Rivals have Hartley in their sights By winning both races at Zolder, Brendon Hartley (Red Bull Epsilon) has established himself as the man to beat in the early stages of this season. The New-Zealander will be happy to be returning to ...
Rivals have Hartley in their sights
By winning both races at Zolder, Brendon Hartley (Red Bull Epsilon) has established himself as the man to beat in the early stages of this season. The New-Zealander will be happy to be returning to the Nurburgring, where he produced his best performance of 2006. But Henki Waldschmidt (Prema Power Team), Nelson Panciatici (SG Formula) and Jaime Alguersuari (Epsilon Red Bull), three of his most serious rivals for the title, will not be satisfied with the minor places.
Having spent his first season getting to grips with the competition, Brendon Hartley now seems set to make the most of his talent. With two pole positions, two race wins and the fastest race laps, his performance at Zolder was simply flawless. His domination of proceedings was reminiscent of Michael Ammermuller two years ago. But the German driver was ultimately pipped to the post for the title by Kamui Kobayashi, which just goes to show that you can't take anything for granted in the Eurocup!
The New-Zealander will have to do it all again at the Nurburgring to really stamp his authority on the competition. Last year's meeting in the Eifel mountains saw Brendon, then part of a formidable Motopark Oschersleben team, register his best weekend of the season, finishing seventh and sixth in the two races.
In Belgium, Hartley's closest challenger was Tristan Vautier. A 'wild card' entry, the Graff Racing driver claimed two podium finishes. He will be there again in Germany, along with his teammate Gary Hirsch. Another occasional competitor to watch is Jules Bianchi, who has shown impressive assurance in the French Championship. As "free spirits", these drivers are determined to pick up some experience and seize the slightest opportunity offered to them!
It's not really that surprising to find Oliver Turvey (Jenzer Motorsport) sitting in third position in the overall standings. Winner of the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Best Young Driver award, the British driver is already in his fifth season of single-seater racing, despite his tender years. Having finished sixth and fourth at Zolder, it shouldn't be long before he makes it onto the podium.
Regularly touted among the favourites for the title, Waldschmidt, Panciatici and Alguersuari could only manage to finish in the points in one race out of two in Belgium. Henki was disqualified in race 1, while in race 2 Nelson was involved in a collision and Jaime was denied a place on the podium by a mechanical problem with the finish in sight. At the Nurburgring, they will be looking to pick up points in both races to make up ground on Hartley.
It will also be worth watching the young guns Charles Pic (SG Formula), Oliver Oakes (Motopark Academy), Markus Niemela (BVM Minardi Team), Roberto Merhi (Jenzer Motorsport), Martin Plowman (Prema Power Team) and Mihai Marinescu (District Racing). They had mixed fortunes in the championship opener, but their potential is in no doubt.
Only two of the 42 drivers due to compete at the Nurburgring are German: Frank Kechele and Tobias Hegewald. After two seasons in Formula Renault 2.0 and one in F3, Frank was forced to put his career on hold for a year due to health problems. He celebrated his return to the competition with two points finishes at Zolder. As for Tobias, the fact that this is his debut season in Formula Renault 2.0 did not stop him from opening his points tally in Belgium.