 

Sun Yue Yang

Date of birth: 6/06/2000

Nationality: Chinese

Season so far:

Sunny is continuing to show signs of improvement in his first-year of a two-year programme in the Eurocup.

Sunny, racing for Italian outfit JD Motorsport, has a best finish of sixteenth so far, achieved in the opening round in Monza and repeated again in Silverstone in round two.

Since then, Sunny has recorded two top twenty finishes, one at the Hungaroring and the other at the Red Bull Ring.

Sunny made a return to Monza in June for the opening round of the Formula Renault NEC series and finished fourth in the opening race.

The young Chinese teenager will be aiming to learn from a positive end to the first-half of the season by continuing his upward momentum in the remaining rounds in Le Castellet, Spa and Barcelona.

 

Results:

 

Driver/Race Mon Sil Pau Mon Hun Nür RBR
Sun Yue YangP30 – 0 points P27 and P16 P16 and P24 RET and P21 P23 and DNQ P19, P28 and P28 P26 and P21 P21 and P17

 

My standout moment:

Race Two in Austria

“This was one of my best races. I made an amazing start and had a good battle with the driver in front. I used some skills which I developed in karting to get around some cars which was fun. I worked my way up to 13th, but I became a little fatigued and went back to 15th after a mistake. I ended 17th but I was able to learn a lot and I need to keep working hard.”

 

Sun Yue Yang quotes:

“The season so far has been quite difficult and filled with lots of pressure. It’s my first year in the category so it takes a lot of effort to get better results. The start of the season in Monza and Silverstone began well and I was in a good position to make overtakes but just couldn’t quite do it. It’s about confidence which I’m trying to build up. I have tried to improve and learn new skills and I put it all together in the final race before the break in Austria. Hopefully I can add to that knowledge in the remaining races.”

 

Roberto Cavallari (JD Motorsport): The start of the season was very difficult for Sunny, especially in the two street circuits of Pau and Monaco. But immediately after these races we saw a positive reaction and today we can be happy with the level of improvements made by him across both qualifying and races. The final race before the break in Austria was positive and showed the steps we have gained. I’m very confident to see further strides for the last part of the season on three good, challenging circuits.”

Sun Yue Yang Career Highlights:

2017 – Formula Renault Eurocup (*30th, 17th rookie)


Christian Lundgaard

Date of birth: 23/07/2001

Nationality: Danish

 

Season so far:

Christian has taken the 2017 SMP F4 NEZ Championship by storm, recording nine victories on his way to winning the Drivers’ Championship with a round to spare.

Things began brightly for Christian in the season opener in Sochi, Russia. The Dane finished fifth in the opening race before dominating the rest of the weekend with wins in races two and three.

Smolensk followed in June and Christian took two podiums with a second and a third in races one and three.

Two seventh places in Ahvenisto left Christian with a taste of disappointment, but he showed his grit and blitzed the final race to take a second victory of the season. Sandwiched between Finland and Parnu, Christian grabbed a hat-trick of wins in the opening round of the Spanish F4 Championship in Aragon.

In Parnu, his impressive form continued as he won two out of the three races before adding another two victories in Moscow to close in on the title.

And the job was complete at the second outing in Moscow as Christian took another two wins. Assen brings the curtain down on the 2017 F4 NEZ season with Christian aiming to finish with a flourish.

Results:

Driver/Race Sochi Smolensk Ahvenisto Parnu Moscow 1 Moscow 2
Christian LundgaardP1 – 255 points P5, P1, P1 P2, P6, P3 P7, P7, P1 P1, P1, RET P1, P1, P3 P1, P1, P11
Driver/Race Aragon Navarra Catalunya Jerez Navarra
Christian Lundgaard P1, P1, P1  

My standout moment:

The hat-trick of wins at Aragon

“It was an awesome weekend. I won all three races from different starting positions. The weekend overall was definitely my best performance, we learned a lot and made some good overtakes to get the win on a new track to me.”

Christian Lundgaard quotes:

“The results have been good; sometimes a bit up and down, but on a whole it has been positive. Moscow was a really, really strong weekend, as was Aragon with the hat-trick which was important for me, it really showed what I’m here for. The season has been better than I expected.

“It was an amazing feeling to win the Drivers’ championship with a round to spare. I wanted to do it in the perfect way with a hat-trick of wins, but I made a mistake in the final race. Nevertheless, I’m delighted and I will continue to work hard ready for the next round. My dream in motorsport is to win Formula 1, it will take a lot of work and a lot of things have to go right, but that’s what I want to achieve.”

 

Sander Dorsman (MP Motorsport): “His skill is based on a great understanding on what is needed to drive fast, which has a lot to do with the fact that he lives and breathes racing. He is the only driver in the NEZ class that almost obsessively studies onboards whenever he can!

 

“Christian has an excellent win-rate in the championship this year with nine victories. . His personality is such that he manages to rally his team behind him. He is well respected by the people around him, including the racing drivers. We were delighted to help him win a Drivers’ title in his rookie season.

Christian Lundgaard Career Highlights:

2017: SMP F4 NEZ Championship (*1st)

Marta García

Date of birth: 9/08/2000

Nationality: Spanish

Season so far:

Marta is into her first full season of the Spanish F4 Championship after completing the second-half of the series last year.

With most of the championship pencilled in for the autumn, Marta has only completed one round which came in Aragon in June.

Marta was consistent and solid all weekend with her pace rewarded with three point scoring finishes; a 10th and a brace of sixth places.

Marta travelled to Moscow, Russia for round five of the SMP F4 NEZ Championship to continue her training and preparation in single-seat machinery where she picked up a sixth place finish in race three.

The remainder of the Spanish calendar is busy with the 16-year-old set for trips to Navarra, Barcelona, Jerez, Nogaro (France) and Estoril (Portugal).

Marta also made a trip to Barcelona for the 2017 Spanish Grand Prix, catching up with team personnel and learning what it’s like to be a Renault Formula 1 driver behind the scenes.

 

Results:

 

Spanish F4 Championship

Driver/Race Aragon Navarra Catalunya Jerez Navarra
Marta GarciaP8 – 13 points P10, P6, P6  

 

SMP F4 NEZ Championship

Driver/Race         Moscow
Marta Garcia RET, RET, P6

 

My standout moment:

Race Three in Moscow

“I had a good start to the weekend with qualifying and I started from seventh. I was fast in race three and overtook a driver on the second lap and I had to stay cool to keep the position. It showed I took a step forward from the weekend which was good.”

 

Marta García quotes:

“The first race was the opening round of the Spanish F4 and it wasn’t so good as I hadn’t driven for around six months and it was my first time at the track so I had to take time to adapt. In the end, I couldn’t quite find the pace. Moscow was good in the NEZ championship, it was better than Aragon as I had better pace and I made a step forward.

“September will see the return of the championship which is exciting. My target is to finish in the top three of the championship, so I need to start chasing some points and some podiums.”

Sander Dorsman (MP Motorsport): “Our time with Marta has only been brief (one test and two race weekends) but she is already valued for being very straightforward and honest in her feedback about herself and the car. She works methodically and always has a clear plan before getting into the car. So far she has been able to pick up well on debriefing conclusions, so she is able to translate data into actions.

 

“Especially in Moscow, Marta was learning fast, so the more she drives the better she will become. Marta is a friendly character outside of the car, and a fiery aggressive personality inside the car!”

Marta García Career Highlights:

2017: Spanish F4 Championship (*8th)

2016: Spanish F4 Championship (9th)


Closing comments from Mia Sharizman

It has been an exciting few months of racing for the Academy so far with plenty of success and satisfaction.

Max’s first Eurocup victory in Austria was excellent to see and a reward for a lot of hard work and perseverance.

Jack has made a good start in a very competitive GP3 series. He had an extremely strong second-half of the season last year and I am very confident he can repeat that again this year in his quest to claim the title.

Christian is also heading on the right path and it was great to see him win the Drivers’ Championship of the F4 NEZ series with one round to go.

I have been excited by the development of Marta. The Spanish calendar has only seen one race so far this season, but she has applied herself particularly well to the Academy programme, showing great illustration of her talent and capability.

The hard work cannot stop here, though. There is a long way to go in the season and to combat the demands of this, the drivers will be put through more intense training camps in order to finish the year on a high. This will include increased conditioning work and mental training.

We’re maximising opportunities for our drivers to ensure they are well prepared for the remainder of this season and also for 2018 which is already on the mind. Some drivers remain on course to meet their 2017 target; some have more work to do.

Having Max, Jack and Christian fighting for titles at this point shows the high level of the Academy and underlines our motive to where we want to be.

Overall, I’m satisfied with what I have seen so far and the level of achievement we have witnessed. A couple of championship titles from the group will signal our intent and progress, but there is a lot more to do this year before that can happen.

source: Renault Sport Formula One Team, renaultsportf1.com

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