Adrian Quaife-Hobbs finds the right mix

With the 2010 season now in the rear-view mirror, the 2011 is in sight for the Formula Renault 3.5 Series teams. Of the twenty-two drivers at the Barcelona circuit today, just eight have previous experience in the class. After a wet start, in which P1 Motorsport's Brendon Hartley made the most of his experience, putting on an impressive show, Comtec Racing's Adrian Quaife-Hobbs and ISR's Alexander Rossi were the stars of the day. The American finished a close second to the British driver. More testing follows tomorrow.

TRain and wind were the order of the day for this first day of collective testing, which comes just two days after the epic final which saw Carlin's Mikhail Aleshin crowned 2010 Formula Renault 3.5 Series with Tech 1 Racing's Daniel Ricciardo his runner-up. Twenty-two drivers were on the track for a day which saw the official arrival of the BVM Target team in the class, along with Italy's Mirko Bortolotti and Daniel Zampieri of the Ferrari Driver Academy taking the wheel.

Also worthy of mention among the day's invitees were Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 drivers, Tech 1 Racing's Arthur Pic, Epsilon Euskadi's Giovanni Venturini, International Draco Racing's Andre Negrao and British driver, Comtec Racing's Will Stevens. Junior Lotus Racing's Pierre Thiriet, who finished as runner-up in this years Eurocup Megane Trophy, also lined up for his first ever taste of single-seater racing.

The start of the morning session was a wet affair and the drivers were in no hurry out on the track. The rain eased and conditions improved progressively. The red flag was shown on several occasion following a number of thrills and spills, none of which were terribly serious. Epsilon Euskadi's Albert Costa was the first to pit for slicks just one hour before the chequered flag. After that the timesheet was in a constant state of flux. Costa, along with KMP Racing's Anton Nebilitskiy, Brend Hartley and Alexander Rossi took it in turns at in top-spot with each passing lap. On his last lap, Brendon Hartley had the final word, setting a time of 1'36"623 to lead Alexander Rossi, Daniel Zampieri, ISR's Julian Leal and Albert Costa.

The conditions were greatly improved for the afternoon, the track remaining dry throughout the four-hour session. The drivers all drove several laps, the busiest among them being Will Stevens who chalked up no fewer than 86. Alexander Rossi, who has previous Formula Renault 3.5 Series experience from his trip to Monaco this year left the other drivers for dust mid-session with a 1'33"660 lap, a time which comfortably beat the pole position qualifying lap set by Daniel Ricciardo in light aerodynamic setup last weekend. The American spent the major part of the weekend as leader. Only in the last ten minutes did remaining new tyres come out. Adrian Quaife-Hobbs improved on Rossi's time, with a 1'33"595 lap to finish the day of collective testing in pride of place, ahead of Rossi, Fortec Motorsport's Robert Wickens, P1 Motorsport's Walter Grubmuller, and Julian Leal.

Quote-Unquote:

Adrian Quaife-Hobbs: "I tried the car out once before last winter, so it wasn't a totally new experience today. I spent two days with Comtec Racing and I also drove at Motorland Aragon. It's clearly a very positive sign to have finished the day as leader. We were constantly on the pace."

Alexander Rossi: "Between Monaco, where I got my first taste of Formula Renault 3.5 Series, and the Barcelona circuit, there's really no comparison. I'm a little disappointed to have been pipped at the post, but the main thing is to see that we were clearly quick. I know the ISR inside-out, which means we work well together."

Arthur Pic: "It's a big difference to Formula Renault 2.0. There more power, it feels very different under braking and it's much more demanding physically. I'm going to drive again tomorrow, which is great as it allows me to sit down this evening and reflect on what I've learned today."

Pierre Thiriet: "It's the first time I've ever been behind the wheel of this car. It worked out well driving in the wet this morning then in the dry this afternoon as I was able to pace myself physically. At the end of the day it was really starting to hurt, especially my neck. I loved it though. The power, the grip, the cornering speed, it's just awesome!"

-source: reanult sport