Formula Renault 3.5 racers aim to follow Magnussen

2014 Formula Renault 3.5 season preview

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The instant success last year’s champion Formula Renault 3.5 Kevin Magnussen enjoyed on his graduation to Formula One gave further proof the championship is a match for the grand prix-supporting GP2 series when it comes to promoting young talent.

Magnussen’s podium finish on his debut for McLaren made him the latest in a line of Formula Renault 3.5 graduates to enjoy success at the top flight, which includes three of Red Bull’s drivers.

There has been a changing of the guard in the category this year as several of Magnussen’s rivals also moved onwards and upwards. Stoffel Vandoorne – McLaren’s other development driver – has already won on his debut in GP2. And Red Bull junior driver Antonio Felix da Costa, who stumbled in the series last year after an impressive end to 2012, will race in the DTM.

Practice for the first race at Monza begins tomorrow and the grid is still being filled as drivers and teams forge 11th-hour deals. However one of the foremost teams in the series, 2011 champions Carlin, have already confirmed they will be absent from the opening round.

Drivers to watch

Will Stevens was fourth in the championship last year and as the top three have all moved on he has to be considered an early favourite. He has the advantage of familiarity with his Strakka team and will be eager to make his seventh podium finish his first victory.

Sauber test driver Sergey Sirotkin enters his second year in the category. Last year’s highlights were a couple of podiums for ISR and following a move to Fortec a title tilt has to be the objective for the 18-year-old.

A pair of wins for Marco Sorensen at the Red Bull Ring last year underlined his potential. Like Stevens he is beginning his third year in the category, but after two years with Lotus’s team he has moved to Tech 1.

Having won the series-supporting Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup category with Tech 1 last year, Pierre Gasly makes the jump into the faster cars. He has also switched teams, moving to Arden.

Gasly can afford to set his sights high as he moves up the ladder. Robin Frijns won the 2.0 and 3.5 titles in consecutive seasons with Fortec (and is now knocking on the door of an F1 drive) and last year the same team took 2.0 champion Vandoorne to second in the points behind Magnussen.

Red Bull’s junior programme is backing two drivers in the championship this year, who will carry the same livery across different teams. Gasly is one of them, the other is the more experienced Carlos Sainz Jnr, who is driving for the DAMS team Magnussen claimed the title with last year.

Norman Nato remains at DAMS for a second year, driving in their classic yellow colours.

Oliver Rowland, who was runner-up to Gasly last year, emulates his rival by moving up a category. He partners Sirotkin at Fortec.

Roberto Mehri, winner of the 2011 Formula Three Euroseries and FIA F3 Cup, makes a return to single-seater racing following a couple of fruitless seasons in the DTM. He drives for Zeta Corse, who finished tenth in the championship last year following a disrupted pre-season as the team took over the BVM Target entry.

2014 Formula Renault 3.5 testing gallery

2014 Formula Renault 3.5 calendar

The series chiefly races at grand prix circuits, including the Red Bull Ring (formerly A1 Ring) which F1 will return to this year.

However for the first time since the championship was inaugurated there is no race at the Circuit de Catalunya this year. Jerez has taken its place as the venue for the season finale.

Formula Renault 3.5 on F1 Fanatic

F1 Fanatic Live will be running during every round of the Formula Renault 3.5 season so keep an eye out for the live pages every weekend.

You can also join the Formula Renault 3.5 group:

Formula Renault 3.5 television coverage

I will be co-commentating on Formula Renault 3.5 alongside Ben Evans on BT Sport starting with the first race at Monza. The races will be shown at the following times:

  • Race one: 10:15pm, BT Sport 2
  • Race two live: 11:30am, BT Sport 2

For more information see here:

Over to you

Will you be watching Formula Renault 3.5 this year? Who’s your tip for the title? Have your say in the comments.

Images © Renault/DPPI

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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31 comments on “Formula Renault 3.5 racers aim to follow Magnussen”

  1. Carlin have just announced they won’t be in the series due to a lack of funded drivers signing with them.

    Interesting that it’s on BT Sport, are Renault putting the Eurocup races with it?

    1. A shame.. can they come back mid-season if something comes together?

      It’ll be interesting to catch the race with your commentary, Keith :)

  2. Except for Carlos Sainz Jr. I find it a not so impressive field compared to last year.

    1. So the Renault 2-litre series champions (winning against 30 car fields) are not relevant to you?

    2. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
      10th April 2014, 14:18

      @ardenflo – Gasly is this year’s most impressive driver for me, not Sainz. Whilst Sainz is fast, in his current form, he is far from the complete article, occasionally seeming to have poor spatial awareness in close combat. That said, if Sainz goes well this year, or at least better than Da Costa in DTM, he will be in a strong position to release Vergne of his seat next year.

      1. Da Costa, historically speaking, will have a tough time getting to F1 through DTM – Di Resta needed four seasons of top-5 championship finishes, Albers struggled in his first two seasons and didn’t last all that long in F1, Robert Wickens and Dani Juncadella both did poorly in their first two seasons.

        If Da Costa manages to buck that trend and Sainz can’t win the title, Sainz may have to seek opportunities outside of F1 after this year.

        1. Don’t forget that RB have also lined up Gasly and Alex Lynn in the Kvyat GP3 seat.. looks like da Costa is likely to fulfil a Sebastien Buemi role for RB now I think. Sainz Jr has this last chance to rediscover his form after going through the doldrums.

          1. Well, looking at Buemi, they like to keep their test drivers in house as well. Probably helps that they already know the drivers and can pick the best ones not racing further in F1 to continue their development. For sim testing, it depends who has adapted to it well – Davidson is doing it for Mercedes, while Rossiter helped out for Force India. Maybe FdC and Buemi went well in the RB sim and give good feedback. They didn’t keep Alguersuari for the same job.

            Juncadella is there with a push from Mercedes I think. Personally I would have put Wickens or Vietoris there, who both did well in FR3.5/GP2 already, and waited until Juncadella fares well in DTM (maybe another season or so), unless he does what Merhi has done and abandon being at the back there to get back to single seaters with a showing in FR3.5. Considering he’s now been dropped to the Mercedes test/backup DTM driver, it’s interesting that he gets the chance to run in FR3.5.

            I don’t disagree on the Vergne seat, FdC and Kvyat could well be their best bet out of the contenders. Sainz could do well in FR3.5 if practice 1 is anything to go off, at which point FdC was just unlucky like Alguersuari to be ‘wrong place, wrong time’. I.e. If Webber retired after 2012, there’s every chance FdC would be alongside Vergne right now with Kvyat suddenly emerging to replace Vergne next year (perhaps Kvyat would dominate FR3.5 this year, not Sainz).

            But knowing how RB run their operation, there’s no denying they might put in Lynn or Gasly if they can ‘do a Kvyat’ and show they are at a peak while Sainz Jr is not. If Gasly shows that well then their thinking could be that it worked with Kvyat, so why not give him a chance at the same age (or a little younger). Else, given some time Gasly could become a very good candidate to be next in line.

        2. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
          11th April 2014, 9:36

          @rjoconnell – That’s not quite right @fastiesty . Why would da Costa retain Red Bull backing if they never intended to put him anywhere near a seat? Just to be a test monkey, when there are experienced drivers such as Kovalainen, Glock and Heidfeld who’d happily do a job like that? Obviously because of the super competitive nature of the field, rookies don’t have a great record in the DTM, but that said, Glock and Farfus managed wins in their rookie years, and Nico Muller has already impressed Audi in testing, so whilst we can’t expect a title from the Portuguese, it is still possible to impress in the early stages of a DTM career. And as for Juncadella, why is he now Force India’s reserve if he did so badly last year? In reality he showed real promise, and if da Costa manages some good performances, and if Sainz fails to take the FR3.5 championship, I’m sure that the hopefully intelligent people over at the Red Bull Young Driver Programme will put da Costa in Vergne’s seat. Antonio certainly has the talent to “buck the trend” and seize the opportunity an off form Arden team in 2013 lost for him, and based on the way Vergne is barely beating Kvyat already, expect to see an excellent battle for that seat this year. As for Lynn and Gasly, they are the next generation.

          1. Comment in wrong place ^!

        3. I think Paul was probably ready after his first stellar season in DTM, but he had to wait until 2010 to get the chance at Force India. He must be thinking now that that Bahrain podium would have been his if not for Perez gazumping him at the team with $15m! He really needs to get the Mercedes reserve role.. if either Lewis or Nico is unable to race, there’s a certain 2nd place finish there open for even a rusty Paul to come in and get. He’s now in the Mika Salo position….

    3. @ardenflo What abt Sirotkin

  3. To be fair this might be the first season in a while where the GP2 roster looks more impressive.

    1. Yeah. The group of top-flight drivers is a bit bigger in GP2 this year, and we can make the point about GP2’s crazy budgets and abundance of pay-drivers – which is very valid, but FR3.5’s midgrid isn’t exactly stacked with future world champions either.

  4. Bigger engines than F1:)

    1. its not about size but power. the F1 V10s had only 3 litres. would you still write that comment then?

      1. Exactly, GP2 cars have 4litre engines.

  5. Is it just me or is Oliver Rowland’s Fortec a bit Arrows A16-ey?

    1. For sure!

  6. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    10th April 2014, 14:12

    The question this year in FR3.5 is not whether we find any superb talent, on the basis of recent years that is a certainty, but whether FR3.5 can press home its advantage over GP2 in recent years. The root of this advantage is the prevalence of talent over experience, with Frijns taking the title in his rookie year in 2012 and Vandoorne finishing runner up in his rookie year in 2013. The title will likely be played out between Sainz, Sirotkin, Sorensen and Stevens, but if the marvelous Pierre Gasly can continue his meteoric rise through motorsport, and if Oliver Rowland can also make an impact, it will be game, set and match to FR3.5. Certainly compared with GP2 this year and FR3.5 last year, the grid is less impressive, but based on FR3.5’s proven track record in promoting young drivers to F1, expect to see one of the headliners on the grid next year. Sirotkin, maybe?

    1. It would be fascinating to see an upcoming FR2.0 champ like Gasly try and race the previous ones like Vandoorne. If only we could combine the top talents of each grid…. Caterham have done something like that in having Frijns, Rossi and Stevens in comparison. Frijns has won in both, as have Rossi in GP2 and Stevens in FR3.5..

  7. Also of note, I’m sure, is Beitske Visser participating this year. It has been quite a while (if memory serves me well) since a female racing driver drove in European single seater series as high-profile as FR3.5. After being dropped from Red Bull’s junior program, this is quite a step up for her from the ADAC Formula Masters and I’m interested in seeing how she goes.

    Can’t wait to go see them in action at Spa in June.

    1. It would have been nice to see her being very competitive in Eurocup FR2.0 (which is ultra-competitive anyway), but indeed it’ll be interesting to see how she does in FR3.5!

  8. Slight mistake in the article..Rowland is also switching teams, he drove for Dutch squad Manor MP last year. He had, however, driven for Fortec in 2012.

    1. @wsrgo Got it – thanks.

  9. Daniel (@daniel-f1-manager)
    10th April 2014, 18:04

    Kevin is special, it’s not that everyone from the series will do a great job in F1.

  10. I wish there were a way to watch this series in the US.

  11. That Fortec looks terrific !

    The cars look like 2003 F1 racers. Love them !

    1. Which Fortec? I like both DAMS cars. The yellow one looks fantastic- the red on the airbox makes the red endplates look more integrated than the Renault R30’s did. And the Red Bull livery is also nice for me, if a little over-used. But without the purple sheen and Infiniti logos I think the livery is better than the RB10.

  12. GB (@bgp001ruled)
    11th April 2014, 0:50

    i wont be watching cuz it is not shown in latin america! too bad, cuz it sounds really interesting!
    i just dont get how team mates can have total different liveries and to drivers from different teams can have the same! it is stupid, aunt it?

    1. GB (@bgp001ruled)
      11th April 2014, 0:50

      * aint

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