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Formula Renault 3.5

The Formula Renault 3.5 Series title could be decided at Paul Ricard, the next venue on the World Series by Renault calendar. Championship leader Robin Frijns (Fortec Motorsports) stands 24 points clear of the field and will make the crown his if he extends that advantage by a further 27 points at the French meeting. Realistically only Jules Bianchi (Tech 1 Racing) and Sam Bird (ISR), his two closest pursuers in the standings, can stop him. To do that, however, they have no option but to score big in the Var (south of France).

Robin Frijns took a big step to the title in the last round at the Hungaroring. Fastest in both qualifying sessions, the Dutchman won Race 1 and recovered from a poor start in Race 2 to finish fifth, stretching his lead over the field from six to 24 points. The only man with three wins to his name this season, the 2010 Formula BMW Europe winner is moving inexorably towards the title. Should he get there, the Fortec Motorsports man will be the first rookie champion since Robert Kubica in 2005 and the first driver to win the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and Formula Renault 3.5 Series crowns back to back.

Currently 24 and 27 points adrift respectively and both hungry for success, Jules Bianchi and Sam Bird will be doing all they can to prevent Robin Frijns from making his piece of World Series by Renault history. Hailing from nearby Nice, Jules Bianchi can count on the support of his family and friends and the many fans who are expected to flock to Paul Ricard. The third driver on the Sahara Force India roster and a Ferrari Driver Academy member, the Frenchman won at the Nürburgring and again at Silverstone, and needs to top the podium on home soil to cut the deficit on Robin Frijns.

Sam Bird might have slipped from second to third at the Hungaroring but he knows how to perform on big stages like Paul Ricard, as he showed in winning at Monaco and Silverstone. The Mercedes AMG Formula One Team driver struggled with his set-up in Hungary and could do no more than limit the damage. Left with little margin for error, the British driver urgently needs a win in France.

Fifth-placed Arthur Pic (Dams) is another one to watch. The Frenchman from Montélimar secured his one win of the year at the Moscow Raceway and a second success on home ground would give his championship ranking a timely boost. As this season has shown, however, there are no shortage of victory candidates, with Marco Sorensen (Lotus), Nick Yelloly (Comtec Racing), Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) and Antonio Felix da Costa (Arden Caterham) having also picked up wins to sit in the top eight.

Further down the standings, Nico Müller (International Draco Racing), Kevin Korjus (Lotus) and Alexander Rossi (Arden Caterham) seem the men most likely to add their names to this year’s honours board, the American Rossi being an obvious contender, having won at Paul Ricard in 2011. Pipped in his bid to land Arden Caterham its first victory in the category by team-mate Antonio Felix da Costa at the Hungaroring, the Caterham Formula One Team reserve driver is determined to atone for his disappointing season so far and has four races left to set the record straight.

In the team ranking, meanwhile, Fortec Motorsports hold a 10-point lead thanks to the combined efforts of Robin Frijns and Carlos Huertas. Tech 1 Racing, with their duo of Jules Bianchi and Daniel Abt, stand well clear in second ahead of Czech team ISR (Sam Bird and Jake Rosenzweig), who have compatriots Lotus right on their tail, followed by Arden Caterham and Carlin.

Official Renault Sport Press Release.

Posted: 21 September 2012
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