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Daniel Ricciardo (Tech 1 Racing) proved he was back in good shape

After a winter disrupted by an injury to his right hand, Daniel Ricciardo (Tech 1 Racing) proved he was back in good shape today, in time for the Formula Renault 3.5 Series 2010 season kick-off. The Australian driver returned the best time of the collective testing sessions, finishing ahead of Mikhail Aleshin (Carlin), Sten Pentus (Fortec Motorsport) and Nathanaël Berthon (International Draco Racing).

The twenty four drivers competing in Formula Renault 3.5 Series this 2010 season contested two 75-minutes collective testing sessions today. Already a race-winner in the discipline in 2008, Esteban Guerrieri (ISR) is back to Formula Renault 3.5 Series with new team ISR.

The fine weather had abandoned the circuit for this first day at Motorland. With the sky threatening rain, the drivers took to the track with no dilly-dallying. Sten Pentus zoomed to the top of the leaderboard from the off, lapping in 1’43’’970. The Estonian led from team mate Jon Lancaster (Fortec Motorsport) for much of the early morning.

Nathanaël Berthon and Daniel Ricciardo upped their pace just past the mid-session mark. The Frenchman and the Australian moved up to second and third respectively, just as the first spots of rain were felt. With the shower disrupting drivers' plans, Jon Lancaster fell back to fourth place, ahead of Keisuke Kunimoto (Epsilon Euskadi).

After the shower, all drivers headed back on track to complete the setup work commenced a few weeks ago, during the two days of collective testing at this circuit, then marked by Sten Pentus’ performance, with an impressive best lap time of 1’42’’390. At the top of the leaderboard, there was more movement when Daniel Ricciardo stole back the quickest lap time. Sten Pentus responded straight away and took command again with a 1’43’’615 lap. So at the close of the first session, he was once again at the top of the timing screens, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Daniel Zampieri (Pons Racing).

There was no phoney war at the start of the second collective testing session either. Nathanaël Berthon went straight to the top of the timing screens, but only for a few seconds, as Daniel Ricciardo took his turn in first before Sten Pentus slipped in yet again. The Fortec Motorsport driver took over the lead in 1’43’’943, from Daniel Ricciardo and Julian Leal.

It was Mikhail Aleshin (Carlin) who launched the final wave of flying laps of the day to take provisional first place. But Daniel Ricciardo hit straight back. Lapping in 1’43’’478, the Tech 1 Racing driver underlined his ambitions for the season, to finish the day ahead of Mikhail Aleshin and Sten Pentus. Over the full two sessions, 18 cars could be counted inside the same second. The first qualifying session, which will take place tomorrow, with all the cars switched to the light aero configuration, is looking to be an enthralling and very open fight.

Quote, unquote:

Daniel Ricciardo: “This winter, what with my hand injury plus the test sessions I missed through my role in F1 with the Red Bull F1 Team, I did less driving than the others. So today I really wanted to gain in confidence. I didn’t necessarily expect to do the fastest lap, so that's very good.”

Mikhail Aleshin: “We had a problem this morning and I really didn’t feel too good in the car. We changed everything and we found out where the problem was coming from and it worked fine this afternoon. The season is going to be very competitive. The slightest error will be very costly.”

Sten Pentus: “We confirmed that we’re in the right group today, like we did in the first round of collective testing here back a few weeks ago. Again, we’ve done lots more work with the Fortec Motorsport team this time. I’m approaching this season in a new frame of mind. We’ve got everything to go for.”

Official Renault Sport Press Release

Posted: 16 April 2010
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