Photo: Renault Sport/DPPI
Formula Renault 3.5
Magnussen dominates until soaking Sunday
The rain-soaked Motorland Aragon venue hosted a rather bizarre weekend for the main championship contenders, all of who could not bag the consistent results they came into the weekend hoping for. Take, for instance, the new championship leader Kevin Magnussen. He was the quickest man in every practice session, converted his Saturday pole into a very dominant victory as other rivals struggled, but his hopes of a perfect round were dashed with a trip to the gravel caused by a fuel problem in qualifying two – with a red flag stoppage brought on by the Dane’s mishap also costing him his only laptime in the session. However, Magnussen, who had been in a class of his own up until then, still managed to put in a stellar race drive to get into the points from the back of the grid and deservedly sees himself at the top of the leaderboards.
Antonio Felix da Costa was the man to start from the back in the other race, the Portuguese title favourite running out of fuel after the first qualifying session ran out. All-in-all, unlike Kevin, he had a weekend to forget, not really managing to make up much ground in race one and having a rather anonymous race two to finish seventh as Arden Caterham seemed to struggle for pace. He’s now fourth in the points, behind Arthur Pic.
Stoffel Vandoorne didn’t manage to get the most out of the two races either, but had more go his way in the damage limitation aspect of things. A very quiet race one that saw him drop down the order to eighth was followed up by a podium finish in race two, where he masterfully held his ground against a charging Will Stevens. Tyre management was, again, a problem for the Belgian, but the decent points haul allows him to sit right behind Magnussen in the standings, with a good view on the championship lead.
The two outsider title contenders – Marco Sorensen and Nico Muller – also found themselves struggling. Muller collided with Stevens in race one before putting in a great performance in the second outing, while absolutely nothing seemingly went right for Sorensen, who saw his car’s practice pace completely disappear come race day.
It was a decent weekend for rookies, with Magnussen’s teammate Norman Nato taking pole in the rain for race two after a strong performance in race one. His lead didn’t last more than one corner of green flag running, though, and, going off-track, he rejoined in a manner that rewarded him with a drive-through, ruining his race. ISR’s Sergey Sirotkin, meanwhile, continued to stun in qualifying for a second weekend straight, but this time had the luck to convert good grid spots into points. He narrowly missed out on a podium finish in race one, unable to cope with a mighty fast Stevens, but confidently took his maiden WSR top-three in race two.
Stevens’ progression from Monza to Aragon was similar to Sirotkin’s – after having been very quick but inconsistent in round one, the Brit was stunning this time around, with a podium finish and a fourth place to boot. The 21-year-old Briton surely has the pace for wins and, who knows – we could very well see him in the mix for the title if he keeps the car on the road.
Finally, Colombian Carlos Huertas was the surprise of the round, the Carlin driver scoring a front row start for race two and then being absolutely unbeatable in the race to take his maiden win. It was a very welcome outcome for the British team, which only had six points to boot from round one, and an even better one for Huertas, who made a good case for being the team’s number one driver and displayed wet weather prowess that is sure to be noted.
Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0
Vaxiviere is surprise early leader
While its parent series had a rather unpredictable weekend, the Eurocup saw a very consistent two races, with only eleven different drivers in the points throughout the two races. However, surprises were still abound and, mostly, they came from our newly-established series leader. 2011 French F4 champion Matthieu Vaxiviere entered his second Eurocup season on the heels of a quiet year where he only scored one point. It only took him one round to add fifty to that, with the Frenchman winning both races from pole in a superb dominant fashion. While the difficult weather played a part, it is no doubt Vaxiviere has to be recognised as a title contender now, with Matthieu showing lots of class and maturity far beyond his age in both races.
It was, undeniably, a good round for French drivers overall. Pre-season star and Lotus youngster Esteban Ocon did well to confirm his status in race one, with a collected drive to finish second in the opener race. A much quieter second outing followed, but having scored in both, he now lies second in the standings, which would be a much better result if Vaxiviere didn’t manage to establish an ominous 24-point gap.
Pierre Gasly and William Vermont managed to complete an all-French top four for race one before scoring minimal points in race two – a decent result for both of them, but one they are unlikely to be too happy with, knowing they’re capable of much more than that. Brit Oliver Rowland will have the same feeling, too – having scored a podium, he wasn’t close to the form he showed at the opening NEC round, which is a fact he’ll want to rectify.
Wonderkids Jake Dennis and Nyck de Vries had reasonable outings, but failed to produce spectacular results – with two fifth places for Jake and a seventh and a ninth for the Dutchman. Oscar Tunjo?had a similar run, bringing in good points but not achieving more than that. Meanwhile, the top rookie of the round was Egor Orudzhev – the French F4 graduate finishing the first race in strong points and then driving a very smart, confident race to take his maiden Eurocup podium in race two.
Kirchhofer makes double-winning start
There was little doubt that German junior single-seater superstar Marvin Kirchhofer would take his maiden win in German F3 this year, but not a lot of people expected that to come as early as the first race. Alas, the ADAC Formel Masters champion did everything he could to prove any doubters wrong, storming away to victory in race one, which he took by twenty seconds, and repeating the feat, alas with more competition for the lead, in race three. He didn’t make up much ground in the reverse-grid outing, only finishing fourth thanks to penalties for other drivers, but that’s little cause for disappointment as the German now has a comfortable lead in the championship and has established himself as a surefire title contender.
Another Lotus man, Artem Markelov, was the picture of consistency this weekend, taking three second-place finishes over the races. The 18-year-old Russian drove very clean, smart races and could very well be looking at that first place in the standings right now.
Emil Bernstorff had a difficult first weekend in the series, having to fight his way through the field in the first two races after being collected by Aston Hare on lap one of race one. Race three went a lot better, bringing the Brit his first series podium, but, by his own admission, he didn’t have the pace on Kirchhofer or Markelov – something that he will want to overcome come round two.
The Performance Racing crew did well to establish themselves as the main competitors to challenge Lotus. The weekend was far from perfect, with Yannick Mettler slapped with penalties and suffering from the opponents’ aggressive driving and Thomas Jager going off in the first race. However, both drivers had their moments – Mettler driving to a strong fourth in race one while Jager putting on an incredible performance to take third in the sprint race. However, it was Swede John Bryant-Meisner who emerged as the team leader, making his return after injury a memorable one as he finished in the points three times and took a great sprint race win.
Van Amersfoort’s Gustavo Menezes did well for his Dutch team, showing some superb wet driving abilities to take a podium and two other points finishes. Finally, the two rookie-filled squads of ADM and EuroInternational deserve attention – their drivers (Hare and Nabil Jeffri for the latter, Tomasz Krzeminski and Matteo Cairoli for the former) didn’t bag much in the way of points, but showed plenty of potential.
ADAC Formel Masters
Two wins give Picariello early lead as Red Bulls struggle
While the German F3 round at Oschersleben featured only new winners, its support series had a lot of familiar faces on the podium, but that did not make the results of the weekend less unexpected. Alessio Picariello had a tremendous opening weekend to the season, taking a win by a huge margin in race one and then following it up with another win, albeit a much more narrow one, in race two. In the sprint race, the Belgian took fourth, firmly placing himself in the lead of the championship after round one.
Pre-season favourite Jason Kremer could’ve easily wished for better start to the season, as he rapidly dropped down the field in awful conditions to take no points in race one. Race two turned out much better, as Kremer nearly snatched away the win from Picariello, and a decent finish in race three ensures that Kremer enjoys a good position in the standings, considering his troubles in the very beginning of the weekend.
Another series returnee, Indy Dontje, had to exercise his wheel-to-wheel prowess in races one and two, scoring good points in both. He was then absolutely great in race three, taking a win from second on the grid to place himself in third in the championship.
In a rather surprising turn of events, it was Nicolas Beer who emerged as a strong contender, finishing fourth or above in all three races and providing a good boost to his team Neuhauser Racing, who might’ve found the man to help them challenge Lotus and Mucke this year.
After a good start to the weekend, Hendrik Grapp had two rather quiet races, but the second place in round one provides him with a good amount of points to position himself as a title contender.
Having performed very well in practice, Formula BMW Talent Cup graduates Marvin Dienst and Maximilian Gunther couldn’t quite show the same form in the actual races, but did manage to score a maiden podium each, which, couped with two other strong finishes for both, allows them to be sixth and fifth in the standings respectively.
Finally, Red Bull juniors Callan O’Keeffe and Beitske Visser had weekends to forget. Visser, regarded as a title contender for this year, didn’t seem to have much pace in the car, while O’Keeffe couldn’t make much out of his reverse-grid pole. Still, both scored in all three races, so it would be unwise to write the weekend off completely.
Mason and Stuvik take Paul Ricard honours
While Nelson Mason did not leave Paul Ricard as the championship leader, he certainly made an impression, completely controlling both qualifying sessions and then converting race one into a comfortable win. Race two would not go to plan as he collided with hot-headed youngster Santiago Urrutia at the start but, even with points missing, he stands second in the standings, confirming his pre-season form as that of a major contender.
That’s not to dimish the work of Thai racer and standings leader Sandy Stuvik, who drove two expert races, taking fourth in the first one and capitalising on mayhem to take the win in race two. In a weekend of inconsistencies and mistakes, Stuvik was the only one to get the sorts of finishes a championship contender can be satisfied with.
Hector Hurst and Roberto La Rocca completed the podium in race one, but, just like Mason, in race two neither scored any points. Peculiarly enough, Yarin Stern, who nearly took the victory away from Stuvik in race two, also didn’t manage to bring in any points in the other race. As such, Stuvik and Alex Toril were the only podium finishers to score in both races, with the Spaniard inheriting his third place after Italian Vicky Piria was demoted to fourth due to a penalty.
Team West-Tec’s Cameron Twynham and Liam Venter were the winners in the Copa class, with Venter even managing to break into the top ten overall in race two.
Hubert lives up to favourite billing
The season opener at Le Mans for one of the premier entry-level series in the world went as expected, with Anthoine Hubert confirming his pre-season favourite status with two strong wins. The Frenchman won race one from pole and then took another win from the front row, finishing in fifth in the sprint race between them. With the rest of the field lacking in consistency, seeing him lead the field with 63 points to the closest rivals’ 30 is no shock.
That’s not to say that Hubert wasn’t challenged on pace. The Russian trio of drivers, for instance, confirmed their testing pace as all of them took their maiden podiums this weekend ? Kirill Karpov was second in race one alongside his pole, Ivan Kostyukov drove a superb third race to take his podium and Matevos Isaakyan was probably the second-quickest man to Hubert, taking two podium finishes and showing excellent wheel-to-wheel abilities.
French youngsters Valentin Naud and Jules Gounon were also impressive, albeit lacking in consistency. Naud’s maiden podium sees him sit in second in the standings, with Gounon, who also scored his first podium, not far behind.
Simo Muhonen had a great race from reverse-grid pole to take the win in what was a shortened event due to difficult conditions. Dennis Anoschin and Felix Hirsiger were among the most consistent, sitting high up in the standings even without podiums. Meanwhile, two pre-season title contenders, Neal Van Vaerenbergh and Tristan Viidas, had tough weekends, the Belgian struggling for pace and the Estonian struggling to keep the car in one piece.
Rovera is unexpected debut star
Unlike his French F4 colleague Hubert, Alessio Rovera didn’t exactly enter the opener at Vallelunga as the overwhelming favourite. He left it as one, however, putting in one of the more dominant weekends in series history. Two qualifying successes with frankly huge gaps to the opposition followed by two confident wins place Rovera at the top. It is truly a testament to his ability that he made the championship look decided just after one round.
However, there’s not that much reason to suspect it’s all over, with other Italians producing a decent challenge for Rovera. Michele Beretta, albeit failing to score the elusive win, was the man closest on regular pace to Rovera and managed to defend from him for a decent chunk of time in both races two and three. Ultimately, he didn’t prevail, but still finished the round with three podiums ? a rather noteworthy achievement.
While not managing to match the leading duo in speed, Simone Iaquinta excelled when it mattered, driving two consistent feature races and getting a sprint race win as he took advantage of Beretta’s holding up of Rovera to establish a gap good enough to secure him victory.
New series wide open after three winners from three races
The fledgling British championship saw its first round at Silverstone which several unpredictable results. While three different people won the three races, it’s none of them who leads the standings ? instead, the honour goes to Seb Morris, who put in a very strong weekend, challenging for wins but forced to settle for three podiums. Even that, however, proved enough to establish himself as the leader, as none of the other main competitors didn’t have particularly consistent outings.
Jake Hughes, the man who set the pace in qualifying, was also unable to convert his pace into a win, taking a second-place finish, a fifth and retiring in race three. Hughes came very close to a win in race one, but was unable to pass Jake Dalton for the lead without making contact, which resulted in both of them being denied the win.
It was, then, privateer Matt Bell who picked up the spoils of war, taking the first ever BRDC F4 victory ahead of Hughes and Morris. The second race saw Bell finish fourth, behind Morris and Dalton, as well as the winner Jack Barlow, who pulled off an excellent start to take early control of the race.
After being denied the win in race one, Dalton got his in the third event, beating out Morris and polesitter Matt Graham to take the win.
As such, the BRDC F4 standings after round one do not conclusively allow us to make any inferences on the title fight, as Morris narrowly leads from the three race-winners.
PaddockScout Driver of the Weekend:
The French driver started the year off well enough in his outings in Formula Renault Alps, but his Eurocup dominance still came as a total surprise. But the unpredictability factor is not the part that makes Vaxiviere the star of the weekend – even for the most famed drivers, getting two poles in the Eurocup field is no small task. Not only Matthieu did just that, he dominatly converted them into two wins -? that is pure class.