Rowland: "No reason" I can't aim for Renault 2018 seat

Renault development driver Oliver Rowland says there's “no reason” why he shouldn't be seen as a contender to join the team's Formula 1 line-up in 2018.

Rowland: "No reason" I can't aim for Renault 2018 seat
Oliver Rowland, DAMS
Race winner Oliver Rowland, DAMS
Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team RS17
 Oliver Rowland, DAMS
Jolyon Palmer, Renault Sport F1 Team RS17
Jolyon Palmer, Renault Sport F1 Team RS17
Oliver Rowland, DAMS

British racer Rowland, a former champion in Formula Renault 3.5, currently sits second to Ferrari junior Charles Leclerc in the Formula 2 standings.

He has been part of the Renault F1 set-up since 2016, having spent the first year within its young driver programme before being named development driver for this season.

Of Renault's current F1 race drivers, Nico Hulkenberg is under contract for 2018, while Jolyon Palmer is signed for 2017 only – and, amid the latter's difficult start to the season, several other names have been linked with his seat for next year.

Asked if he felt overlooked by the public and media when it came to listing off prospective Renault 2018 seat candidates, Rowland admitted to Motorsport.com: “I suppose a little bit.

“It's quite clear for me that I have to do my job first before I start looking and bigging myself up for that drive. I need to improve a little bit in F2.

“I've been in the [Renault] factory a lot, behind closed doors, I think we have a good relationship and, you know, it'll come down to me doing a good job in F2, if I have a chance to get the seat.

“But I don't see any reason - up against anybody, I think I can be as quick as anybody and I've showed that I'm consistent, so I don't see any reason why I can't be in the frame.”

“One chance to show we're good enough”

Rowland, whose main role at Renault is doing “most of the simulator work” back at the Enstone base, reckons F1 teams need to give more chances to young drivers, particularly those that have proven themselves against strong opposition in junior categories.

Among the current crop of F1 drivers, Rowland raced against Force India rising star Esteban Ocon back in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 in 2013, finishing one spot ahead of Ocon in second as he lost out in a close title fight with Pierre Gasly.

Asked whether Ocon getting to F1 while himself and Gasly, who has since become a GP2 champion, were still waiting for their chance was indicative of a lack of opportunities, Rowland said: “Yeah, I think sometimes you get the break, and he [Ocon] did. But he did a good year in F3 and GP3.

“I took the gamble to go straight from Eurocup to 3.5, which is a bigger step. Sometimes you get a bit lucky and sometimes you don't, but I think me and Pierre have proved ourselves against the likes of him.

“It's just, in my opinion, the fact that the teams need to give younger drivers a chance. All we need is one chance to show if we're good enough.”

The Verstappen example

Rowland cited Red Bull recruit Max Verstappen, who was promoted to F1 straight from Formula 3, as an example of how giving young drivers an opportunity can pay off.

“If Max never got the chance, who knows... maybe if he'd gone to F2 and the team's one second off, you can't do one second, it's not possible.

“Just need to be given the opportunity, really - both [myself and Gasly], because I think we can do a much better job than some of the people already in there.”

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