At the close of the 2015 season came the end of an 11 year Renault era. The French engine suppliers have pulled out as co-promoters of Formula Renault 3.5, prompting the new moniker Formula 3.5 V8. Renault will remain as parts suppliers and technical support but will adopt a much smaller role for the 2016 season and beyond.
With a new name and a host of promising rookies to match, it will still be a competitive season of racing. Ahead of the second post-season test November 4-6th, here is everything we know so far…
12 teams have signed on for the new the new RPM-backed championship, more than the 2015 season. DAMS becomes RP Motorsport after a switch to GP3, International Draco Racing is now known as Spirit of Race and Teo Martin Motorsport represents Spain as the 12th team on the grid.
11 years with the World Series by Renault comes to an end, now leaving F3.5 V8 to run outside of the championship. Fear not though, RPM boss Jaime Alguersuari has been at the forefront of FR3.5 in its many guises, even helping to promote the series during the World Series by Nissan (1998-2004) and World Series Lights (2002-4) days. He is experienced at his craft and hopes to promote a championship for ‘the families’ – be them spectators or competitors.
10 rookies participated in the first week of post-season testing at Jerez in October, just two days after the split took place. Matevos Iskaakyan proved himself among the more experienced competitors of Matthieu Vaxiviere and Yu Kanamaru to secure regular top three finishes on his début. Jake Hughes, Marvin Kirchhofer, 2015 Formula Renault 2.0 champion Jack Aitken and McLaren AUTOSPORT BRDC winner George Russell were not far behind. Kevin Jorg, Jehan Daruvala, Vladamir Atoev, Mahaveer Raghunathan and Richard Gonda were also among the newcomers.
9 rounds will be contested in 2016, the same as is usually expected from the 3.5 litre category. The season will start on the 16th April at Motorland, Aragon and will support FR2.0 Eurocup and the Renault Sport Trophy for the two race event. The series will also visit the Hungaroring, Spa-Francorchamps, Paul Ricard, Silverstone, the Red Bull Ring, Monza, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and Jerez during its nine event tour of Europe. You can read more about the calendar here.
8 drivers were separated by only 189 points in 2015, with as many as five drivers battling it out for the third in the standings. Of these top eight drivers, only Egor Orudzhev is expected to return for a 2016 campaign as his rivals move elsewhere. This will prompt a new generation of racers at the helm of the 3.5 litre machines and spark a new eraof competition. Expect the Russian – now hot property after two race wins – to stay with Arden Motorsport for a second consecutive season. Matthieu Vaxiviere is an outsider to join the 2016 grid but had been hinting at leaving the series after becoming runner up in 2015.
7 experienced FR3.5 competitors took part in the two day test with varying degrees of 3.5 litre competition. Vaxiviere was by the far the most established with the French runner-up competing with Spirit of Race in their new guise as part of ongoing plans with its owners AF Corse. Orudzhev is a two-time race winner and well-regarded after his first season with the Christian Horner owned outfit Arden. Alfonso Celis Jr showed great one lap pace throughout 2015 but will need to improve under race conditions. Gustav Malja competed for two teams – Strakka Racing and Fortec Motorsports – during the two day test, regulating fighting Aurelien Panis for lap times. Nikita Zloblin contested two rounds in 2015 and remained a similar pace. Meanwhile, 2015 FR2.0 NEC champion Louis Deletraz, who made a one-off appearance with Comtec Racing mid-season, was competitive at the helm of the 3.5 litre challengers despite a significant break since his last drive.
6 F1 tracks make up the 2016 calendar, the same number forecasted by Jaime Alguersuari at Silverstone in September. This list comprises of the Hungaroring, Silverstone, the Red Bull Ring, Monza, the Circuit de Catalyuna-Barcelona and Jerez which have all hosted either a grand prix or testing for the V6 championship over the past five years.
5 days of testing of post-season testing will end on November 6th and from there, numerous driver announcements are expected. Jake Hughes is a shooing for a Strakka seat while Kevin Jorg and Jack Aitken are both heavily favoured by Arden Motorsport and will fight it out to complete their line up alongside an ever-improving Orudzhev.
F3.5 V8 will also support five different championships – the World Series by Renault, WTCC, International GT Open, Blancpain and EuroFormula Open.
4 more full-time seats are available in 2016 than was enjoyed this year, boosting the field to a strong 22-driver grid. With Comtec hoping to resurrect from the ashes of 2015 difficulties and Italian outfit RP Motorsport joining the series, FR3.5 V8 will certainly enjoy some competitive racing during its inaugural season. Comtec only contested one race in 2015 with Louis Deletraz at the helm but is looking to salvage an entire campaign next year.
Four teams on the 2016 grid are also former world champions, though this title would be five if International Draco Racing had not packed up shop. Tech 1 Racing enjoyed some glory years in the early days of FR3.5, while Carlin and defending champions Fortec are also considered victors of the series.
3 years is the expected timeframe for developing a new car design for 2016. Until then, the series will retain the same features fans and drivers alike have become accustomed to with some technical assistance from Renault Sport. The single-seater challengers can boast as much as 530 horsepower and the Drag Reduction System (DRS) for a high-tech and innovative driving experience.
2 races will continue to be contested each weekend as normal and F3.5 V8 will follow its original structure. Qualifying will take place on Saturday and Sunday morning with the corresponding races completed in the afternoon. Therefore 50 points will remain the maximum score of the weekend for a double race winner as the feeder series follows the same points scoring system as F1. RPM is eager to keep this procedure in place to help keep the transition as smooth as possible.
1 driver is currently confirmed for the 2016 season. Alfonso Celis Jr. will return to AV Formula for a second consecutive season but is unlikely to partner Beitske Visser again at the Spanish outfit. The Mexican was close to the Dutch racer all year but Visser’s absence from testing certainly suggests she will be elsewhere for 2016. Marvin Kirchhofer tested in Visser’s model and is a possibility of the remaining seat.
*All statistics are correct as of the 3rd November 2015.
Katie Grimmett is an experienced FR3.5/F3.5 V8 and World Series by Renault journalist having worked with Crash.net for the past two years. All photos corresponding with the blog post were taken by Katie at the final round of the 2015 championship in Jerez and should be credited accordingly if used elsewhere.