Rowland has perfectly negotiated his move to the next level in becoming the first rookie to secure a pole position then go on to victory this season.
Second in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, Oliver Rowland has perfectly negotiated his move to the next level in becoming the first rookie to secure a pole position then go on to victory this season. With the support of the Racing Steps Foundation, the Englishman is second in the championship battle, sandwiched between the two Red Bull Junior Team drivers, Carlos Sainz and Pierre Gasly, his rival in 2013.
Runner-up in the 2011 Formula Renault UK in his first full season of single-seaters racing, Oliver Rowland then moved on to the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0. He finished third behind returnees Stoffel Vandoorne and Daniil Kvyat.
”When you look back, finishing third to those two looks pretty good!” affirms the smiling Englishman. ”At the time, it wasn’t considered this way. Coming back for a second season was the right choice, because the new Formula Renault 2.0 represented a step forward. This category is extremely competitive and if I want to be the best, I have to prove myself against the best.”
To the astonishment of observers, he left the British Fortec Motorsports team for Manor MP Motorsport. ”I know that there were some doubts about me. The winter was tricky, but we stayed focused and everything was in place. Since then, I am stronger, both mentally and physically.”
Very involved with in his new team, the British hopeful managed to rally the troops by creating closer relationships with his men both at and away from the circuit. Taking his racing to a higher level, he was in contention for the title, until his collision with Pierre Gasly in the finale.
”I have no regrets”, says the Englishman. ”It was my only chance, I had to take it. To be honest, it would have been superb had it worked! At least, no one can say that I left the championship without giving it my best shot. ”
With the Formula Renault 3.5 Series rookie tests up next, Oliver Rowland joined up with his old team. The chemistry was quickly recreated between Fortec Motorsports and himself.
”To come to the Formula Renault 3.5 Series with a top team like Fortec is a fantastic opportunity. I have everything what it takes for wins. I can’t thank Racing Steps Foundation enough for their continuing support and their role. Right from the tests everything started very well. In coming from the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, my driving style suited with the car. I could learn and build confidence on every lap.”
A regular front-runner in testing, Oliver Rowland – who has only driven in Formula Renault since his debut in single-seaters! – had a learning weekend at Monza before scoring his first podium in just his third start, before running the table the next day.
”At Monza, despite starting 15th, the podium was possible. I had excellent race pace, but I stalled on the formation lap. As for Motorland, I was probably a little too cautious on the two first laps of my final Saturday qualifying run. I then made a few errors that cost me the pole on my final attempt. After the incident at Monza, my start was a little difficult and it is hard to overtake here.”
The following day, Oliver Rowland put it all together to become the first rookie to win in the 2014 Formula Renault 3.5 Series.
”I was convinced of our potential. In qualifying, the first corner posed a problem for me, and I just nailed it on my last lap. I thought that the performance peak of the tyres had passed, but I gave it my all. To take the pole is marvellous, but you have to concentrate on the race. I quickly pulled out a lead before taking control of everything: the DRS, tyre, and wind…I was just a bit nervous before the pit stop, as it was the first of my career. The team and I are getting stronger and stronger at each race. We are counting on building on this to continue to win. That is the plan.”
From here to race for the title? ”Clearly, it won’t be easy, but the team won the title with Robin Frijns and came close with Stoffel Vandoorne, both of whom were rookies. This shows that it is quite possible. I don’t feel too much pressure, but if I finish behind the first two, this probably won’t be good enough!”