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Formula Renault 3.5

Over the last two days the Autodromo Nazionale Monza has provided the setting for the final round of collective testing before this weekend’s opening races of the season. The 26 drivers on the grid got a feel for the Italian circuit in a variety of weather conditions. Coping best of all were Antonio Felix da Costa (Arden Caterham), Kevin Magnussen (Dams) and Stoffel Vandoorne (Fortec Motorsports), who confirmed their status as early-season favourites.

For the first time in its short history, the new Formula Renault 3.5 Series was put through its paces at Monza, known in European racing circles as the Temple of Speed. The car made a fine debut too, impressing the drivers with its power and handling, and hitting a top speed in excess of the symbolic 300kmh mark in Thursday afternoon’s session, the only dry one of the two-day get-together.

That opening session allowed Sergey Sirotkin (ISR) to show how much he has progressed since pre-season collective testing began, the young Muscovite springing to the top of the timesheets ahead of this winter’s most impressive performers. Rounding off the first top five of the week were Arthur Pic (AV Formula), Will Stevens (P1 Motorsport), Antonio Felix da Costa (Arden Caterham) and Stoffel Vandoorne (Fortec Motorsports).

It was all change on Friday morning, however, as the rain came down, giving the 13 teams an opportunity to find their bearings in conditions that are likely to be repeated over the weekend. Antonio Felix da Costa (Arden Caterham) dominated proceedings for much of the time before giving way to Kevin Magnussen (Dams), who made the most of a fresh set of tyres to post the fastest time. Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) found his way into the top three on a track that is very much to his liking and where he has impressed in the past.

In the afternoon Antonio Felix da Costa confirmed his ability to cope with all conditions, the Portuguese proving once again why he is a genuine title contender by going more than three tenths of a second faster than his rivals. Completing the top four behind him were Stoffel Vandoorne, Christopher Zanella (ISR) and Norman Nato (Dams).

Jazeman Jaafar: “This is a fantastic circuit to drive in this car. It’s just amazing. The weather will have a big part to play in the challenge we face here in Monza, though I’m not worried about anything. This is my first race weekend and I need to learn and enjoy it. All being well we should be able to finish in the points.”

Norman Nato: “This is the first time that we’ve driven with such little downforce and we have to get used to the new set-up. Even so, it was technical change we dealt pretty well with. Qualifying might come down to who can get a tow, which can make all the difference if you get it right. It can also work against you as well, though, and we’ll need to be on our guard and box clever.”

Sergey Sirotkin: “Though we were up with the leading drivers all the time, it wasn’t quite a perfect day. As far as the car and my driving are concerned there are a few things we have to work on. I wasn’t able to put my three best sectors together but I hope to do that in qualifying, which will be a major factor in how the weekend goes.”

Official Renault Sport Press Release.

Posted: 05 April 2013
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