Top five eye F1 demo drive
The battle for the Formula Renault 3.5 Series title is already proving intense, with the first five races of this season each producing a different winner.
Sam Bird (ISR) is the man on top at the moment, ahead of Robin Frijns (Fortec Motorsports) and Nick Yelloly (Comtec Racing) as the field gears up for the next meeting at the Nürburgring. The man who leaves Germany as the championship leader will earn an invite to drive the RB6 at the Formula One demonstration at the Moscow Raceway, the following venue on the World Series by Renault calendar, provided that the driver in question is not under contract with one of Red Bull Racing’s Formula One competitors. Should that be the case, the invite will go to the next eligible driver in the standings.
With a different driver topping the podium in each of the first five races, the 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 Series season promises to an exciting one. Nick Yelloly and Robin Frijns took the honours at Motorland Aragon, while Sam Bird won at Monaco, and Marco Sorensen and Kevin Magnussen came out on top at Spa-Francorchamps, with all five bunched together at the top of the standings, Bird leading the way from Frijns, Yelloly, Sorensen and Magnussen.
The list of race winners could get even longer at Germany. Currently sixth in the championship with two second places, Jules Bianchi (Tech 1 Racing) is looking for his first FR 3.5 Series victory. Just back from the Formula One Grand Prix of Europe in Valencia, where he took part in the opening free practice session in a Sahara Force India Formula One car, the Frenchman will have to make up for lost time. Team-mate Kevin Korjus (Tech 1 Racing) also needs to get in among the points in Germany and reduce the deficit separating him from the championship leaders. That said, the Estonian knows what it takes to succeed at the Nürburgring, a track he holds in high regard, having finished first and third there last season.
Alexander Rossi (Arden Caterham), Nico Müller (International Draco Racing), Mikhail Aleshin (Tem RFR), Will Stevens (Carlin) and Arthur Pic (Dams) have also been in the frame in the season’s early stages and have legitimate hopes of making their presences felt in Germany.
Adding even more spice to the fight for first place is the fact that the championship leader at the end of the German meeting will receive an invite to take the wheel of the RB6 in an Formula One exhibition drive at the next meeting, provided they are not contracted to drive for one of Red Bull Racing’s Formula One competitors. If that driver is contracted to a Red Bull competitor, then the next eligible driver in the championship standings will take the seat, meaning in all, nine drivers have the chance of claiming that prize at the Nürburgring.
Sidelined for three months with a spinal injury after crashing in race two at Spa-Francorchamps, iRace Professional driver Richie Stanaway (Lotus), the 2011 ATS Formel 3 Cup champion, will have his place taken by Cesar Ramos. Eleventh overall in Formula Renault 3.5 Series last year and the third-highest placed rookie, with two pole positions to his name, the Brazilian will be making his first appearance in the new FR 3.5 in Germany.
There is also little to choose between the contenders in the teams’ championship, though ISR and Fortec Motorsports have opened out a little bit of a gap over Tech 1 Racing, Carlin, Lotus and Comtec Racing.
Finally, picking up where Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo left off, Sebastien Buemi will take his turn to perform the Red Bull Racing demonstration drive. The Swiss, a race winner in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 in 2006, will be making his WSR return at a track where the fans always turn out in force.