In Monaco, the FR3.5 race weekend is very different; the usual two races are scrapped in favour of one. This allows numerous racing series to each negotiate the streets of the Principality, to create a Motorsport fan’s dream weekend. The 26 drivers contesting the series were split into two groups for qualifying and the fastest driver overall would secure pole. The rest of the drivers from the pole-sitter’s group line up in time order directly behind. The remaining racers start from the opposite side of the grid, again in time order.
The much anticipated rain never arrived, removing one more obstacle for the drivers. The overall championship leader, Kevin Magnussen (DAMS), led the charge for Group A and was the first driver to complete the street circuit in under 1:25. Jazeman Jaafar was the fastest in this group overall on a 1:23.648, whilst Norman Nato (DAMS) and Will Stevens (P1 by Strakka Racing) completed the top three. Nigel Melker was the biggest casualty as his Tech 1 began spinning at Rascasse.
Carlos Sainz Jr, yet another driver for Zeta Corse this year, came close to toppling Jaafar from the time sheets but remained unsuccessful as his car bounced over the kerbs at the famous, Piscine, chicane. He starts sixth on the grid, the highest qualifying from the team so far.
Shortly after, it was the turn of Group B to make their presence known in the Principality. This group survived qualifying without major incident. After 10 minutes, Stoffel Vandoorne (Fortec Motorsports) lapped in 1:24.514, and the Belgian stayed top of the time sheets for Group B until the final ten minutes.
Marco Sorensen (Lotus) was first to beat Jaafar’s quickest time. As the chequered flag waved for the final time, Nico Müller (International Draco Racing) snatched pole position with a lap of 1:23.453.
When speaking of his maiden pole to Renault Sport, Nico Müller expressed his joy and delight. “It’s an amazing feeling to have taken my first Formula Renault 3.5 pole at Monaco! Part of the work is done, but the hardest part is still in front of us.”
He finished ahead of Marco Sorensen and Stoffel Vandoorne who will receive a five-place grid penalty for a yellow flag incident in practice. The Belgian was followed closely by Antonio Félix da Costa (Arden Caterham) and Mikhail Aleshin (Tech 1 Racing). Felix da Costa’s progress was hampered during his final flying lap.
The result in Monaco proves that anything could happen come Sunday’s race. Street circuit specialist, Oliver Webb will start ahead of his rookie team mate, Stoffel Vandoorne, for the first time this year. Carlos Huertas, who took his maiden series win in Motorland, starts 14th.
If the highly anticipated, and much expected, rain does make an appearance on Sunday, it could prove to be the ultimate test for 26 young drivers hoping to rise to the pinnacle of their sport. We may also see a fifth winner in as many races.
As featured on The Sideline Agenda