The future won't wait!
At Renault Sport Technologies' initiative, the top three drivers of the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 championship, together with the winners of the different Formula Renault 2.0 national championships were invited for a day's collective testing behind the wheel of a Formula Renault 3.5. Winners of British, Spanish, Italian and Japanese Formula 3 championships were also invited to the party. It was Kevin Magnussen who gave the best performance of the day. The afternoon saw Antonio Felix da Costa claim the fastest lap time.
The season has been long and nail-biting for everyone, and yet the drivers are already preparing 2010. For the winners of the Formula Renault 2.0 championships, the process begins today with a test aboard a Formula Renault 3.5. Albert Costa, Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 winner, will join proceedings on Thursday aboard an Epsilon Euskadi car, the team with which the Spaniard will be competing next season in Formula Renault 3.5 Series. Jean-Eric Vergne and Antonio Felix da Costa, respectively runner-up and third place drivers in this season's Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, were out on track today.
Vergne was driving a Mofaz Fortec Motorsport car and da Costa was with the P1 Motorsport team with whom he has already tested last year. Formula Renault 2.0 French champion Nathanael Berthon got his first taste of Formula Renault 3.5 Series with Tech 1 Racing. Daniel Mancinelli, Formula Renault 2.0 Italian champion, was driving with International Draco Racing, while Nico Muller, winner of the Swiss championship, was with Prema Powerteam. Dean Smith, Formula Renault 2.0 UK winner, is taking part in these tests with Comtec Racing, Finnish champion Jukka Honkavuori goes with RC Motorsport and the leader of the Formula Renault 2.0 Chinese championship, Luis sa Silva, is driving in the Interwetten.com Racing team. Lastly, the runner-up and third placed drivers from Formula Renault 2.0 NEC, behind Antonio Felix da Costa, Kevin Magnussen is in a Pons Racing seat and Marco Sorensen is with RC Motorsport. F3 drivers were also invited to the session. Daniel Ricciardo, British F3 winner, was driving today with Carlin Motorsport, the team with which he was crowned champion this season. Celso Miguez, Spanish F3 champion, was in the hands of team KMP Group / SG Formula. Finally, the Japanese F3 runner-up, Takuto Igushi, took at seat with Pons Racing.
The drivers buckled down to an intense morning's work, upping the pace little by little and getting as many laps under their belts as they could. Marco Sorensen and Kevin Magnussen were quick to set the pace. Antonio Felix da Costa joined in the battle for the quickest lap time. Kevin Magnussen eventually clocked the fastest lap of the morning with a time of 1'43''609, ahead of Antonio Felix da Costa, Marco Sorensen and Daniel Ricciardo. The drivers all applied themselves to the task at hand, with an impressive average of forty laps completed per driver. In the afternoon, Greg Mansell (Mofaz Fortec Motorsport), fresh from a season in the discipline, led for most of the session, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo. However, the situation changed when the new rubber came out as the end of the session drew closer. Antonio Felix da Costa seized his opportunity to stand out from the group. Lapping in 1'43''935, he claimed the quickest time of the afternoon, ahead of Greg Mansell, Daniel Ricciardo, Dean Smith and Nathanael Berthon.
Kevin Magnussen: "The first time you press the accelerator, you say to yourself: OK, this is another world! Everything is more effective -- the braking, acceleration, road holding, grip-- You need time to get used to it, but I felt comfortable pretty quickly. We've done some very good work with Pons Racing. It was a very good day."
Antonio Felix da Costa: "I've not yet quite got all my bearings with this car, so I'm not totally up to speed yet, particularly in braking where I was often not on the ideal line. I'm still a long way short of the limit. I'm very interested by the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. I just need to get the budget together!"
Daniel Ricciardo: "I already knew the car, but this is my first experience of the track. I'm going to be driving all week with Carlin Motorsport. Today I wanted to get as much driving under my belt as possible to get my bearings. We're going to work on the different set-ups tomorrow."
Jean-Eric Vergne: "The car was completely new to me this morning when I joined the Mofaz Fortec Motorsport team. I felt at ease in the car very quickly though. This afternoon, I switched to team KMP Group SG Formula. With the new tires I pushed harder. I got a good lap in just before crashing out. It's all part of the learning curve. I'll be behind the wheel again tomorrow."
Nathanael Berthon: "I'm pleased how today went. The Formula Renault 3.5 is a lot better suited to my size and I really felt comfortable. We did some good work with the team, and they helped me make progress. The Formula Renault 3.5 Series is my first choice for next season."
Daniel Mancinelli: "I spent the first few laps getting used to the car and the circuit... that wasn't simple. I drove a good thirty laps and there was lots to learn - I've learned so much today. We did a lot of work on the telemetry. I'll be back tomorrow and looking to up the pace."
Dean Smith: "It was a fantastic experience driving this car, with a team like Comtec Racing. I learnt stuff every single lap. I really didn't want it to end! We haven't made any decisions for next season. I'm going to test again this winter before taking my decision."
Marco Sorensen: "I'm really pleased with these tests. Formula Renault 2.0 wasn't really suited to my style of driving, but here I felt right straight away. Renault Driver Development will decide what's in store for me in 2010 but I must say I've taken a liking to this single-seater."
Nico Muller: "I drove quite a bit this morning, we got a lot of laps in. I did make a mistake on the new tires, but overall we're happy. I'd never driven anything other than Formula Renault 2.0, so naturally I'm impressed by this car. It was a terrific experience."
Takuto Iguchi: "This car is very interesting to drive. I'm not used to driving a single-seater that's got so much power and grip. Next year I want to drive in Europe. The FR 3.5 Series is definitely one of the disciplines I'm attracted to."
Celso Miguez: "The car is totally different from anything I've known! I'm pleased because I managed to make good use of the new tires after driving a lot of laps on old tires. I'm from Galicia but I've heard so much about Motorland Aragon lately that I really wanted to discover this circuit."
Jukka Honkavuori: "It's something very new for me driving this car. Even just getting into the seat, I was impressed by the sheer size of the car! I'm only just 18. I need one more season in Formula Renault 2.0 before I think about Formula Renault 3.5 Series."
Luis sa Silva: "I'd like to thank Renault Sport Technologies for this invitation. It's a real pleasure to drive such a powerful car. The Formula Renault 2.0 Chinese championship isn't over yet. I'm the leader right now and I hope these tests aboard a Formula Renault 3.5 will help me win the title!"