This weekend, classic racing and the new racing generation collide as Formula Renault 3.5 and GP2 gift their drivers with the challenging twists and turns of Monte Carlo. With Formula 1 bosses present, each driver will hope to impress and forge their career in the pinnacle for 2014 or beyond.
Following the introduction of DRS into the new specification of 3.5, the World Series by Renault drivers have their opportunity to prove their maturity and talent. Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo will feel the full force of Antonio Felix da Costa this weekend; the champion in Monaco is creating a formidable shadow over their Toro Rosso careers. The Portuguese driver has endured two pointless finishes in the most recent races, this will be his time to shine and make up valuable points to his rivals.
As stated in the Formula 1 preview, the street circuit is enormously challenging regardless of the level of experience. Former Indy Lights driver, and ‘stoodonthepodium’ columnist, Oli Webb appeared quietly confident of a podium in his latest column. His street racing experience may give him the edge in Monaco. Both Webb and Kevin Magnussen, are yet to see the chequered flag in Monaco despite great consistency from the Dane.
When reporting on Formula Renault 3.5, I like to try and gauge the surrounding atmosphere. It was obvious, prior to testing, that the drivers were apprehensive as they fired up the engines for the first time in snowy conditions. This weekend, there is a buzz in the air; the youth of today still understand and appreciate the obvious symbolism that comes with the Monte Carlo backdrop.
If they want it, they will have to work for it. Monaco is unforgiving and the tyres are considerably less durable. Stoffel Vandoorne, Magnussen, Felix da Costa and Arthur Pic are emerging as the top four drivers, only Pic is not already signed to a young driver scheme. Vandoorne and Magnussen, will be competing for a spot in the McLaren at the Young Driver Test in Abu Dhabi. It is likely, only one driver will earn a place – reserve driver, Gary Paffet always brings his experience to the annual event.
Zeta Corse have drastically changed their driver line up. Former series regular, Mihai Marinescu, has been replaced by Red Bull Junior, Carlos Sainz. Nick Yelloly makes his first 3.5 return since his 5th place finish in 2012. Expect a revival from the Italian outfit in Monaco.
After all, “one win in Monaco is equivalent to two wins anywhere else” – or so they say. Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne have been the most consistent but the sharp right handers and elevation changes mean that performances in the past few weeks are almost void in importance. The weather looks like it could be a factor in Monaco, yet another obstacle to contend with.
Last year, Sam Bird was victorious; it is a race I remember fondly. The racing continued to the finishing line, Jules Bianchi could not hold off the charging ISR. Third place man, Alexander Rossi, was 36 seconds behind; these kinds of gaps in Monaco are difficult to sustain, especially as the gap between the fastest and slowest cars is not as extensive as in Formula 1.
It was an incredible drive – it was clear this had boosted his confidence for the remainder of the year.
That weekend, Bird may not have secured a permanent F1 drive but he did create something equally as special, a Monaco memory. These are priceless. To win in Monaco is an honour, one each driver will hope they can be bestowed with before they take to Spa.
I know I am excited, I hope you all are too!
IMAGES COURTESY OF RENAULT SPORT