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Formula Renault 3.5

A mere two points separate Formula Renault 3.5 Series championship leader Robert Wickens (Carlin) and his closest pursuer Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin), with 50 at stake in the final weekend of the season at Barcelona. The only thing that is certain in what ought to be a thrilling climax is that Carlin will win its second consecutive FR 3.5 Series drivers’ crown. The British stable clinched its maiden team title a few weeks ago and will become the first outfit to win back-to-back drivers’ championships.

Who will join Robert Kubica, Alx Danielsson, Alvaro Parente, Giedo Van der Garde, Bertrand Baguette and Mikhail Aleshin in being able to call themselves Formula Renault 3.5 Series champion? Will it be Robert Wickens or Jean-Eric Vergne? That is the question that will be answered by the time the curtain comes down on the season finale at Barcelona. The Canadian holds a two-point lead over his French team-mate, an advantage that is all too narrow for Wickens but which proved the difference between Aleshin and Daniel Ricciardo in last year’s equally thrilling conclusion.

The 22-year-old from Toronto won his last title, Formula BMW USA, in 2006, and made the move to Europe a year later. After finishing 12th in the 2008 Formula Renault 3.5 Series championship, collecting a race win and a pole position along the way, he took the runners-up spots in Formula 2 and then GP3 Series in the two years that followed. Signing for Marussia Virgin Racing as a reserve driver at the start of this season, Wickens kicked off his campaign in fine style before suffering a disastrous weekend at Monza, failing to register a single point. Recovering with a second place at Monaco, he then notched a win and a second place at the Nürburgring, slipped off the podium at Budapest and recorded a magnificent double at Silverstone, both his wins there coming from the front of the grid.

His reward for leading the championship at the halfway stage was a demo drive in the F1 Lotus Renault GP in Hungary, and with six poles, four wins, five second places and three fastest laps, the Carlin driver has enjoyed a superb season. All he needs to do now to make it a championship-winning one is to finish ahead of Vergne at Barcelona.

Born in Paris in 1990, the Frenchman made his breakthrough by winning the Formula Campus Renault Elf title in 2007. Joining Red Bull Junior Team in 2008, he stepped up a level to Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 in 2008, finishing second behind Albert Costa that season, in which he also took the French Championship. He was pipped to the post by Costa again in Formula Renault 2.0 WEC the following year. Moving to the UK in 2010, he became the first Frenchman to lift the British F3 crown, ending the year with a successful late-season venture into Formula Renault 3.5 Series, laying down a marker with a race win.

Starting this season as championship favourite, he faltered at Motorland Aragón before justifying his billing at Spa-Francorchamps. He has consistently been in the points since then, collecting four poles, five wins, two seconds, a third and one fastest lap to keep the pressure firmly on Wickens, tuning up for Barcelona with a virtually perfect weekend at the Paul Ricard HTTT, where he converted two poles into a win and a third place.

As if the title were not motivation enough, Wickens and Vergne will also be eyeing the rewards that come with it: an F1 licence and a day’s testing with Lotus Renault GP at the upcoming F1 rookie test.

Lewis Williamson will be sitting in for Daniel Ricciardo (ISR), who is on duty at the Japanese Grand Prix, which leaves the fight for third place wide open. Alexander Rossi (Fortec Motorsports), Costa (Epic Racing) and Kevin Korjus (Tech 1 Racing) all in the frame, with Rossi and Korjus also fighting their own private battle to become leading rookie of the season. Racing in front of his fans, the Barcelona-born Costa will be especially anxious to impress in the final outings of the season, as will Madrid driver Sergio Canamasas (BVM Target), the only other Spaniard lining up on the grid.

Update:
The Motor Sports Council’s National Court met on 22 September 2011 to discuss the appeal lodged by Fortec Motorsport following the disqualification of Alexander Rossi and Cesar Ramos from Race 2 at Silverstone on 21 August 2011. The National Court decided to reject the appeal, confirming both the disqualification of Rossi and Ramos for breaching technical regulations, and the result of the race.

Official Renault Sport Press Release.

Posted: 03 October 2011
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