Formula Renault 3.5

Crunch Time Awaits In Catalunya Title Thrash

3 Mins read
Formula Renault 3.5 (Photo Credit: Renault Sport)

Formula Renault 3.5 (Photo Credit: Renault Sport)

This weekend in Catalunya marks the final round of a captivating Formula Renault 3.5 season.

What's more, with the title battle between Carlin drivers Robert Wickens and Jean-Eric Vergne still to be concluded, high drama is certainly expected in Barcelona.

Jean-Eric Vergne (Photo Credit: Renault Sport)

Title contenders and Carlin teammate Jean-Eric Vergne.......

Vergne said: “I'm really looking forward to the finale. I've always loved moments where you have to give everything in racing – and Barcelona will be one of those. I love being the one who has to do the chasing!”

Both, in identical machinery, have been almost parallel in terms of speed and performance whilst enduring moments of brilliance but also misfortune along the way.

Vergne appeared to be out of the running at Le Castellet but a victory in race one coupled with a third in race two launched himself back into contention.

Despite finishing second to his team mate in race one, Wickens suffered a difficult race two and a puncture whilst running fifth left him powerless to avoid Vergne hauling him with one round to go.

Moreover, Wickens’ swerve towards Vergne in a heart-stopping bid to keep him behind after his pit stop in that second race signified that the gloves are now off as they battle for supremacy draws to a fascinating close.

Ahead of this weekend’s finale, the championship leader said: “Paul Ricard didn't go how I had planned however I still have the points lead. I've reset the system and worked on a few things and Barcelona will be a better weekend for me.”

The connotations behind their championship decider are endless given their respective motoring backgrounds.

Both have been, and in Vergne's case still is, part of the highly regarded Red Bull Junior Team ensuring they were financed and sponsored in lower racing categories.

In such a competitive industry, though, results are imperative and sufficient backing from a marquee name such as Red Bull creates high expectations.

Robert Wickens (Photo Credit: Reanult Sport)

....and Robert Wickens will fight it out in Barcelona

Speaking at Silverstone in August, Wickens said: “At the end of the day, you are in a development programme and if you are not getting the results they are wasting their money because they want to breed a F1 driver. They don't want someone that will run 20th in a Le Mans championship.

“They want someone to win and so obviously there is a pressure with results but if you are a driver that is hungry, you put the most pressure on yourself.”

The importance of winning championships in lower formulae should not be underestimated.

Vergne's British F3 victory last year, replicating fellow Red Bull young driver Daniel Ricciardo's achievement in 2009, ensured he arrived in the series this year as a champion.

What's more, his brief venture in to FR3.5 for three rounds at the end of last season laid down a marker: he picked up a win, a second and two third places in the final four races to signal his intent for 2011.

The step up was immediate, just like the expectation placed him by the powers that be at Red Bull.

He has been rewarded for his superb season with the third driver role at Toro Rosso from the Korean Grand Prix, where he will partake in Friday practice.

Envious eyes will have undoubtedly been cast in the Frenchman's direction, but these doors have only been opened to his levels of success and the immense pressures he has been under to secure championships.

This is something Wickens appreciates all too well.

Runner up in Formula Two in 2009, Wickens parted ways with Red Bull after not being able to deliver the championship despite several reliability woes throughout the campaign.

It highlights the demands of a driver programme as they prepare drivers for the pressures of Formula One.

However, Wickens' climb up the ladder has not been halted in any way.

In 2010 he was runner up to Esteban Gutiérrez in the inaugural GP3 campaign and is now backed by Russian manufacturer Marussia, who have a significant stake in the Virgin Racing F1 team.

Furthermore, their backing has resulted in Wickens securing the reserve driver role at Marussia Virgin, an indication of their belief in the 22-year-old.

He, like Vergne, will be eyeing F1 in the immediate future and possibly as early as 2012 as their backers look to fast track their rise into the pinnacle of single seater motor racing.

Including a Formula Renault 3.5 title on their respective CVs will do their chances no harm at all.

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