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World Series by Renault

Bianchi ends wait for first FR3.5 Series win

Jules Bianchi (Tech 1 Racing) led from start to finish at the Nürburgring to claim his first victory in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, with Nico Müller (International Draco Racing) and Robin Frijns (Fortec Motorsports) finishing second and third respectively. By finishing third, 2011 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 champion Frijns takes the overall championship lead and edges ever closer to an appearance in the Red Bull Racing F1 exhibition – the prize at stake for the man at the top of the standings at the end of the weekend.

Robin Frijns and Jules Bianchi engaged in a brilliant duel in qualifying. French driver Bianchi eventually got the better of his Dutch rival, putting in a perfect lap to claim his maiden pole position in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. The drivers had 450 seconds of DRS at their disposal for the race.

Bianchi made a perfect start to the race, but the same cannot be said for Frijns and Arthur Pic (Dams). Nico Müller, who started fourth on the grid, took advantage of the pair’s less than ideal getaway to move up into second place. Bianchi, Müller and Frijns began to pull away after the first lap, while Pic, fourth at this stage, fought to keep Kevin Magnussen (Carlin), Walter Grubmüller (P1 Motorsport), Marco Sorensen (Lotus), Sam Bird (ISR), Antonio Felix da Costa (Arden Caterham) and Carlos Huertas (Fortec Motorsports) at bay.

The leading trio took advantage of the battle behind them and began to widen the gap, and after five laps, Bianchi, Müller and Frijns were almost five seconds ahead of Pic. The Frenchman held the upper hand over Magnussen, while Sorensen moved up into sixth after getting past Grubmüller with a perfect manoeuvre.

Bianchi was having a masterful race at the front of the field and managed to build a slim lead over Müller, who for his part was gradually moving away from Frijns. The most keenly contested battle was for Grubmüller’s seventh place, with the Austrian doing everything in his power to stop Sam Bird from sneaking past.

Frijns caught up with Müller towards the end of the race and launched a DRS-aided attack, but Müller refused to budge. The fight for fifth place was every bit as intense, with Sorensen also regaining contact with Magnussen.

From then, however, the race order remained unchanged. Bianchi, Sahara Force India’s third driver and a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, took the chequered flag to claim his first victory in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. With it, he became the sixth different winner in six races. Müller, for his part, finished second to make his first appearance on the podium this season. The biggest winner, however, was third-placed Robin Frijns, who moves top of the championship standings with a two-point lead over Sam Bird, who could only finish eighth.

Jules Bianchi: “It’s never easy to win! We had a difficult start to the season, and even this weekend things started badly with the technical problems we suffered in collective testing. But I knew the car was quick, and that showed in qualifying. This victory really kick-starts my season. I’ll need more wins if I’m to have a real hope of winning the championship.”

Nico Müller: “From the start, we knew we were in a good position to do well. This podium finish is the culmination of all the work we’ve done since the first tests. The season started very badly at Motorland Aragón, but since then we have made steady progress. It wasn’t possible for us to win today, but it will come eventually.”

Robin Frijns: “I didn’t get off to a good start, to say the least. But after that, the race went well. We have the car to win and I was faster than Nico [Müller], but he defended his position perfectly without making the slightest mistake. I’m top of the championship tonight, but all I’m thinking about now is qualifying well tomorrow and getting a good result.”

Formula 3 Euroseries

Daniel Juncadella wins action-packed race

After an action-packed race, Daniel Juncadella (Prema Powerteam) claimed victory in the tenth season round of the Formula 3 Euro Series, which also counts towards the FIA European Formula 3 Championship. The Spaniard received the trophy from Gerhard Berger, the president of the FIA single-seater commission. William Buller (Carlin) finished second, Emil Bernstorff (ma-con Motorsport) ended up as the best-placed rookie in third. For the Brit, it was his first podium finish in the Formula 3 Euro Series.

Raffaele Marciello (Prema Powerteam) took the lead at the start, but had to hand over first place to Daniel Juncadella on the opening lap already. The Spaniard remained in the lead until lap 34, when he ran too wide at the Dutzendteich hairpin. Pascal Wehrlein (Mücke Motorsport) took the chance and went past. On lap 40, Juncadella wanted to counter, but collided with the race leader in the process, turning the latter around. While approaching the Schöller-S, he couldn’t avoid a collision with Marciello after which the Italian retired. William Buller and Emil Bernstorff took over second and third place behind Juncadella, who remains in the lead of the Formula 3 Euro Series.

Daniel Juncadella (Prema Powerteam): “I was in the lead, but then I made a slight mistake and Pascal overtook me. Soon after that, he made a mistake, from which I wanted to benefit, so I dove into the gap. Unfortunately, Pascal left me no room. What exactly happened with Raffaele Marciello soon after that, I don’t really know. I am sorry that he retired after the collision. Nevertheless, I am pleased with my performance.”

William Buller (Carlin): “Of course, I benefited form the fact that Pascal Wehrlein and Raffaele Marciello retired in front of me. But as a team, we have closed up the gap to the front runners in such a way that we are there to benefit when these situations occur.”

Emil Bernstorff (ma-con Motorsport): “Admittedly, we didn’t have the same speed as the front-runners, but I moved up into third place after the two retirements in front of me. We have decided to join the Euro Series only three weeks prior to the start of the season and in the meantime, we have learned a lot.”

Formula 3 Euroseries

Maiden fastest qualifying time for rookie Pascal Wehrlein

Pascal Wehrlein (Mücke Motorsport, 0:49.100 minutes) became the first rookie to claim pole position in a Formula 3 Euro Series qualifying session this year. At the 2.3 kilometres long Norisring, the German demoted Italian Raffaele Marciello (Prema Powerteam, 0:49.120 minutes) to second place and will start from first place into Sunday’s race as a result. In warm conditions, William Buller (Carlin, 0:49.238 minutes) and Daniel Juncadella (Prema Powerteam, 0:49.328 minutes) ended up third and fourth in the field of 28 drivers. In the ranking of the second-fastest lap times, Marciello came out on top and will thus be starting from pole position into the first race of the weekend.

In qualifying, which had to be postponed to today because of damage to the track, the ambitious young drivers turned out to be very disciplined. Initially, William Buller, Daniel Juncadella and Raffaele Marciello were battling for the lead. Only a few seconds before the end of the 30 minutes’ session, Pascal Wehrlein moved up into first place and defended this position until the end. After Carlos Sainz (Carlin, 0:49.571 minutes), Daniel Juncadella and Felix Rosenqvist (Mücke Motorsport, 0:49.864 minutes) is the fourth different driver in as many qualifying sessions held this season to come out on top of the time sheets.

At the Norisring in Nuremberg, the lap times of 25 of the 28 drivers were within one second from first-placed Pascal Wehrlein.

Pascal Wehrlein (Mücke Motorsport): “With the first set of tyres, it wasn’t optimal, but with the second set, it went better. I only managed to find a clear lap just before the end and I was able to claim first place. This is my first time at Norisring and I have to admit that the track is more difficult than it looks at first sight.”

Raffaele Marciello (Prema Powerteam): “My qualifying was good, I am happy with second and first place. Being on one of the positions in front is important. I was able to do consistently fast lap times for three or four laps in a row, although finding a clear lap with 28 cars on track isn’t easy. The track is particularly challenging because of its many bumps, but since Pau, I like street circuits.”

World Series by Renault

Mixed conditions for FR 3.5 stars in Germany

The 26 drivers in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series field had both wet and dry track conditions to deal with today at the Nürburgring. Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) clocked the best time in the dry, while Nico Müller (International Draco Racing) was the fastest man in the rain. Once again, rain or no rain, there is very little to separate the drivers.

There are two notable changes to the entry list for the Formula Renault 3.5 Series this weekend. Brazilian driver Cesar Ramos, 11th overall in the competition in 2011 and third in the Rookie division, replaces Lotus driver Richie Stanaway, who is currently recovering from injury in Cap Breton. Antonio Felix de Costa, recruited recently by Red Bull Junior Team, is the other new face, and he will be making his debut in the completion for Arden Caterham. The Portuguese driver, third in the 2009 Eurocup Formula Renault and winner of the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC the same year, steps in to replace Lewis Williamson.

It was Robin Frijns (Fortec Motorsport), Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) and Alexander Rossi (Arden Caterham) who started the morning session brightest, before Marco Sorensen (Lotus) took control of proceedings. Magnussen’s flying lap of 1:42.719 eclipsed Sebastian Vettel’s effort of 1:42.984, which until today had been the Formula Renault 3.5 track record at the Nürburgring.

The red flag came out to interrupt the session for the first time after Lucas Foresti (Dams) went off the track. After the track had been cleared, Nick Yelloly (Comtec Racing) moved top of the timesheets with a lap of 1:42.428, before Magnussen, on fresh rubber, increased the pace even further. With a flying lap of 1:41.677, the Danish driver recorded the best time of the morning session to finish top of the pile, ahead of Yelloly and Carlos Huertas.

The afternoon brought a change in conditions, characterised by a wet track and heavy rainfall. The session began with a collision between Will Stevens (Carlin) and Walter Grubmüller (P1 Motorsport). Russian pair Daniil Move (P1 Motorsport) and Mikhail Aleshin (Team RFR) set the pace, despite both drivers taking detours into the gravel trap.

The rain eased towards the end of the session, and this was reflected in the lap times. Yelloly, Alexander Rossi and Nico Müller traded first place lap after lap, with the latter eventually finishing top at the end of a decidedly wet session. The Swiss driver finished ahead of Rossi, Sorensen and newcomers Cesar Ramos and Antonio Felix da Costa.

Nico Müller: “When the track is dry, you really need to have a bit of luck to get the right lap at the right time, because the peak performance of the tyres lasts a very short time. I’ve been in the leading group since the start of the season, but I’m just missing that little extra something to turn it into results. In the dry I’m short of those few tenths that make the difference, but in the wet we’re right up there.”

Cesar Ramos: “These were obviously my first laps in the new car. I haven’t driven a single racing car since October 2011, aside from a few laps in a go-kart. I’m going to need a bit of time to get back into the rhythm. I’ve been impressed by the downforce of this car and its cornering speed. The braking is also very good and the DRS is an interesting feature. I immediately felt comfortable at the wheel of the car.”

Antonio Felix da Costa: “This car is a learning experience. I’m starting from scratch and I have a lot to learn. The car is quick and the team seems very efficient, so everything is there for us to do well. I was lucky enough to drive a Formula One car during the Young Driver Test in 2010. That experience helps me a bit, as there’s quite a big difference between the GP3 and the Formula Renault 3.5. Joining Red Bull Junior Team is a huge opportunity. My goal is to become a Formula One driver, and I know that succeeding with Red Bull is the best way to get there.”

F1Weekly podcast # 586

F1weekly podcast number 586 with the Valencia race review.

Caterham F1 and their Silverstone preview.

Heikki Kovalainen, car 20, chassis CT01-#03: “Silverstone is a great track to race at, both because it’s one of our two home races and because it’s a proper driver’s track. Even with the changes that have been made over the years it is still what F1 is all about – high speed corners that really push the performance of the car. The new section is probably the least exciting bit of the track from inside the cockpit but the classic corners from Copse and Maggots to Beckets is right up there with some of the best corners on the calendar.

“Honestly, I can’t wait to get back in the car and see what we can do at this year’s British Grand Prix. At the last race in Valencia we clearly made improvements, enough to help me put the car into Q2 on merit and we have more upgrades coming for Silverstone. For this race it’s important that we carry our qualifying speed and good reliability through into Sunday as issues like the KERS problem I had in Valencia impact all the hard work the team is doing at the factory and in the wind tunnel to get us where we want to be. If we can do that I think we can have another very good weekend and I’m really looking forward to giving our home fans something to cheer for.”

Vitaly Petrov, car 21, chassis CT01-#02: “The British Grand Prix is one of the best races of the calendar for several reasons. It’s a fantastic place to race at because of the exciting atmosphere and the special love the British fans have for motorsport. As the UK is home to a lot of the teams, including Caterham F1 Team, the whole place is always full of fans, whether it’s raining or the sun is burning everybody! They are some of the most knowledgeable, passionate fans in the world and they give the whole place a special atmosphere all weekend.

“As we’ll be bringing more new parts to the British Grand Prix I think it’s another race where we’ll be able to take a step forwards. I’m sure everyone else will be bringing upgrades so we need to make sure that we don’t just make gains, but we improve more than our nearest rivals. That’s a big challenge but after seeing the gap to Toro Rosso shrink in Valencia we have a clear target just ahead and that gave the whole team a real boost. Hopefully we’ll be able to make similar levels of progress at Silverstone – if we do I think the British Grand Prix could be very interesting. The team made great progress in Valencia and I really hope that we will continue in the same manner at the next race.”

Mark Smith, Technical Director: “We left Valencia after a very positive weekend for the whole team. One of the most pleasing aspects for me was seeing that the numbers we had predicted for the upgrades we brought there matched what we did on track, and that gives us a lot of confidence that future upgrade packages should continue the trend we are seeing of the gap to the teams ahead shrinking.

“For Silverstone we will be bringing a number of new parts, including new rear bodywork, a revised exhaust layout and a number of smaller updates in other bodywork areas around the car. I do not want to make any predictions at this point on what they could be worth, but if we repeat the step forward we made in Valencia we should have another positive weekend.”

Tony Fernandes, Team Principal, Caterham F1 Team: “The European Grand Prix was a very significant race for our team as it was the first time we took on and beat an established midfield team in a straight fight on merit in qualifying. Yes, Heikki’s benefited from the issues Mark Webber had on Saturday, but we are now quick enough to take advantage of that sort of opportunity and knock one of the established teams back into the positions we have been filling since we started in the sport just over two and a half years ago.

“Our performance on Sunday was also extremely positive, with all areas of the team performing at 100% to help us record our best positions of the season, despite both cars being forced to change nosecones after contact with the Toro Rossos. We said at the start of the season that our goals for this year are to score our first point and to join the midfield and I think it is fair to say that we are achingly close to being able to achieve those targets.

“Silverstone will give us another chance to show that we can make good on those objectives and the upgrades we are bringing will give both Heikki and Vitaly the chance to repeat our qualifying performance in Valencia, and, more importantly, to be able to fight for their track positions from the moment the lights go out on Sunday, right to the end of the race. To see our cars racing a team who were 1.6 seconds ahead of us in qualifying for the first race this year is obviously a very good feeling, for me and my fellow shareholders, our partners and sponsors, our fans and the whole team.”