After racing at Motorland Aragon, the Circuit Paul Ricard and the Circuit de Catalunya, the 26 drivers entered in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series have been able to prepare a season that promises to offer a very high level of competition. The tests and simulations are now over, it’s time for the race with the first meeting this season, fought out on the Autodromo di Monza, near Milan.
Organised separately from the World Series by Renault – which will start on 27 and 28 April at Motorland Aragon – the Italian public is really looking forward to this first battle. The Formula Renault 3.5 races have always been fantastic to watch on a circuit rightly called the "temple of speed". Combined with the slipstreaming effect, the use of DRS (Drag Reduction System) will make overtaking a little easier within the pack.
After winning four races last year, Antonio Félix da Costa is considered as the top favourite. If he had not missed the first three meetings of the 2012 season, the Portuguese driver might well have prevented the title-deciding clash between Robin Frijns and Jules Bianchi. This time, the Arden Caterham driver will be present right from the kick-off and is determined to win the title!
His opponent, Stoffel Vandoorne has the right cards to replay Robin Frijns’ exploit. Like the Dutchman, Stoffel is the reigning Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 champion. Thanks to the €500 000 prize that came with the title, he has been able to climb up to the next level under the best possible conditions, inheriting the seat of the standing champion.
Since these two drivers monopolised most of the best times this winter, they deserve their position at the top of the list. The most experienced drivers who could determine the outcome of the race include Will Stevens, Nico Müller (International Draco Racing), Kevin Magnussen (Dams), Marco Sørensen (Lotus), Daniil Move (SMP Racing by Comtec), Arthur Pic (AV Formula) and André Negrão (International Draco Racing), who all set foot on the podium in 2012.
Champion in 2010, Mikhail Aleshin (Tech 1 Racing) kept a low profile over winter, but the Russian always gives his best show during the race weekends! Oliver Webb (Fortec Motorsports), returning to the series after a season in Indy Lights, is also looking forward to the first fights.
Amongst the newcomers, we must watch out for Norman Nato (Dams), who took 4th position in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0. Formerly F2, F3 GP3 drivers, Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), Matias Laine (P1 Motorsport), Christopher Zanella and Sergey Sirotkin (ISR) will be the other contenders for "best rookie".