MAGNUSSEN AND DA COSTA LAY DOWN GAUNTLET
While all eyes are on the championship duel between Jules Bianchi (Tech 1 Racing), Robin Frijns (Fortec Motorsports) and Sam Bird (ISR), Antonio Felix da Costa (Arden Caterham) and Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) are in no mood to make up the numbers on the final weekend of the season. The Dane and the Portuguese shone in the dry and the wet in Friday’s two collective testing sessions, while the three leaders in the points went about their preparations for the final push of the campaign.
Rain was falling when the 26 drivers arrived for the final two Formula Renault 3.5 Series collective testing sessions of the season. Among them was Hungarian racer Tamas Pal Kiss, who is making his return for BVM Target. Competing on their last weekend in the category are Franco-Russian outfit Team RFR, who will make way for AV Formula on Monday.
Nico Muller (International Draco Racing) and Sam Bird were the first to settle in the wet conditions, though the session was soon interrupted by a red flag when Daniel Abt (Tech 1 Racing) went off.
On the resumption, Antonio Felix da Costa made the most of a clear track to set a fastest lap of 1:51.961, putting him ahead of Sam Bird and Nico Muller before the red flag came out again, this time when Yann Cunha (Pons Racing) and Tamas Pal Kiss had grassy moments. The Portuguese stayed out front in what remained of the opening session, leading the way from Sam Bird and Nico Muller, with Will Stevens (Carlin) and Arthur Pic (Dams) rounding off the top five.
Slicks were the only option in the afternoon, by which time track conditions had improved considerably. Kevin Korjus (Lotus) set the tempo before a short neutralisation period triggered by Arthur Pic grinding to a halt on the track. Antonio Felix da Costa was at it again on the restart as he went fastest in a time of 1:31.481, with Kevin Magnussen second, just 0.040s off the pace.
Kevin Korjus then barged in front, while Antonio Felix da Costa collided with the track barrier, prompting the red flag to put in another appearance and leading to the Portuguese’s fastest time being wiped, in accordance with the regulations. Then, with just a few seconds to go before the chequered flag, Kevin Magnussen went top of the times with a lap of 1:30.736, the day’s quickest. Completing the top five behind him were Kevin Korjus, Sam Bird, Alexander Rossi (Arden Caterham) and Will Stevens (Carlin).
What they said:
Kevin Magnussen: “I’d rather be involved in the title battle with Jules Bianchi, Robin Frijns and Sam Bird. All the same, this is the type of weekend where there’s always something going on. All in all it’s been a disappointing season because we’ve shown we’ve got the pace and we’ve had the means to do well in the overall standings. We’ve just lacked consistency and success, which is all part of the learning process at the highest level. Even so, I really want to finish the season on a high note.”
Antonio Felix da Costa: “The car went very well in the wet this morning. It started the afternoon well too, but I came across a wet kerb as I was overtaking some slower cars and just lost it. Luckily there wasn’t too much damage. I’m going to drive the same way as I have at other weekends, racing my race without bothering about what everyone else is doing and trying to avoid any kind of contact.”
Jules Bianchi: “I need to look on this as just another weekend and not put any extra pressure on myself. There’s no point in that. We went about our work today the same way we usually do, though I’m still not that happy with the car this afternoon. We need to work out why that is. It’s good to be in the lead, but my main objective is to have a competitive car for the rest of the weekend.”