A day for Champions
Twenty-five drivers were invited by Renault Sport Technologies to tryout Formula Renault 3.5 at the Motorland Aragon circuit today. As movers and shakers from Formula 3 and Formula Renault 2.0 the world over, the drivers were able to measure their ability against the single-seater. The Formula 3 drivers put on an impressive display. ISR's Tom Dillman set the fastest time for a visitor, less than two tenths of a second off the pace, ahead of Tech 1 Racing's Valteri Bottas and Pons Racing's Kevin Magnussen. The fastest overall lap was set by Comtec Racing's Adrian Quaife-Hobbs in 1'42"557.
TThe majority of the drivers invited by Renault Sport Technologies got their first taste of Formula Renault 3.5 Series at today's session, including Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 Champion, Kevin Korjus, Formula Renault 2.0 UK Champion, Tom Blomqvist, Formula Renault 2.0 NEC Champion, Ludwig Ghidi, Formula Renault 2.0 Italia Champion, Francesco Frisone and Finnish Formula Renault 2.0 Champion Miika Kunrata.
During the morning session, some drivers who were present on Monday and Tuesday lined up with their teams. Comtec Racing's Adrian Quaife-Hobbs used the last set of fresh tyres available to his team, putting them to good use to set a lap time of 1'42"557, the fastest of the three-day testing session. During today's session, he led BVM Target's Mirko Bortolotti, KMP Racing's Anton Nebilitskiy and BVM Target's Daniel Zampieri.
In the afternoon the twenty-five drivers all took to the track simultaneously. For many of them, the first part of the session was dedicated to getting to grips with Formula Renault 3.5 Series, while the old hands naturally took the lead. Cesar Ramos held court ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne, Giovanni Venturini and Kevin Magnussen. The Formula 3 drivers let their experience do the talking, with Valtteri Bottas, Tom Dillman and Kevin Magnussen all trying to outdo each other. Bottas, who won the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 in 2008, took control of the session with a time of 1'43"127, while Dillman waited patiently for the end of the session to go back out on fresh tires. With a time of 1'42"866 he drove the fastest lap of the day. Bottas' final attempt did little to change the order on the timesheet. The Finn completed his session 18/1000s behind the Frenchman. Magnussen, Vergne and Marco Barba completed the top-five. Formula Renault 3.5 Series now goes into hibernation, to await the first collective testing sessions early in 2011.
Kevin Korjus - Champion, Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0: "This car is a cracker, I love it. The power was quite a surprise in the first few laps, but you soon get used to it. The braking is such that you really have to work hard to keep on the pace. I worked really hard with Jean-Éric Vergne. He's helped me a lot. We tried different setups today to see how I react."
Luciano Bacheta - Runner-up, Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0: "I had a little problem with the accelerator at the start of the morning session, but the team fixed it very quickly. It felt great. I'm quite a big guy and I felt much more comfortable in this car than in Formula Renault 2.0."
Jean-Eric Vergne - Champion, British Formula 3 International Series: "We've worked really hard over the last few days. I had minor brake trouble yesterday, but we took a look at it and it was working properly today. We tried out a wide range of settings without looking for out-and-out speed. Nothing's been decided, but it's looking like I'll be driving in Formula Renault 3.5 Series next season."
Valtteri Bottas - Formula 3 Euro Series, 3rd: "I've driven the car before, so I knew what to expect. However, I didn't really know Tech 1 Racing, but everything went really well with them. This morning we worked really hard without looking at the stopwatch. It was only at the end of the session that I stepped up the pace just to see what happened. It was a really positive day, even if I regret not having set the fastest time!"
Tom Dillmann - Champion, Formul 3 Germany: "This car is much faster and more physical than F3. It's the first time I've driven a car with carbon brakes. You need to get used to it, they're really effective. It's two years now that I've been driving without a budget. So I'm on the hunt for partners to support me in Formula Renault 3.5 Series next season. I'm hoping that a fastest lap will help me with my plans."
Kevin Magnussen - Formula 3 Germany, 3rd: "I've already taken part in one test day last season. Coming back to it from F3 is an interesting experience. It's definitely a car which suits me, and which suits my driving style. Nothing's decided for 2011, it's still an open book."
Marco Barba - Champion, Euro F3 Open: "I've driven this car before and I know the International Draco Racing team well. I learned a lot from competing in and winning the Euro F3 Open. We are working towards a return to Formula Renault 3.5 Series next season, probably with Draco."
Cesar Ramos - Champion, Formula 3 Italia: "Yesterday I was driving with International Draco Racing, and today I'm with P1 Motorsport. It's interesting to drive two cars with such different setups, and to see the two different approaches to racing. Before I can think about next season, I have a championship to win next weekend!"
Yuji Kunimoto - Champion, Formula 3 Japan: "My brother, Keisuke, who was driving for Epsilon Euskadi this season, gave me a lot of advice. I was impressed by the car, particularly the grip and the aerodynamics. I've got a little pain in my neck and arm this evening. I need the experience to get faster in this car, and I certainly don't regret such a long journey to take part in the tests today."
Tom Blomqvist - Champion, Formula Renault 2.0 UK: "Until today, the quickest car I've ever driven was Formula Renault 2.0. I was impressed by the power and the downforce today. It's a very exciting car to drive. I'm thinking I might try a season in F3 before I move on to Formula Renault 3.5, but with a little more experience it's a class with a lot of potential."
Francesco Frisone - Champion, Formula Renault 2.0 Italia: "I didn't really want to take risks, as there's a big difference between Formula Renault 2.0 and this car. It's really interesting to try out a more powerful, faster car I've made progress, I'm happy. It's great motivation!"
Ludwig Ghidi - Champion, Formula Renault 2.0 NEC: "It just feels amazing on board this car. I've really enjoyed working with Comtec Racing. I only drove for a half-day, but I was right on the pace. I drove my fastest lap on old tires, as I didn't manage to get a drive on new ones. My 2011 season depends on my budget. I'm trying to stay realistic, so I think I'll probably drive in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0. Still, I'll be dreaming about Formula Renault 3.5 Series. I think we can move from Formula Renault 2.0 to Formula Renault 3.5 if we work hard on fitness and endurance."
Miika Hunranta - Champion, Formula Renault 2.0 Finland: "I made a lot of little mistakes, I didn't really get a perfect lap in, but it was a great day nevertheless. I really want to analyze my data in depth and to try this car out again soon."