Winning the teams' title, great - but the aim is the drivers' crown!
Thanks to a very good weekend at Silverstone in terms of points, plus a victory for Jean-Eric Vergne on Saturday and a double podium finish on Sunday, Tech 1 Racing needs only 1 point to win the teams' title in the 2010 Formula Renault 3.5 Series. The outcome of the battle for the drivers' crown is on a knife edge. Before the final in Barcelona, Daniel Ricciardo is only 3 points behind the championship leader. The Australian has to win the last two rounds to be sure of bagging the title.
125,000 spectators turned up at Silverstone last weekend and what they saw in the World Series by Renault races more than met their expectations. Since 2009, the mythic British circuit has undergone a revamp but its high-speed philosophy remains intact.
Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, set the second and twelfth-quickest times in the free test sessions, as they calmly fine-tuned their setups. On Saturday, the two Red Bull Junior Team drivers in the light aero setup confirmed their promising performances by setting the third and fourth fastest times in qualifying with Ricciardo just in front of Vergne.
So it was all looking very promising for the first race of the weekend until it all went wrong at the start. Ricciardo was about to go into the lead when he was punted off by Jon Lancaster. Vergne took advantage of this to take second place where he finished after driving a perfect race at very high speed. He was then awarded victory when Esteban Guerrieri was disqualified.
The team spent the whole night rebuilding Ricciardo's car and their reward came on Sunday morning when the Australian set pole position for the second race. Vergne completed the French squad's joy with third place. Ricciardo led for the whole race and had opened up a gap after the tyre change. But he was unable to fend of Guerrieri and saw the flag in second place. Vergne rounded off his excellent weekend with third spot.
"To say that we had mixed feelings after the first race would be a bit of an understatement," analysed Simon Abadie, the Tech 1 Racing team manager. "We're delighted with Jean-Eric's first victory in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series even if it's due to a disqualification. It's a win, and he's learning very quickly. Today, he's as fast as the best drivers in the championship. We're very pleased with his results.
"On the other hand, Daniel was punted off the track by Jon Lancaster. It meant no points and an all-nighter for the mechanics. By setting pole Daniel thanked them in the best possible fashion. He looked like he was going to win on Sunday until he fell asleep at the end of the race! He let Esteban Guerrieri catch him and overtake him in the second-last lap. He was a bit too nice, and now he realises it. But in terms of points he's now only three behind Mikhail Aleshin. He holds his fate in his hands. If he wins both races on the Barcelona circuit, he won't have to do any calculating - he'll be champion.
"Jean-Eric Vergne has every reason to be satisfied with his weekend with a victory and a podium. On Sunday, he wasn't able to match the pace of the first two, which shows that he still has a lot of room for improvement. His two results and Daniel's second place have given us the teams' title - well almost. We still lack a point so we've got 99.9% chances of winning it for the third time. Three titles in five years in the Series means a lot. But for us this year, the main aim is to win the drivers' championship. It's important for Tech 1 Racing, for Daniel Ricciardo and also for the Red Bull Junior Team. We're going to do everything in our power to finish the job in Barcelona."
Rendezvous on 9th and 10th October for the last two races of the season. Two crucial rounds in which Daniel Ricciardo and Tech 1 Racing will have to surpass themselves.