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Formula Renault 3.5

It’s win or bust for Carlin team-mates Robert Wickens and Jean-Eric Vergne at Barcelona. Whoever comes out on top will seize the 2011 FR 3.5 Series title and a Formula One test drive with Lotus Renault GP, while for the loser there will only be thoughts of what might have been. Only two points separate the Canadian and the Frenchman after 15 races and the equation is the same for both drivers: finish ahead of their rival in both races to win the title, although Wickens can end the battle on Saturday if he wins Race 1 and Vergne finishes out of the points. With so little to choose between the stable-mates all season, however, the outcome will most probably be decided on Sunday.

Motorland Aragon
Both drivers made a low-key start in Round 1 at Motorland Aragon. While Wickens took second and fifth, Vergne came home sixth and seventh after missing collective testing due to F1-simulator commitments with Red Bull Racing.

It was tit-for-tat at Spa, with Wickens beating Vergne to the flag in Race 1 and the positions being reversed in Race 2, as the Frenchman kickstarted his season at one of his favourite tracks. It was the Canadian who departed Belgium with the championship lead, however.

Wickens came down to earth with a bump at Monza in May, retiring twice and failing to pick up a single point. His title rival took full advantage, claiming a second and first to leap-frog him to the top of the overall standings.

The see-sawing continued at Monaco at the end of the month. Struggling for pace in the only race of the weekend, Vergne limped home 11th and out of the points, allowing Wickens to reduce the gap to 11 points after coming in second behind Daniel Ricciardo, who won for the second year running in the principality.

Wickens celebrated his appointment to Marussia Virgin Racing’s Formula One reserve driver roster by taking two poles, one win and a second place at the Nürburgring, taking him well clear of the Frenchman, who retired on the Saturday and could only finish fourth the following day. The Canadian’s reward for his mid-season lead was an exhibition drive in the Lotus Renault GP at the World Series by Renault meeting in Hungary.

Perhaps distracted by his Formula One drive, Wickens had a weekend to forget at the Hungaroring. Struggling with his race setup, he had to settle for fifth in Race 1 and seventh in Race 2, and saw his championship lead evaporate as Vergne recorded the first one-two of the season, and in wet conditions to boot, to storm back to the top.

Recharged and refreshed, Wickens was in unbeatable form at Silverstone in August, enjoying the perfect set-up to notch two poles and a race one-two of his own. Starting from the pit lane after suffering a technical problem on the grid, Vergne failed to score in Race 1, while a troublesome wheel nut delayed him in the pits in Race 2, relegating him from second to fourth. And at the end of the weekend, Wickens was back in the box seat.

Paul Ricard HTTT
On to the Paul Ricard HTTT, where Vergne made hay on home soil, taking pole position in both qualifying sessions and beating Wickens into second place on Saturday. The Canadian was forced to retire the following day and would have lost his championship lead once again had more pit-lane mishaps not denied Vergne victory. The Frenchman eventually took third and with it 15 points to cut the deficit to two with just Barcelona to come.

Official Renault Sport Press Release.

Posted: 07 October 2011
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