FR 35 Series - Paul Ricard - Collective testing 2
Over the last two days, the new Formula Renault 3.5 has captivated teams, drivers and onlooking spectators alike at the Paul Ricard circuit. The teams may still be getting to know their new cars, but their lap times are already extremely impressive. Robin Frijns (Fortec Motorsports) was the fastest man after the two days of testing, and shaved more than four seconds off the lap record set by the old Formula Renault 3.5.
After a highly productive first day of collective testing, the 26 drivers competing in this season's Formula Renault 3.5 Series returned to the track at Paul Ricard today to pick up from where they left off. While yesterday was largely about getting to know the new car, today's sessions saw the teams really get down to business with their development programmes.The teams and drivers took their performances up a level in the early stages of the morning session, and P1 Motorsport pair Daniil Move and Walter Grubmuller were the first to clock laps of less than 1,47. However, an hour into the session, Fortec Motorsports decided to fit Robin Frijns and Carlos Huertas with new tyres, and the two drivers took full advantage to grab first and second place on the timesheets. Frijns took top spot with a brilliant lap of 1,45.667, beating by more than four seconds the old track record of 1,49.901 set by Robert Wickens in March 2011.Each of the teams experimented with different set-ups as they sought to get the best out of the new Formula Renault 3.5, with many driving on full fuel tanks. But it was Frijns who held on to finish the session on top, ahead of team-mate Huertas, DAMS driver Artur Pic, P1 Motorsport's Grubmuller and Sam Bird of ISR.A number of drivers went on long runs in the afternoon session, notably Jules Bianchi (Tech 1 Racing) and Richie Stanaway (Lotus), while Bird had to leave the action to travel to Australia for the Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne. The final fifteen minutes of the day felt more like a qualifying session, and once the drivers had switched to fresh tyres, the fastest lap times just kept on tumbling. Bianchi put in the best performance with a flying lap of 1,45.669, but came up just two thousandths of a second short of Frijns's benchmark lap from the morning session. It was Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 champion Frijns, then, who left Paul Ricard with the best time, just fractionally ahead of Sahara Force India F1 Team reserve driver Bianchi.What they said
Robin Frijns: "Yesterday, after a brief introduction, we started by testing the spoilers, which immediately proved to be very effective. We set off quite early this morning on fresh tyres, and we took advantage of the clear track to do the best we could. After the first few laps I felt comfortable in this car, which is perfectly suited to my driving style. We also drove with a lot of fuel in the car to get an idea of its behaviour in different situations. We'll analyse all the data and test other methods in Barcelona."
Jules Bianchi: "Everyone's first objective was to get used to the new car. It was also my first real session working with Tech 1 Racing, so it was important for us all to get started together. There's a big development programme scheduled before the start of the season. Compared to the cars I'm used to driving, with the exception of F1 cars, the aerodynamic load is pretty impressive and the car is great. So it should get very interesting once everything is in order.
Kevin Magnussen: "I'm really impressed by this new car. We haven't really had any major problems, which is always a danger when you use a car for the first time. I've been really blown away by the power and braking. We strung a number of laps together so that we could learn more. I know Carlin well, as I work with them in F3. The method is the same, which helps you to progress more quickly."