Monza - Preview
As the start of the race season approaches, 26 drivers enrolled to compete in this year's Formula Renault 3.5 Series will all be aiming to turn heads, get in the points and off to a flying start... As it's the maiden outing for the new Formula Renault 3.5 in true race mode, the first round will have an extra-special feel. And on the ultra fast Monza track – so aptly knick-named the temple of speed - the first two races of the season promise to be spectacular.
Collective testing sessions in Valencia then Barcelona have given drivers, engineers and mechanics the opportunity to get to know the new Formula Renault 3.5 package, directly inspired by the Renault F1 R27. The tests don't give us a clear pecking order but do confirm the overall consistent level of this year's lineup.
So much so, that it would be a brave man who put his money on a single favourite. Having said that, the drivers with some experience of the discipline did put that to effect in testing. Drivers like Giedo van der Garde (P1 Motorsport), Marco Bonanomi (Red Devil Team Comtec), Robert Wickens (Carlin Motorsport), Guillaume Moreau (KTR), Bertrand Baguette (International Draco Racing) or Julien Jousse (Tech 1 Racing) were up there with the leaders every time. You never know what will happen in race conditions, but these men have to be ones to watch for. Having said that, last year's two winners Mikhail Aleshin (Carlin Motorsport) and Salvador Duran (Interwetten.com) are also likely to be in their element …
Rookies got themselves a share of the limelight during winter preparation, starting with Charles Pic (Tech 1 Racing), with the third fastest absolute lap time in collective testing in Barcelona, behind Wickens and Baguette. At only 18, the pressure doesn't seem to be getting to Pic who finished third in last season's Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 series. He will be facing the challenge of a diet including several new circuits this season, and that includes Monza. Mario Romancini (Epsilon Euskadi) is another rookie to have hit the ground running this winter. Coming from South American Formula 3, the Brazilian is acclimatising to Formula 3.5 Series fast. With Epsilon Euskadi he will be teaming up with another freshman from Formula Renault 2.0, Alexandre Marsoin.
The 2008 lineup features two new teams: P1 Motorsport, with Giedo Van der Garde and Pippa Mann, plus Ultimate-Signature. The latter, a merge of F3 teams Ultimate and Signature, is counting on two Brazilian drivers: the experienced Fabio Carbone and Claudio Cantelli.
The Spanish contingent will be there in force with no less than seven drivers on the start grid. Barba brothers, Marco with International Draco Racing and Alvaro with Prema Powerteam, Miguel Molina (Prema Powerteam), Borja Garcia (RC Motorsport) and Marcos Martinez (Pons Racing), to name only a few, will all get their chance!
For logistical and safety reasons, there will be no compulsory pit stop in race two of this first round. Qualifying will also adopt a specific format, similar to last year: no SuperPole, but two 20 minute sessions with 13 cars in each group. The eight best times (first four in each group) will start race one in reverse order. On the Sunday they revert to the normal starting order. The other drivers will line up for race two in the order they finished race one.
Num Driver Team Rookie
1 Julien JOUSSE (FRA) TECH 1 RACING (FRA) 2 Charles PIC (FRA) TECH 1 RACING (FRA) R 3 Bertrand BAGUETTE (BEL) INTERNATIONAL DRACO RACING (ITA) 4 Marco BARBA (ESP) INTERNATIONAL DRACO RACING (ITA) 5 Mikhail ALESHIN (RUS) CARLIN MOTORSPORT (GBR) 6 Robert WICKENS (CAN) CARLIN MOTORSPORT (GBR) 7 Mario ROMANCINI (BRA) EPSILON-EUSKADI (ESP) R 8 Alexandre MARSOIN (FRA) EPSILON-EUSKADI (ESP) R 9 Miguel MOLINA (ESP) PREMA POWERTEAM (ITA) 10 Alvaro BARBA (ESP) PREMA POWERTEAM (ITA) 11 Aleix ALCARAZ(ESP) RC MOTORSPORT (ITA) R 12 Borja GARCIA (ESP) RC MOTORSPORT (ITA) 14 MAXIMO CORTES (ESP) PONS RACING (ESP) R 15 MARCOS MARTINEZ (ESP) PONS RACING (ESP) 16 Daniil MOVE (RUS) KTR (BEL) 17 Guillaume MOREAU (FRA) KTR (BEL) 19 Salvador DURAN (MEX) INTERWETTEN.COM RACING (AUT) 20 Pablo SANCHEZ (MEX) INTERWETTEN.COM RACING (AUT) R 21 Giedo Van Der GARDE (NED) P1 MOTORSPORT (GBR) 22 Pippa MANN (GBR) P1 MOTORSPORT (GBR) 23 James WALKER (GBR) FORTEC MOTORSPORT (GBR) 24 TBA FORTEC MOTORSPORT (GBR) 25 Marco BONANOMI (ITA) RED DEVIL TEAM COMTEC (GBR) 26 Pasquale DiSABATINO (ITA) RED DEVIL TEAM COMTEC (GBR) 27 Fabio CARBONE (BRA) ULTIMATE-SIGNATURE (GBR) 28 Claudio CANTELLI (BRA) ULTIMATE-SIGNATURE (GBR) R