Barcelona: a tricky weekend The Tech 1 Racing team did not exactly make a dream debut in the first round of the 2009 season, but the Barcelona event was not a nightmare either. Charles Pic was the quickest driver over the weekend with a ...
Barcelona: a tricky weekend
The Tech 1 Racing team did not exactly make a dream debut in the first round of the 2009 season, but the Barcelona event was not a nightmare either. Charles Pic was the quickest driver over the weekend with a pole position and a great start to Sunday's race. Brendon Hartley who was having his first taste of the 3.5 Series in Spain, gathered valuable experience and confirmed all the hope invested in him by the team. Rendezvous at Spa for a well-deserved revenge!
For the first time, the kick-off to the 2009 Formula Renault 3.5 Series was given on the Barcelona circuit, which usually hosts the final round of the World Series by Renault. The format of the weekends has evolved this year with a reduction in free practice, so battle is now joined on Friday.
Brendon Hartley was only confirmed with the team on the Wednesday before the event, and he had just a couple of 1-hour sessions to get to grips with the Formula Renault 3.5. He is a Red Bull driver, and the New Zealander's only experience of the car goes back to a day's testing in 2007 following his Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 title. On his first contact with Charles Pic and the whole of the Tech 1 Racing squad, Brendon soon got into the swing of things and set the second-quickest time on Friday afternoon.
Pic concentrated on fine-tuning his car's set-up during the test day, while keeping a set of new tyres for the rest of the weekend. So things got off to a great start with the two Tech 1 cars among the front-runners.
Saturday morning confirmed Tech 1 Racing's overall pace and that of its drivers. In Group A, Pic qualified easily for the SuperPole setting the quickest lap in his group. Hartley finished seventh in Group B, five-tenths off the quickest driver. He was the first non-qualifier for the SuperPole, but given his lack of experience in relation to the rest of the field, his was a remarkable performance.
In the SuperPole shoot-out Pic finished second, one thousandth of a second behind pole setter Miguel Molina. The Spaniard, however, was disqualified for using his team-mate's tyres during the SuperPole, so Pic became the first pole setter of the season.
The reverse system was used for the first race, and Charles found himself in eighth place on the grid with Brendon thirteenth. Each one had different aims. The Frenchman's was to score the maximum number of points, while the New Zealander was out to gain as much experience as possible at the wheel of the Renault 3.5 during the race. Unfortunately, Pic was caught out by cold carbon brakes on the formation lap, went straight on in a corner and hit a tyre wall. End of race! Hartley drove a steady race and saw the flag in twelfth place making constant progress. On Sunday, Charles made an impeccable start from pole. He set a searing pace and opened up a gap over his pursuers. When he came in for his pit stop he had a 10-second lead over the second-placed man, but a jammed rim lost him precious seconds.
Then the weather took a hand in the proceedings, and a shower soaked the circuit. Hartley was on slicks and pitted at just the right moment to shod rain tyres. Just as he did so the safety car was deployed causing a certain amount of confusion. It is difficult to explain why Brendon lost half-a-lap in the muddle, and while everybody was expecting him to go to the top of the time sheets, his name appeared in tenth place. "We have to analyse the data to find out what happened," states Simon Abadie. "Honestly, we were in the process of pulling off the hold-up of the century with Brendon, as we put him on rain tyres at just the right moment. Of course, it took him two or three laps to find his marks, as he had never driven the car in these conditions. His times were good and logically speaking he should have been in the group of the other drivers who made only one pit stop."
The storm was not good news for Pic either. He had to pit for a second time and there was another problem with an air gun, which malfunctioned. Once again he lost precious time in the pits. He rejoined in tenth place and picked off his rivals one by one to get up into fourth. Another stroke of bad luck hit the team, as the race was red-flagged. The final order was that of two laps before the stoppage so Pic came home sixth and Brendon ninth.
"It's been a difficult start," Abadie admits. "Just the type of weekend that no matter what you do winning is impossible. We showed that our overall level of performance is good. Charles made a perfect start to the race on Sunday. But there were too many mistakes: Charles's on Saturday, mine on Sunday, and different glitches that we've never had before like the defective air gun."
"In the second race, we calculated our strategy on the other favourites. But we all got caught out; we were too conservative. The teams that waited for the rain and made only one stop were right. We've got to learn from all that, re-examine our procedures and get things in order for Spa-Francorchamps. Charles showed that he's the quickest driver, and despite everything he scored nine points while many of the title favourites did much less well. Brendon made constant progress. For someone who had never driven the car in such difficult race conditions, he was convincing, serious and got his head down. We'll be battling for victory at Spa-Francorchamps with both our drivers."
Rendezvous on Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd May in Belgium. Tech 1 Racing will be gunning for revenge!
-credit: tech 1