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Formula Renault 3.5

The 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 Series championship begins tomorrow and as Friday’s two collective testing sessions at Motorland Aragon showed, there seems little to choose between the drivers. Arthur Pic (Dams) laid down a marker by setting the fastest times in both the morning and the afternoon, and will go into qualifying on Saturday full of confidence, as will Richie Stanaway (Lotus), Robin Frijns (Fortec Motorsports) and Nico Müller (International Draco Racing), all of whom showed plenty of pace of the eve of the new campaign.

The season’s first meeting began with two 75-minute collective testing sessions, which generated the data that officials will assess in allocating the time periods for the use of DRS during Saturday and Sunday’s races.

Already familiar with the track after testing here three weeks ago, the FR 3.5 drivers took it easy as the morning session got under way. Jake Rosenzweig (ISR) and Alexander Rossi (Arden Caterham) were the first to show in the opening few minutes, though it was the last two Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 champions, Kevin Korjus (Tech 1 Racing) and Frijns, who were the first to move into the 1m42s, the duo going faster and faster with each lap.

Quickest in testing here in March, Pic showed his mastery of the track and the new FR 3.5 by clocking a time of 1:40.760 and then shaving a further 16 hundredths off it to lead a session that closed with less than a second separating 17 drivers. Second and third behind the Frenchman on the timesheets were Stanaway and Walter Grubmüller (P1 Motorsport).

The pace remained intense in the afternoon, with the same drivers again to the fore. Stanaway was the first to improve on Pic’s morning time, though a thunderstorm soon stopped everyone in their tracks. Conditions improved quickly when the rain stopped, leading to a hectic finale in which the quartet of Müller, Stanaway, Frijns and Huertas (Fortec Motorsports) swapped the lead. That man Pic had the final say, however, nipping in ahead of Müller, Frijns and the chequered flag to stop the clock at 1:40.136, the day’s fastest time.

What they said:

Arthur Pic: “It’s important to get in the lead group straightaway. It shows we’ve done some good work this winter, that we’ve got a solid understanding of this car and that we’ve laid some good foundations. We were fastest at the last two collective sessions here, and we now know that not everyone’s working on the same things at these tests, which means we’ll have to wait until tomorrow before we start getting excited.”

Richie Stanaway: “I had a puncture this morning, which meant I had to start the second session on new tyres, and had none left by the time it ended. All the same I’m very happy with my time. Tomorrow’s a different ball game and I’ll have to get the most out of the car in qualifying. I know we’ve got a good race set-up but the qualifying sessions are essential and with the level there is here, it’s going to be very tough.”

Nico Müller: “I had a big testing programme set up for this afternoon but I started off with a 15-minute penalty for failing to observe a yellow flag. After the storm, I pretty much had a clear lap and manage to put in a good time. I’m not exactly one of the favourites for the title because I’ve got a lot to learn, but being among the less-fancied drivers could work in my favour.”

Official Renault Sport Press Release.

Posted: 04 May 2012
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