Dutch driver Nigel Melker is set to race for Tech 1 Racing for the 2013 season of Formula Renault 3.5.
According to various Dutch media sources, Melker has already committed himself to a series switch and will not be on the 2013 GP2 grid. Instead, having allegedly lost a substantial sponsor, the 21-year-old has decided to settle for the less expensive alternative.
At 21, Melker has achieved a certain amount of notable accomplishments in junior single-seater racing, including finishing fourth in the F3 Euro Series and third in GP3. His rookie year in GP2 was, however, fairly under-the-radar, as he struggled to match the accomplishments of other GP3 graduates, tied to the backmarker Portuguese team Ocean Racing Technology.
Melker also made a one-off appearance in FR3.5, doing a round with Lotus at Silverstone, managing to score a podium in his first outing, thanks in part to a large retirement rate in a wet race.
Melker took part in both GP2 post-season tests at Jerez and Barcelona, representing DAMS and Racing Engineering.
Tech 1 Racing took first in the teams’ standings in the 2012 season of Formula Renault 3.5. Their main driver, Jules Bianchi, ended up four points short of the main title, as Kevin Korjus and Daniel Abt also raced for the team during the year.
By Valentin Khorounzhiy
Melker’s debut season in GP2 might not have painted him as a shining star of the future and he’s had some issues with patchy performance over the year but, just like in GP3, you could’ve expected him to vastly improve in his second year in the category. It’ll be quite different in FR3.5, where he is set to come with a bare minimum of previous experience, set up against what is looking like one of the strongest junior series lineups in years.
Should he end up fighting for occasional points and losing out to vastly less experienced drivers, we’ll probably have to accept his 2012 GP2 campaign as an indication rather than a fluke. However, Tech 1 is no Ocean and if that’s what Melker needed all along, he’ll make an excellent addition to an already great lineup.