2009 line-up takes shape
With just a few weeks to go before collective testing gets underway, the Formula Renault 3.5 Series driver line-up is taking shape. Once again this year, Formula Renault 3.5 Series is proving popular with F1-backed young driver development programmes; Renault Driver Development is sponsoring Charles Pic (Tech 1 Racing), while Red Bull Junior Team is supporting Jaime Alguersuari (Carlin Motorsport) and Force India has joined forces with International Draco Racing.
The first collective testing session of the season, scheduled to be held on March 10 and 11 in Jerez, is fast approaching and little by little the teams are announcing their driver line-ups. The 2009 field will, after all, comprise thirteen two-car teams. Interwetten Racing have completed their registration and thus take their place alongside the twelve teams pre-selected by the Organizing Committee.
Carlin Motorsport, International Draco Racing and Comtec Racing have already confirmed both their drivers for 2009. International Draco Racing have opted for stability, once again placing their faith in Belgian driver Bertrand Baguette and Spaniard Marco Barba. As experienced hands, Baguette and Barba will be among the obvious title challengers. Their cars, meanwhile, will be decked out in Force India Formula One team colours.
Alexandre Marsoin has moved to Comtec Racing for his second season in the category. He will be joined by Anton Nebilitsky, a Russian driver making the step up from Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 who has high hopes for the season ahead.
Carlin Motorsport will place their faith in the victorious duo from the 2008 British Formula 3 championship, Jaime Alguersuari and Oliver Turvey. Red Bull Junior team member and British Formula 3 champion Jaime Alguersuari, who turns 19 in a few days' time, will be reunited with his teammate and British F3 runner-up from last season, Oliver Turvey, who won the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award in 2006 and is sponsored by the Racing Steps Foundation. They may both be rookies, but the young Carlin Motorsport pair will be among the drivers to watch.
Charles Pic, who won races at Monaco and Le Mans last year, assumes the role of lead driver at Tech 1 Racing, who will be looking for their third consecutive Teams title. Last year, the young Frenchman finished sixth in the championship and scooped the Best New Driver prize. This year, when he will be supported by the Renault Driver Development programme, he will be among the favourites for the Drivers title.
Jersey's James Walker will also be a serious candidate for the championship crown. The British driver inherits 2008 champion Giedo Van der Garde's seat at P1 Motorsport for his third season in the category, a season in which he will be hoping to reach new heights.
The past few days have also seen Colombian driver Omar Leal confirmed at Prema Powerteam and Estonia's Sten Pentus at Mofaz Fortec Motorsport.
The first meeting of the season will be held in Barcelona. Formula Renault 3.5 Series races will take place at every World Series by Renault meeting, with additional races at Monaco, as a curtain-raiser to the F1 Grand-Prix, and at the new Algarve circuit in Portugal.