The Russian, who had held top spot since the first race of the season, is anxious to claim it back on his home turf. Another man out to impress at the Moscow Raceway is France’s Norman Nato (RC Formula), who is slightly adrift of the leading two in third.
Vandoorne is pursuing the same strategy that Robin Frijns adopted in winning the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 title with Josef Kaufmann Racing last season. The Belgian got in among the points at Motorland Aragon and Spa-Francorchamps with three podium finishes before slipping into top gear at the Nürburgring, where he chalked up his first two pole positions in the category and followed up by winning both races, also his first in the event. The Belgian’s perfect weekend took him past Kvyat in the championship standings and into a 13-point lead, an advantage the RACB driver will be looking to consolidate when the World Series by Renault season reaches the midway stage in Russia.
While Vandoorne was racking up 50 points in Germany, Kvyat scored a mere ten, a paltry return he will be hoping to atone for in front of his own fans. The Russian, who hails from the town of Ufa, needs to regain his early-season pace if he is to prevent Vandoorne from gaining complete control of the championship ahead of the midsummer break.
Third-placed Nato is the only other man to have won a race this year, but has proved less consistent than the two men above him, suffering two retirements so far to lie 40 points adrift of Vandoorne. Sitting comfortably in fourth, Nato’s fellow Frenchman Paul-Loup Chatin has picked up points in every race to date and now has his sights set on topping the podium and moving up the standings.
Leading the chasing pack are the season’s top two rookies Pierre Gasly (R-Ace GP) and Nyck de Vries (R-Ace GP), both of whom have already shown good race pace. Unfamiliar with most of the tracks so far, the two newcomers will for once be starting on an equal footing with their rivals at the all-new Moscow Raceway and could well spring a surprise.
Melville McKee (Interwetten.com) and Oscar Tunjo (Tech 1 Racing) both have top-three finishes to their name this term, the springboard they hope for a rise up the standings, while Oliver Rowland (Fortec Motorsports), Alex Riberas (Josef Kaufmann Racing), Pieter Schothorst (Josef Kaufmann Racing) and Miki Wekstrom (KTR) have the task of putting their indifferent starts to the campaign behind them. Tipped as title candidates before hostilities commenced, they have yet to justify that billing.
Flying the flag for Russia along with Kvyat will be Moscow’s own Roman Mavlanov (Tech 1 Racing), who has been improving with every race and closing in on a top-ten finish. Having just turned 18, the youngster will not be lacking in motivation on his home track, where a handful of points or even a podium finish would represent the ideal birthday gift.