Formula Scout caught up with the Formula Regional European Championship frontrunners in the Red Bull Ring paddock last weekend, and there was one question on their minds: can they beat Gregoire Saucy?
Eight on-the-road wins from 14 races, with one gained from penalties for others and one lost to a disqualification after a Belleville washer was found to have been applied the wrong way around, has put Gregoire Saucy so comfortably ahead in the Formula Regional European Championship title race that he could miss the next round and still be 27 points ahead.
His rivals haven’t lost hope of beating him to wins, even if some of the in-form drivers are already out of title contention…
Gregoire Saucy SWITZERLAND ART Grand Prix
1st in standings, 224pts (8 wins, 8 poles, 2 fastest laps)
Saucy credits his stunning season to preparations with ART Grand Prix ahead of his second year racing for the team in FRegional, but he isn’t targeting another winning run in the remaining races as he plans to just maintain his points margin.
At the Red Bull Ring he qualified sixth for race one, saying he “missed two tenths in sector three”, meaning he likely had the pace for the front row alongside Franco Colapinto with less qualifying traffic. That proved to be the case on Sunday, as Colapinto took a second straight pole and Saucy was 0.055 seconds behind in second place. He pointed to evolution of the track as a factor for Colapinto heading them there, as his rival set his best lap later in slightly grippier conditions.
Colapinto then held him off to win, and Saucy said he “tried to take all my maximum during the race to overtake Franco, but it was impossible here to overtake” as “when we follow too close, we get understeer, so it’s really difficult”. Four days later, Colapinto’s win was taken away due to track limits violations and Saucy inherited first place.
It sounds like if three tenths of a second had gone a different way, Saucy may have had a double win last weekend.
Hadrien David FRANCE R-ace GP
2nd in standings, 147pts (1 win, 2 fastest laps)
Saucy’s closest rival ended Saturday in Austria feeling pretty happy after qualifying and finishing second (pictured above).
“Honestly not too bad a season,” David told Formula Scout. “I’m quite happy with the weekend here so far. Good pace considering that it was a tough weekend with free practice one in P11. So quite happy with the podium. Hopefully we can fight for the pole tomorrow and do another strong race to catch, well, to try to catch Saucy in the standings.”
“What is hard with these tyres is to try to find the good window for qualifying. So the good warm-up and when’s the right time to push to exploit the maximum of the tyres. It’s what we struggled a bit with at the start of the season, and it’s getting better and better, so qualifyings are quite strong now.”
David followed it up with fifth in Q2, but he didn’t even get to race two’s opening corner before wheel-on-wheel contact with Michael Belov launched him off his own wheels and then out of the race.
Staying in title contention could be crucial for David’s racing future, so the loss of points was a painful hit and he will need to recover at Valencia Ricardo Tormo and Mugello to keep the fight going.
“I’ve never been to Mugello, well I’d never come to Red Bull Ring before as well,” he said. “It’s my first time here.
“So if I can have a P3 in Mugello, I will go for it. Just fight for the podiums, and be as consistent as possible I think is the key for the championship because we are many, many drivers here. So it’s important to always score points.”
Franco Colapinto ARGENTINA MP Motorsport
9th in standings, 73pts (1 win, 2 poles, 3 fastest laps)
Missing four races hadn’t ruled Colapinto out of title contention until the Thursday after the Red Bull Ring round, as his provisional double win there was rather timely. The 18-year-old came third in last year’s Formula Renault Eurocup (which used the same car) and had yet to replicate that form in 2021.
‘’It was a perfect weekend. The car was fantastic, MP Motorsport did an amazing job, and we were able to show our real potential,” he said after taking victory on Sunday.
“It’s a great feeling to finally see the results that we have been working towards the entire season. This is just the beginning, and we aim to carry the momentum to Valencia, which is a track I love and have some great memories from.”
A 10-second penalty for track limits abuse, issued four days later, dropped Colapinto from first to fourth in race two and as a result his title dreams are over. His response was to tweet an image from the penultimate lap of the race showing the chasing Saucy exceeding track limits at turn nine – the corner where the penalty was earned – far more than himself.
Michael Belov RUSSIA G4 Racing
12th in standings, 45pts (1 win, 1 pole, 3 fastest laps)
While he mathematically can’t be FREC champion, Belov has been the only driver to recently rival Saucy in being consistently near the front. He’s missed half of the races held so far, but his results since have been redemptive as his racing career almost ended at the start of 2021 after he missed out on a FIA Formula 3 drive with Charouz Racing System.
“I was invited by JD Motorsport for Paul Ricard, so I drove for free because I was a wildcard entry,” he explained to Formula Scout. “So no points, nothing. I did quite a good job, a double podium. Then I find some offers from different teams, like G4 Racing who I’m at now.
“There is people which I work already before, and now we find the same language, I can say, and we are working in the same way, so we are not stopping yet.”
G4 is the smallest team the grid, having taken over the infrastructure (and recruited the engineers) of Bhaitech when it closed down, as it runs only Belov and Axel Gnos. R-ace GP has four cars and lots of data, but Belov knows where G4’s rivalling pace is coming from and knows he can keep Saucy off the podium’s top step more often.
“I think the speed is just the work with the team. Also the experience has helped [from the Eurocup]. I think the most important thing is the feedback from the drivers. How they explain what do we need from the car, what is the problem, what exactly is the problem with the corners. I know the basics of this car more or less because I work on it on a simulator a lot, and know some things. I’ve said this, this and this can work, so also I’ve engineered some experience, and we’ve made amazing steps.”
The target now, with the title out of reach and that costly Red Bull Ring crash, is “the maximum possible” in the standings.
“There’s six races left, still 150 points. I think realistically we can maybe do P5. It will be really difficult, but I think it’s realistic.”