Rookies take command

In Barcelona, Jean-Eric Vergne (KMP Group / SG Formula) and Albert Costa (Epsilon Euskadi) finished Tuesday's collective testing on top recording the two best times of the day. This season's top two Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 drivers were followed by three more drivers who are equally inexperienced at this level of racing: Daniel Zampieri (Comtec Racing), Daniel Ricciardo (Tech 1 Racing) and Miki Monras (KMP Group / SG Formula). Collective testing continues tomorrow, Wednesday.

Collective testing in preparation for 2010 continues for two full days at the Barcelona circuit. While some teams already have their drivers recruited for next season, like Tech 1 Racing with Brendon Hartley and Daniel Ricciardo, Epsilon Euskadi with Albert Costa or RC Motorsport with Filip Salaquarda, other teams are counting on these last two days of testing in 2009 to carry on the work started at Motorland Aragon last week. Several newcomers to Formula Renault 3.5 Series were here today, notably Miki Monras (KMP Group / SG Formula), Daniel Zampieri (Comtec Racing) and Michele Faccin (Pons Racing).

Under the Catalan sun, with the temperature already up to 20C at the start, drivers were quick to get into action this morning. Filip Salaquarda was first to find a good tempo, recording a 1'50''349 lap. Lap times were quickly improved by Jan Charouz (RC Motorsport) and Nathanael Berthon (International Draco Racing). The two drivers took relays at the top of the timing sheets for a period until James Walker (P1 Motorsport) took his turn. After lapping in 1'36''062, the British driver led for a good spell. Meanwhile, Jon Lancaster (Mofaz Fortec Motorsport) had a minor off-track scare, though he was able to resume the session.

In the last half hour, the times fell and Albert Costa recorded a best time of 1'34''740, not to be beaten in the morning. Behind him, James Walker saw his time bettered by Italian F3 champion, Daniel Zampieri. In his first outing in Formula Renault 3.5 Series, Miki Monras set the third fastest lap of the session. The top three times this morning all went to rookies and all within one tenth of a second! Next came James Walker in fourth, then Nathanael Berthon in fifth, ahead of Brendon Hartley, Daniil Move (KMP Group / SG Formula) and Antonio Felix Da Costa (Prema Powerteam).

For the second session, Jean-Eric Vergne took over from Miki Monras behind the wheel of the KMP Group / SG Formula car. The Frenchman seized the opportunity given him by the La Rochelle outfit and performed outstandingly all afternoon. Due to the heat, none of the teams emerged for the first hour. When the drivers took to the track, Brendon Hartley was first to put in a fast lap with a time of 1'36''667. His teammate at Tech 1 Racing, Daniel Ricciardo, Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 2008 runner-up and British F3 champion, joined him in second at the top of the timing charts. Lap times continued to come down through the final half hour, with Berthon, Costa, Vergne and Ricciardo all improving. In the last few moment, Jean-Eric Vergne beat the morning's reference time of 1'34''451 set by Albert Costa. In the end, the Frenchman finished ahead of Ricciardo, Costa, Berthon and Move.

Quote, unquote:

Jean-Eric Vergne: "For the first day on the circuit and the team's first practice at Barcelona, I'm obviously happy. It's pretty good for a first half-session! Tomorrow, we're going to improve further."

Albert Costa: "I feel much more comfortable here than in Motorland. I'm beginning to understand the car, to have a good feeling with the car and I'm pleased with the result for this first day on my home turf. The team in FR 3.5 Series, it's different, you feel that things are starting to get serious".

Miki Monras: "This morning, we had some setup and braking problems, but once we found the solution, I was very quick, right away. I'm really satisfied with this test. It's a pity I can't test some more, but all the seats are taken in the teams."

-credit: wsr