Home Featured Roundup: Magnussen and Vandoorne take FR3.5 wins at Spa

Roundup: Magnussen and Vandoorne take FR3.5 wins at Spa

by Peter Allen

Photo: Renault Sport/DPPI

McLaren stars boost their championship chances in Belgium, while Rosenqvist slashes Marciello’s European F3 lead with a triple win in Austria…

Formula Renault 3.5
Magnussen extends his lead, but Vandoorne recovers with a home win

Points leader Kevin Magnussen was expected to go well at Spa having taken two poles and a win 12 months ago, and the DAMS driver ended the weekend with the same achievement. He was the man to beat for much of the weekend, following up pole with victory on Saturday, although he had to deal with the attention of both Antonio Felix da Costa and Nigel Melker in the closing stages. He took another pole on Sunday, but lost his chances of a double win with a slow start. An early stop put him back in contention for the lead, but he dropped back to third by the finish. Magnussen now has an extended points lead of 29 points, and he’s been the star of the early rounds. But DAMS were quick at Aragon last year (Arthur Pic was twice on pole) and Magnussen was good at Spa – the question is whether, together, they can keep it up for the rest of the season.

Stoffel Vandoorne began his rookie a year with a bang in Monza, but things tumbled. Aragon results were below par for the guy that set the track record in testing last year, Monaco was wrecked by his grid penalty for ignoring yellow flags, and, on his home weekend at Spa, he was nowhere on Saturday. He could only manage 13th in qualifying and crossed the finish line at the end of the race in exactly the same place. Having had to deal afterwards with a grilling from the large contingent of local media, he deserves serious credit for the way he turned around his most important weekend of the year. Qualifying third, he then went for it at the start of the race and had the lead by the time the field got to Les Combes for the first time. The pace is certainly still there, it’s now a matter of stringing it together into consistent results. A tough ask for a driver freshly graduated from Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, but not impossible.

Stoffel Vandoorne

Vandoorne took a popular home win (Photo: Renault Sport/DPPI)

Not for the first time, Felix da Costa didn’t manage to prove his speed in qualifying, but on this occasion he was unable to make much race progress either. He was quicker than Magnussen in the first race and thus publicly criticised himself afterwards for not being able to get past. He was shuffled back to sixth in Sunday’s qualifying and could only make up one place in the race. As he himself said, a second and a fourth isn’t bad for a weekend’s work, but this is the pre-season favourite we’re talking about. He had a deficit to Magnussen after Monza and it’s grown every weekend since. We know that on top form he’s untouchable. Whether or not he can find his form of late 2012 will be the making of his 2013.

Melker was one of the weekend’s top performers. The Dutchman had started outside the top ten for all of this season’s previous races, despite racking up three top six finishes from the five races. On Saturday he began in the top ten – just – and once again sythed through the order, this time up to third, despite a lengthy safety car period, and onto the tail of Felix da Costa and Magnussen. Qualifying fourth on Sunday was promising but this time he went backwards to sixth, not helped by a clash with team-mate Mikhail Aleshin. Nevertheless, two strong points scores have lifted him to sixth in the standings.

Will Stevens and Nico Mullerhad weekends that summed up their seasons so far – able to match the best on their day, but too prone to getting caught up in incidents. And it was one such incident together in qualifying on Saturday morning that put them on the back foot. Starting 26th and 16th respectively, both their races ended after contact with others in traffic. Monaco winner Muller got himself up onto the front row on Sunday and led at first before being slipstreamed by Vandoorne and then falling to fifth thanks to a slow stop. Stevens started fifth but produced a fine race to pass Magnussen for second. Muller and Stevens are fourth and fifth in the standings respectively, separated by just a point.

The top six in Sunday’s race now occupy the top six in the standings, with Arthur Pic slipping after getting caught up in a first-lap crash ahead of him. He was blameless, but like Stevens and Muller, paid the price for a poor qualifying that saw him start from 17th. It was a contrast to the Saturday, when he qualified fourth and ran third, right behind Felix da Costa, until the safety car restart, when he was attacked by Melker.

Report: Kevin Magnussen holds on to race one win at Spa

Report: Stoffel Vandoorne takes home race victory at Spa

Next round: Moscow, 22-23 June

FIA F3 European Championship
Rosenqvist takes full advantage of a Prema shocker
Felix Rosenqvist

Rosenqvist seals win three of three (Photo: FIA F3 Europe)

Prema Powerteam had been the team to beat in F3 so far this season, with their dominance most noticeable last time out at Brands Hatch. Lead driver?Raffaele Marciello?seemed to be running away to an uncontested title. Everything changed at Spielberg in Austria though, triggered by a wet Friday.

Felix Rosenqvist couldn’t quite match Daniil Kvyat in the rain-soaked qualifying, but he was imperious in the races. In the first two, he out-jumped Kvyat off the start to lead into the first corner, never to be seen again. In the third, starting from third, he held position through the first few corners before passing both Marciello and then Kvyat around the outside. While fast, Rosenqvist is a driver who has struggled to really make much of an impression up until now. Even for someone in their fourth year of F3, this was an exemplary performance and one that made people sit up and take note.

It was also one that slashed the gap to Marciello in the standings. The Italian began the first two races in the middle of the pack, but did well to limit the damage in the first race as he came though to fourth – or third in terms of points with guest Kvyat ineligible for points. However, he could only manage 13th in a red-flagged second race, while in race three he fell back from his front row starting slot to come home sixth. That means the points gap between Marciello and Rosenqvist has come down from 77.5 to 27.5 in just one weekend. It’s hard to imagine Rosenqvist outpacing Marciello for the rest of the season, but if the Ferrari ace has more difficult rounds, the Swede has proven he can capitalise.

It was a mixed weekend for Marciello’s team-mate Lucas Auer on home soil. Further down in qualifying than he would have wanted to be, a clash with Sven Muller in the first race meant he could only manage tenth before adding a fourth and a third in the remaining races. It extends his margin in the battle for third with team-mate Alex Lynn, whose qualifying was even worse than Marciello’s – to the point that rescuing two top ten finishes were good results. He could have made it three without the crash with Pipo Derani that brought the red flags out in race two.

Kvyat finished all three races in second place behind Rosenqvist. His triple pole in the difficult conditions on Friday proved his talent, even if Carlin seemed to manage better in the rain than their rivals. He could be disappointed to keep losing out at the starts, but Rosenqvist’s speed was such he was never likely to be held off anyway. Team-mate Jordan King got a maiden European podium after his British F3 class win the previous weekend, while Nicolas Latifi impressed as he often battled with the frontrunners, eventually picking up a fifth and a seventh for his efforts but the Canadian probably deserved more.

Lucas Wolf, driving for the small URD Rennsport squad, was outstanding in the wet on Friday, securing himself third, second and sixth on the grids for the three races. He wasn’t as fast in the dry races, but did manage to score a podium in the shortened second race.

Report: Rosenqvist cruises to Spielberg victory

Report: Rosenqvist doubles up at Spielberg

Report: Three out of three for Rosenqvist at Spielberg

Next round: Norisring, 13-14 June

Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0
Wins for Rowland and Ghiotto, but consistent Gasly steals points lead
Pierre Gasly

A double podium was enough for Gasly to take the standings lead (Photo: Renault Sport/DPPI)

The Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 weekend at Spa was one that befitted what looks like being a wide open season. After?Jake Dennis claimed pole on Saturday, it was his fellow Racing Steps Foundation driver Oliver Rowland showed impressive speed to win the race with the sort of performance he’s been under pressure to deliver this year in order to keep his backing. Unfortunately he was denied a strong overall weekend when he pulled up on the penultimate lap of race two with gear selector issues.

Luca Ghiotto was the winner of race two, following up from his win in the Pau Grand Prix. Unfortunately he too suffered from a mixed weekend as electrical issues robbed him of a good result in race one. He had been threatened to have been upstaged by rookie Prema team-mate Antonio Fuoco. Plenty was expected of the Ferrari protege as he made his Eurocup debut as a wildcard, after winning three of his four car races to-date in the Alps series. After finishing fifth on Saturday, he went and claimed pole on Sunday morning, but was shuffled back to fourth place in the race behind Pierre Gasly and the other Prema driver, Bruno Bonifacio.

Two second places were enough for Gasly to claim the standings lead away from Tech 1 team-mate Matthieu Vaxiviere. The latter was unable to repeat his form from Aragon where he took a double win in the wet, managing just a single point in Spa.

Oscar Tunjo completed the podium in the first race and was sixth in the second to keep up his consistent start to the season. The same can be said of Dennis, third in the standings with two top six finishes in Belgium, even if he couldn’t make the most of his pole.

The only man losing serious points at this early stage is Nyck de Vries. The McLaren ace has yet to finish higher than seventh, and a clash with Koiranen team-mate Guilherme Silva caused their retirement in race one.

Report: Rowland takes impressive win at Spa

Report: Ghiotto claims maiden Eurocup victory in Spa

Next round: Moscow, 22-23 June

Auto GP
Giovesi impresses on debut, while another win keeps Sato on top
Kevin Giovesi

Giovesi starred at Silverstone (Photo: Auto GP)

Kevin Giovesi made his Auto GP debut at Silverstone (with half an eye on the GP2 round there later this month) and made an instant impression. A pre-event switch to champion team Super Nova had worked wonders for Narain Karthikeyan as he claimed pole and looked set to win the first race. However, a slow stop (ironic given he left Zele after they lost good results to poor pit work) handed the win to Giovesi. Or so it seemed. Sadly he was penalised for taking his mandatory pitstop at the start of the last lap and victory was transferred to the former F1 driver. Giovesi still managed to rescue some silverware from the weekend, driving to third place in the second race from 13th on the grid.

Championship leaders Kimiya Sato and?Sergio Campana were made to make do with sixth and seventh in race one, the latter after an engine change made his miss out on practice time. The pair took advantage of the reverse grid in race two, Sato beating Campana to record an impressive third win from four weekends and extend his championship lead to 13 points over the Italian driver.

Hungaroring star Vittorio Ghirelli was unable to quite continue his momentum. He claimed second behind his new team-mate Karthikeyan in race one, but was taken out on the first lap of the second race by Robert Visoiu. Nevertheless he remains third in the points, 11 behind Campana but 43 clear of fourth-placed Karthikeyan. Tamas Pal Kiss did well to finish third in race one after stepping in for Karthikeyan at Zele, whose troubles continued with the second car of Luciano Bacheta, who has since quit, rightly dissatisfied with sixth in the standings.

Report: Giovesi wins on Auto GP debut, then loses out to pit stop penalty

Report: Sato bags third win of the season at Silverstone

Next round: Mugello, 13-14 July

F3 Open
Jones and Hurst share Nurburgring wins
Hector Hurst

Hurst held first throughout race two (Photo: F3 Open)

Ed Jones became the first repeat winner of the 2013 F3 Open season with victory in race five of the season at the Nurburgring. A slower qualifying performance on Sunday saw him only finish the race sixth, but he now sits third in the standings despite missing the first of the three race weekends so far. One point ahead of him is Hector Hurst, who followed up third place on Saturday with a maiden win from pole on Sunday after keeping Nelson Mason at bay.

Still leading the standings, 32 points ahead of Hurst, is Sandy Stuvik, who maintained his superb consistency with a podium in each race, meaning he’s yet to finish outside of the top four this season.

Report: Ed Jones takes win in first F3 Open Nurburgring race

Report: Hurst holds off Mason to score maiden F3 Open win

Next round: Jerez, 15-16 June

Formula Renault 2.0 NEC
Double home win gives Parry a huge points lead

The fact that Matt Parry led the NEC standings after the opening two rounds was pretty ominous – he’d beaten a host of Eurocup stars to do it. With those drivers all missing at Silverstone, Parry took full advantage to claim a double victory and open up a significant points advantage. Fortec team-mate Jack Aitken threatened to upstage him as he clinched pole position for both races, but Parry put things right in the races.

That moved him onto 177 points, with the Eurocup’s Esteban Ocon and Mikko Pakari left on 98 and 93. Aitken moves up to fourth as the second-best NEC regular on 89, four points ahead of Dennis Olsen, who claimed a third and a fourth at Silverstone, as did Nicolas Jamin.

Report: Parry earns third win in NEC

Report: Parry takes another win at Silverstone

Next round: Spa-Francorchamps, 27-28 July

Protyre Formula Renault
Middlehurst marches on at Thruxton

Chris Middlehurst holds a comfortable points lead after three victories at Thruxton. He dominated in race one, before being made to work for it in race two after Caterham protege Weiron Tan got past on the first lap. Things were back to normal in race three, with another dominant victory.

Tan picked up two second places, but damage sustained in contact with Jake Cook meant he finished a lap down in the first race. Cook sits second in the standings after two third place finishes, but with 162 points to Middlehurt’s 258. Third is Telmex-backed Jorge Cevallos, who picked up a podium in race one but retired from race two and was only seventh in race three. Tan is fourth ahead of Martin Cao, who finished second in race one after starting back in 17th.

Report: Middlehurst takes lights-to-flag Thruxton win

Report: Middlehurst completes Thruxton hat-trick with two Sunday wins

Next round: Croft, 13-14 July

PaddockScout Driver of the Weekend
Felix Rosenqvist

It was, by some way, the Swedish driver’s most impressive performance to date. And it will be one of the best performances of the year in any category. Marciello might have had a poor weekend, but Rosenqvist went on full-attack mode to bank as many points as he could. The only flaw was that he wasn’t quickest in qualifying.

Unbeatable in Formula Two: Luciano Bacheta