Ricciardo takes up Guerrieri's challenge
The final fight for the Championship got off to a fine start at Barcelona today with the advantage changing hands between ISR's Esteban Guerrieri, Tech 1 Racing's Daniel Ricciardo and Carlin's Mikhail Aleshin throughout the day. At the close of the two sessions of collective testing, Esteban Guerrieri came out on top thanks to his performance during the morning. With twelve drivers within one second of each other today, all the ingredients are there for an action-packed end to the season.
The last round of the season is always decisive in Formula Renault 3.5 Series. The Drivers championship is all set for a pitched battle between Mikhail Aleshin, Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Guerrieri. Recovered from his ankle injury, P1 Motorsport's Jan Charouz is back behind the wheel of the number 6 car. Meanwhile, FIA Formula 2 Champion, Junior Lotus Racing's Dean Stoneman, makes his debut in the class. Another returnee is the ever exciting Mexican Salvador Duran, who is back from Formula Renault 3.5 Series to join the FHV Interwetten.com team as replacement for Bruno Mendez who was injured during a physical training session. Invited by Red Bull Racing to attend an F1 simulator session, Jean-Eric Vergne will not be taking part in this collective testing. Instead, his weekend starts tomorrow with qualifying.
The drivers waited a few minutes at the beginning of the morning to make a start on their flying laps, before Fortec Motorsport's Sten Pentus, International Draco Racing's Julian Leal, Pons Racing's Daniel Zampieri, Fortec Motorsport's Jon Lancaster and Daniel Ricciardo each took their turn at the top of the timesheet. Lancaster was the first to make a significant impression on his rivals, and had just driven a 1'36"213 lap when the red flag came out following a crash by Dean Stoneman.
The drivers had the wind taken out of their sails further when Daniel Zampieri left the track. Before the incident, Esteban Guerrieri had had just enough time to better Jon Lancaster's lap with a time of 1'36"213. The Fortec Motorsport driver countered, but the Argentinean went one better. With a time of 1'34"845, he set the fastest lap of the session. In the meantime, Epsilon Euskadi's Albert Costa managed to steal second ahead of Junior Lotus Racing's Nelson Panciatici, third. Any attempts to improve the time were scuppered when Jan Charouz crashed out. The first session was brought to a close by the red flag, with Aleshin in 9th and Ricciardo a disappointing 18th.
The start of the second session was marred by an accident for ISR's Filip Salaquarda, who finished the day in a tyre-wall. Mikhail Aleshin also ran into a gravel trap, but the Russian was able to get away without any ill effects. Ricciardo, who was driving in normal aerodynamic setup while the majority of his rivals had selected light setup, set the fastest lap of the session in 1'34"896, ahead of Aleshin. Nevertheless, no one was able to better the time set at the end of the morning session by Esteban Guerrieri.
Daniel Ricciardo : "This morning wasn't perfect, but we were expecting to be a bit slow. The second session went much better. This isn't a weekend like the others, you can try to forget what's at stake, but it's impossible. We need to try and make the best of the situation. I've received a lot of messages of support, it's a great motivator."
Mikhail Aleshin : "It's been a good day and we worked really hard, and we can still improve our performance. People are talking a lot about the final, I'm just working with the team as though it was a weekend like any other. Keeping a cool head, that's the way to go."
Dean Stoneman : "It wasn't easy out there today as I had a lot of things to work out in a short space of time. I learned a lot and I found Formula Renault 3.5 really quick. It's a really exciting championship. We're here to find out more, to learn a few things and to get a feeling for it."
-source: renault sport