Tech 1 Racing consolidates its lead
Tech 1 Racing did not win in the Czech Republic but the French team bagged a good haul of points and has opened up a comfortable lead in the teams' championship. Brendon Hartley's second place in Saturday's race has put him back in the drivers' title chase, and Daniel Ricciardo has reduced the gap to the current leader in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series to just three points!
Last weekend, the Formula Renault 3.5 Series parked its tent on a circuit which the World Series by Renault had never visited before - Brno. It is only a few kilometres from the second-biggest town in the Czech Republic, and the track is laid out in a hilly region in a forest with fast curves reminiscent of Spa-Francorchamps and Mugello.
In free practice, the Tech 1 Racing team and its drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Brendon Hartley, found their marks and collected vital data for the rest of the weekend. Overtaking is not easy on this circuit so qualifying was of primordial importance. "Brendon needed a good qualifying performance," was how Simon Abadie, the Tech 1 Team Manager analysed the situation. "He got his lap together and set the third-quickest time. It's his best performance of the season, and last year he set pole so he's capable of doing it again in the coming races. Daniel got caught out by a red flag at the end of the session. He was not able to fight his corner and his fourteenth place doesn't bode well for the race."
Brendon made a good start in front of the 60 000 spectators that flocked to the circuit over the two days, and was on the heels of the two leaders moving up into second before the end of lap 1. Over 26 laps, the New Zealander piled the pressure on the leader, Esteban Guerrieri, but the latter made no mistakes and took the flag in first place. Hartley finished second while Ricciardo fought his way from fourteenth to twelfth. "Brendon drove a very solid race and he took advantage of the incidents that hit his rivals to move up the overall classification. Daniel did his best but there's no long straight here with heavy braking at the end so overtaking is almost impossible."
Sunday's qualifying was another hectic affair. "We didn't want to get trapped by another red flag at the end of the session, so we decided to send out Daniel and Brendon on new tyres at around the halfway mark. But again Lady Luck did not smile on us as it was just at that moment that another car went off and the session was interrupted. When our drivers rejoined the tyres had gone off. Brendon set the seventh-best time and Daniel the eleventh. The red flag didn't really help us this weekend," said a rueful Abadie.
In the race, Ricciardo and Hartley again confirmed the raw speed of the Tech 1 Racing cars. Both drivers scored precious points finishing fifth and sixth with Daniel in front of Brendon. "Our drivers were perfect on Sunday and Daniel set the quickest lap in the race. Brendon has nothing to be disappointed about either. He was fourth when he came in for his stop, just when Daniel and Walter Grubmuller upped the pace. Daniel again drove an intelligent race and pulled off a couple of lovely passes. We're happy with our fifth and sixth places, which have brought home good points for the team."
After the week-end, Daniel Ricciardo has closed the gap to the leader Mikhail Aleshin to three points in the drivers' championship. Brendon Hartley has moved up to fourth twelve points behind the leader. In the teams' title chase Tech 1 Racing is still in front with 29 points in hand over its nearest pursuer. "We've opened up a good gap in the teams' championship, but we have to remain on our guard as we've seen that all the races are very hotly contested. Today, Daniel and Brendon are both well placed to fight for the title. They have free rein. We'll give them the same cars , one as quick as the other, as we want to win the teams' championship. All we ask them is not to run into each other! I think that the mid-season Magny-Cours round will be absolutely vital. We know the circuit well and we've got two weeks to prepare for the event. We mustn't screw up there!"
Rendezvous 19-20 June at Magny-Cours for another episode in a thrilling season.
-source: tech 1