If there is one race a driver wants to win, it’s this one. An essential date on the Formula Renault 3.5 Series calendar since the category’s creation in 2005, Monaco is the one venue that has all drivers dreaming. Having already broken away at the top of the standings, Kevin Magnussen (DAMS) and Stoffel Vandoorne (Fortec Motorsports) will be out to prove their worth to the Formula One elite. But for Arthur Pic (AV Formula), Antonio Felix da Costa (Arden Caterham) and the rest of the field, the one-off race at Monaco represents an ideal opportunity to cut the gap before the series moves on to Spa-Francorchamps.
The eyes of racing fans across the world will once again be on the Formula One Grand Prix de Monaco this weekend. One of the greatest of all motorsport events, the race will be preceded by the latest round in the 2013 Formula Renault 3.5 Series, which occupies a deservedly high place on the weekend card. Won by Pastor Maldonado in 2006, Charles Pic in 2008 and Daniel Ricciardo in 2010 and 2011, the race around the streets of the principality could well reveal another future F1 star.
With four of the season’s races already run at Motorland Aragon and Monza, McLaren Young Driver Programme members Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne have pulled away at the top of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series standings, the Dane leading the Belgian by a mere four points. Both will no doubt be keen to impress their F1 backers over the next couple of days. And though Kevin Magnussen has the edge over his rival in terms of experience, he will be hoping to improve on his performance here last season, when he started on the second row only to retire early after hitting the guard rails at Sainte Devote.
Third overall, Arthur Pic lies 28 points behind Magnussen following his retirement in race two at Motorland, though that will not stop him from pushing hard again this weekend. With the support and shrewd racing brain of his brother Charles behind him, the AV Formula driver will aim to open his victory account at Monaco.
Regarded as a very warm favourite before the start of the season, Portugal’s Antonio Felix da Costa has endured two pointless races already and needs to stay out of trouble and score big soon to remain in title contention. Tucked in just behind him in the standings, the UK’s Will Stevens (P1 by Strakka Racing) and Russia’s Sergey Sirotkin (ISR) have the task of following up their excellent performances at Motorland Aragon.
In action here 12 months ago, Carlos Huertas (Carlin), Nico Muller (International Draco Racing) and Marco Sorensen (Lotus) return in the hope of drawing on their knowledge of the track, while Nigel Melker has the considerable resources of Tech 1 Racing – three-time winners at Monaco – to back up his challenge.
Meanwhile, 2011 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 championship runner-up Carlos Sainz Jr will be making his Formula Renault 3.5 Series debut, lining up with Mihai Marinescu for Zeta Corse.
The 26 FR 3.5s had the privilege of opening the meeting early on Thursday morning, when they ventured out for free practice. On a track offering little in the way of grip, the drivers’ first job was avoid making mistakes and getting as much data together as possible to allow their engineers to work on their set-ups for Saturday morning’s qualifying session. Tyre performance and grip will be difficult to gauge on the 3.34-kilometre track, especially if the weather proves unsettled, all of which makes Sunday’s race, which starts at 11.10, right before the 71st Formula One Grand Prix, a tough one to call.
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