Spa: Round five preview

Vettel departure leaves door wide open For the second time this season, the World Series Formula Renault 3.5 will feature as a support race for the Le Mans Series. After Monaco, the championship heads for another legendary circuit: ...

Vettel departure leaves door wide open

For the second time this season, the World Series Formula Renault 3.5 will feature as a support race for the Le Mans Series. After Monaco, the championship heads for another legendary circuit: Spa-Francorchamps. In the first seven races, we have had seven different winners. Will the run be continued in the Belgian Ardennes? The departure of Championship leader Sebastian Vettel to drive in F1 for Toro Rosso in 2007 and 2008 has left the door wide open for Alvaro Parente (Tech 1 Racing) and Filipe Albuquerque (Epsilon Euskadi) to fill the void.

The thirty World Series Formula Renault 3.5 drivers are set to reach the midway point of their season in Spa. The category is still wide open, with seven different winners so far: Mikhail Aleshin (Carlin Motorsport) and Salvador Duran (Interwetten.com) at Monza, Sebastian Vettel (Carlin Motorsport) and Davide Valsecchi (Epsilon Euskadi) at the Nurburgring, Alvaro Parente (Tech 1 Racing) at Monaco, and Filipe Albuquerque (Epsilon Euskadi) and Alejandro Nuñez (Red Devil Comtec) at the Hungaroring.

In the overall standings, Sebastian Vettel had established himself as the man to beat. With a comfortable 23-point lead, the German always looked fully in control. But then Toro Rosso made an offer you can't refuse and that spelt an end to his World Series Formula Renault 3.5 season. The former RedBull driver will now continue his fast-developing career in F1. The name of the driver to replace him at the wheel of the No. 8 car is still to be confirmed.

Looming large in Vettel's mirrors before the Hungaroring, Alvaro Parente lost some ground in Hungary. The Portuguese driver drew a blank, allowing fellow countryman Filipe Albuquerque, who is looking more convincing with every race, to close the gap. The two men from Portugal now find themselves in a battle for the title!

Parente and Albuquerque are not, however, the only ones to be neck and neck in the standings. A consistent performer despite having yet to notch up a race win, Ben Hanley (Prema Power Team) is now only six points adrift of Parente. The RDD driver is just ahead of Milos Pavlovic (Draco Racing), the category's 'veteran' competitor, having taken part in every race held since 2005!

A little adrift of the top 5 drivers, Mikhail Aleshin, Salvador Duran, Giedo van der Garde (Victory Engineering), Marco Bonanomi (RC Motorsport) and Alvaro Barba (Draco Racing) must show greater consistency if they are to have a chance of finishing in the end-of-season top three. Regardless of their position in the championship, however, they all remain regular candidates to win races, and the same goes for former GP2 drivers, Fairuz Fauzy (Cram Competition) and Clivio Piccione (RC Motorsport).

The local crowd is sure to get behind KTR, the only Belgian team taking part in the championship, particularly as the team is consistently among the leaders. At the Hungaroring, Guillaume Moreau -- who will also be taking part in the Spa 1,000km race in the Courage No. 13 car -- secured his first pole position. But at Francorchamps, Bertrand Baguette -- a native of nearby Verviers -- may well be the man to watch. A Belgian driver in a Belgian team. Now there's a story with a potentially happy ending, perhaps to the tune of the Belgian national anthem?!

Thursday, August 16
14h00: Collective testing (4h)

Friday, August 17
16h20: Qualifying (2x20 mins)

Saturday, August 18
15h55: Race 1 (20 laps)

Sunday, August 19
10h40: Race 2 (20 laps)

-credit: wsbyrenault

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About this article
Series Formula V8 3.5
Drivers Giedo van der Garde , Clivio Piccione , Marco Bonanomi , Salvador Duran , Alvaro Parente , Sebastian Vettel , Bertrand Baguette , Milos Pavlovic , Mikhail Aleshin , Davide Valsecchi , Filipe Albuquerque , Guillaume Moreau , Ben Hanley
Teams Toro Rosso , Carlin