Home Featured World Series Formula V8 3.5 2017 season review

World Series Formula V8 3.5 2017 season review

by Bethonie Waring

Photo: Diederik van der Laan/Dutch Photo Agency

In 1998, Marc Gene beat Angel Burgueno to win the first ever World Series by Nissan title. Twenty years and multiple name changes later, third generation racer Pietro Fittipaldi became the final driver to take the very same title.

World Series Formula V8 3.5, a series which was struggling to attract entries since Renault cut its support ahead of 2016, came to an end last November. Fittipaldi beat just nine other full-time drivers to take the title, and did so by 44 points from Matevos Isaakyan, who like many others, is set for a career in sportscar racing.

Even in its final year, the championship gave a platform for some of the stars of the future, with some standout performances over the course of the year.

With their FV8 3.5 programmes having ended, several of the teams will be moving on to new categories in this year.

Charouz Racing System, which has ran as Lotus since 2012 and won last year?s team title, will move to FIA Formula 2, and will be joined by Fortec Motorsports.

The Italian RP Motorsport has set up a team in America, with the intention of competing in Pro Mazda.

Pietro Fittipaldi?BRAZIL Lotus
1st in standings, 259 points (6 wins, 10 poles, 2 fastest laps)

Photo: Sebastiaan Rozendaal/Dutch Photo Agency

Having ended 2016 with his first outright podium in the series, Pietro Fittipaldi switched to Lotus for his second season and was aiming for a little more than a few more podiums.

The Brazilian made his intentions clear immediately at Silverstone, taking two pole positions and two victories. It was a dominant start to the season, but not quite a sign of what was to come.

Poor race starts cost the Lotus driver on multiple occasions early on and he lost the championship lead fairly quickly. Things picked up in the middle third of the season, including reclaiming the championship lead, but Fittipaldi still struggled to find consistency and a title that could have been wrapped up much earlier dragged on to the final weekend.

One of the most notable mistakes came in the penultimate round of the championship. Fittipaldi locked up and ran into the barriers on the opening lap of the second race at COTA. It gave the opposition a chance to close the gap to the top of the standings, but a pair of second places in Bahrain meant it was Fittipaldi, grandson of motorsport legend Emerson, who won the title.

Fittipaldi’s primary aim for this year is to race in F2, although he is in contention for the remaining Dale Coyne Racing IndyCar seat, and recently tested Jaguar’s Formula E car in Marrakesh. His prize test in Porsche’s Le Mans prototype racer may also encourage him to make the switch to sportcars in the future though.

Matevos Isaakyan RUSSIA SMP Racing with AVF
2nd in standings, 215 points (2 wins, 1 pole, 4 fastest laps)

Photo: Diederik van der Laan/Dutch Photo Agency

After a relatively consistent season, it’s fair to say a few mechanical problems cost Matevos Isaakyan the title in his second year in the championship.

It was a bumpy start for the Russian, who was caught up in a collision with Nelson Mason in the second race at Silverstone and retired on the opening lap of the first race at Spa-Francorchamps.

But Isaakyan bounced back in race two in Belgium, when a late pit stop promoted him into the race lead and he finished three seconds ahead of the next best driver.

From that point onwards, Isaakyan was a regular podium finisher, taking seven podiums from the next 10 races. The string of top results put him in prime position to take advantage of Fittipaldi?s retirement from the second race in Austin, but he could only finish sixth.

He arrived in Bahrain just 10 points behind Fittipaldi, but any chance at the title was wiped out when he suffered engine problems on the way to the grid. He returned to the pits and, though he did manage to get back out, it was too late to rescue his title hopes.

Egor Orudzhev RUSSIA SMP Racing with AVF
6th in standings, 198 points (2 wins, 1 pole, 1 fastest lap)


Photo: Diederik van der Laan/Dutch Photo Agency

A second win of the season at the Circuit of the Americas should have put Egor Orudzhev in a strong position to take the title heading into the final weekend. But an illness denied him a chance to compete and dropped him down the standings.

Orudzhev is one of the all-time stars of FV8 3.5, and had the best podium record of anyone this season. The SMP Racing driver may not have won in the opening race weekend at Silverstone, but started his season strongly with a pair of second places. A storming drive from 10th to third in the opening race in Spa followed, but it wasn?t until the first race at Aragon, the fifth round of the season, that the Russian finally secured his first win of the year.

As impressive as his strong finishes were, Orudzhev?s season wasn?t without faults. All four of the Russian?s retirements were caused by collisions, including a double DNF in Mexico, and he simply didn’t win enough in 2017 to win the title.

His nine career wins put him only behind double champion Frank Montagny, Ricardo Zonta and Oliver Rowland in the all-time list, but this may be the end of his single-seater career as SMP line him up for a future in endurance racing.

Alex Palou SPAIN Teo Martin Motorsport
10th in standings, 68 points (1 win, 3 pole positions, 1 fastest lap)


Photo: Diederik van der Laan/Dutch Photo Agency

Teo Martin Motorsport?s Alex Palou only competed in a handful of FV8 3.5 races, but instantly made an impact ? not least of all by colliding with Fittipaldi on his debut.

Palou joined the championship at the Nurburgring and, other than the opening lap collision, impressed on his debut. He qualified second for the first race of the weekend and took pole for race two, which he managed to convert into a race win.

He took another podium in the following race in Mexico, but was wiped out of the second race there when he was hit by Isaakyan.

His third podium came from his final race, putting him ahead of Nelson Mason in the standings ? the man he was drafted in to replace at Teo Martin.

As a member of Campos Racing’s Academy, there are plans for him to eventually race in their F2 team full-time after he made his debut at the end of 2017. He will be spending this year in FIA European Formula 3 though, having signed to partner Enaam Ahmed at Hitech GP.

Alfonso Celis Jr MEXICO Fortec Motorsport
3rd in standings, 204 points (1 win, 1 pole, 2 fastest laps)

Photo: Diederik van der Laan/Dutch Photo Agency

Alfonso Celis Jr made a strong start to his third season in FV8 3.5, but his results began to fall away in the second half of the season.

Celis started the year with his second career podium, followed by his maiden single-seater victory at Spa. Another podium in race two and Celis was leading the championship, albeit only by a single point.

A spin in the second race at Monza marked the end of his championship lead and a difficult weekend at Jerez dropped him further back.

Celis?s results picked up again at Argon, but it was a rocky second half of the year which cost him a realistic shot at the title, and potentially contributed to the loss of his Force India reserve driver role for 2018.

Rene Binder AUSTRIA Lotus
4th in standings, 201 points (4 wins, 2 poles, 2 fastest laps)

Photo: Sebastiaan Rozendaal/Dutch Photo Agency

Rene Binder won the final ever FV8 3.5 race, securing fourth in the championship and a reassessment by many in the process.

It was a mixed, but much improved season for the Lotus driver. There were moments where the Austrian outshone his championship winning team-mate, including taking a double victory in Monza. But he spent most of the year in the second half of the top 10.

In three seasons of GP2 he finished in the points seven times, and his five podiums with Lotus in FV8 3.5 in 2017 came as a surprise.

After two solid performances at the beginning of last year at Silverstone and Spa, Binder?s Monza success put him in the lead of the championship. But he couldn?t stay at the top for long, with a string of midfield finishes dropping him back down the standings.

The final four races of the year summed up much of Binder?s season. He took victories from the opening race in Austin, and the season finale in Bahrain, but a mechanical problem and a puncture kept him at the bottom of the top 10 in the two middle races and cost him what could’ve been second in the standings.

His only confirmed drive for this year is a part-time IndyCar seat with Juncos Racing, which will encompass the season opener at St. Petersburg as well as Barber Motorsports Park, Toronto and Mid-Ohio.

Roy Nissany ISREAL RP Motorsport
5th in standings, 201 points (1 win, 2 poles, 1 fastest lap)

Photo: Diederik van der Laan/Dutch Photo Agency

After a breakout 2016, in which he won three times, Roy Nissany was one to watch at the start of 2017.

Despite retiring from the opening race of the season on the first lap, the RP Motorsport driver took five podiums from the first nine races and was a regular top five finisher. He took his first ? and only ? win of the season after a strong race in the Jerez opener, putting up an impressive defence against Fittipaldi to take the victory.

But the strong results fell away in the second half of the season and, despite a return to the podium in Bahrain, he couldn?t deliver the top championship position his early results promised.

Konstantin Tereshchenko RUSSIA Teo Martin Motorsport/SMP Racing with AVF
8th in standings, 94 points

Photo: Diederik van der Laan/Dutch Photo Agency

As the best placed rookie, Konstantin Tereschenko produced a solid debut, and therefore only season in the championship, and showed clear growth as a driver as the season progressed.

Tereschenko spent the majority of his time in the bottom half of the top 10, but enjoyed some standout performances in the latter part of the year.

He looked set for his maiden podium at the Nurburgring, taking the chequered flag second behind Teo Martin team-mate Alex Palou after a strong drive, but the Russian was handed a 10 second penalty for crossing the pit exit line, dropping him to fourth. Another fourth place followed in the Mexico opener before finally taking that first podium with a third place in race two.

Tereschenko arrived in Bahrain ready to challenge Yu Kanamaru for seventh in the championship, buoyed by a move to the championship winning AVF team to replace ill SMP Racing stablemate Orudzhev. It was not to be, as a seventh and a spin put him more than 20 points behind the Japanese driver.

Yu Kanamaru JAPAN RP Motorsport
7th in standings, 115 points (0 wins, 1 fastest lap)

Photo: Diederik van der Laan/Dutch Photo Agency

2017 was Kanamaru’s best season yet in FV8 3.5, and his seventh place in the standings came off the back of his seven seventh place finishes.

Other than a mechanical problem in the second race at Silverstone and a retirement in the first Monza race, Kanamaru also finished in the points in every race.

Though the majority of his results were in the bottom half of the top 10, mostly seventh, he produced some stunning drives to put his RP Motorsport car at the sharp end of the field, including his maiden podium in Monza race two. After a safety car period, he jumped past Fittipaldi and Konstantin Tereschenko to take third and held off attacks from both drivers to hold the position to the chequered flag.

He drove for Team Impul in the post-season Super Formula tests, and hopes to one day race in the category.

Diego Menchaca MEXICO Fortec Motorsport
9th in standings, 64 points

Photo: Klaas Norg/Dutch Photo Agency

Menchaca was a consistent top 10 finisher, and the best finisher, in his first season in FV8 3.5.

He took points from every race, bar the second at Monza, where he stalled on the grid and failed to start. But the Fortec driver struggled to break into the top five and didn?t see the improvement some of his competitors managed towards the end of the season.

The second round of the championship in Spa proved Menchaca?s promise. The Mexican took fourth in the opening race after battling with multiple drivers, then managed fifth in race two. But the results didn?t continue through the rest of the season, and he didn?t return to the top half of the points positions until Mexico City late in the championship.

He then took his maiden podium in the series at COTA after battling past Isaakyan, but failed to repeat that result in Bahrain after receiving a drive-through penalty.

Menchaca’s finishing record was something to marvel at, seeing the chequered flag in all 17 of the races that he started. He had intended to continue that finishing run, having already signed to continue in the championship for this year.

The Rest

Nelson Mason and Damiano Fioravanti only completed part seasons. Mason dropped out of the series after Aragon, having taken just one top five finish from 10 races, while Fioravanti continued until after the Nurburgring round with a best finish of sixth.

Henrique Chaves and Tatiana Calderon both appeared on the podium, despite only joining the championship in its final round. Formula Renault Eurocup midfielder Chaves took victory in the first race, having started from the front row of the grid, with Sauber development driver Calderon taking second in the final race, and becoming the first and last female to stand on the FV8 3.5 podium.

52-year-old Giuseppe Cipriani continued for a second season in FV8 3.5, and finished with more than three times as many points as he did in 2016. The Il Barone Rampante driver rarely finished higher than 10th, although did finish a remarkable sixth in the second race in Mexico, and predictably ended the year bottom of the standings.