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Formula Renault 3.5

Nick Yelloly: Progression and Persistence

5 Mins read
F.Renault graduate Yelloly had difficult debut season in GP3 (Photo Credit: Drew Gibson/GP3 Media Service)

F.Renault graduate Yelloly had difficult debut season in GP3 (Photo Credit: Drew Gibson/GP3 Media Service)

Throughout my time with Nick Yelloly on a crisp Wednesday afternoon in Solihull, there is a question that has been gnawing away at me.

As we discuss the intricacies of the motor racing world away from the glitz and glamour of Formula One, I have been mindful to acknowledge a stylish polo shirt that the 21 year old has been sporting.

Now we are not talking Formula One World Champions Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton donning Hugo Boss billboards worldwide, but it is certainly eye-catching and following the conclusion of the interview, I feel compelled to ask Yelloly where this particular garment can be found.

“All Saints mate,” he replies before chuckling, “I did not expect to be asked that today!”

This may appear to be a rather meaningless anecdote or a cheap imitation of product placement but there is point here.

Despite the many tribulations of a testing 2011, Yelloly is in good spirits following the end of a rollercoaster campaign which ended on a high, something else he may not have expected in the early months of a gruelling season.

A difficult maiden year in GP3 ended with an end of season flourish in the final three rounds of Formula Renault 3.5 in World Series by Renault, which culminated in a second place finish in the finale at Barcelona.

They say you are only as good as your last race, and Yelloly is only too quick to relive that glorious October weekend in Catalunya.

“I think that was probably my best weekend ever,” he says, recalling the adulation.

“I've won races in the Formula Renault UK series before but that topped it really because you really are knocking on the door of Formula One. Myself and Albert Costa, who was leading, were quite far ahead so it was a really good and competitive race.”

The mere mention of Formula One is significant and looking into Yelloly's eyes you catch a glimpse of a steely determination, one that has engulfed him ever since his early karting days.

“I started racing really late. My first go karting party I went to was when I was around 12 years old and I was fast straight away. They said to come back for a junior day so I did and I won.

“I started outdoor karting a few weeks before my 15th Birthday and I won all my novice races and began starting karting properly afterwards, which was very late compared to other drivers. I spent two and a half years karting competitively and then moved straight into cars.

“When I first got involved in motor racing, I always wanted to win. Once you start improving and see people who were a few years ahead of you and have now moved onto cars, you automatically think 'well I could do that'. I think the turning point is when you get into cars and you realise 'I can actually do this' and you take it more seriously.

“Obviously the parents do not like that because it means they have to find more money for sponsorship, but the time when you first jump into cars is when you start dreaming about F1.”

As Yelloly has discovered though, the complexities that threaten his long term goal of a seat in Formula One are persistent.

Financial restrictions, compounded by a global economic recession, have ensured that talent alone may not be enough to catch the eyes of the F1 fraternity.

Although the tone of voice has remained constant, his facial expressions indicate the frustration of a man whose career could be settled by matters off the racetrack.

“Not many people realise what goes into raising the sponsorship and interest in yourself. As well as that, you have also got to find a team that will take you for that season on a certain budget. Racing in GP2 now can cost up to €2.5m and what normal person can raise €2.5m?

“If you win the Formula Renault 3.5 series, you get an F1 test which is great, but if you cannot make a proper step into a competitive team in GP2 then you're finished really.”

A year of growth may be best to describe Yelloly's 2011, an exigent campaign where he was only able to display his skills behind the wheel occasionally.

Yelloly signed for GP3 newcomers Atech CRS in November 2010, the team he had raced for in Formula Renault UK.

However, the team struggled in their debut campaign in the category and Yelloly was only able to pick up seven points, six of those coming in his only podium of the season at Silverstone.

“GP3 was interesting and very challenging, especially mentally as the results did not go our way.

“I think our main problem was getting the new Pirelli tyre to work as best as it could. Obviously, having three rookies in the team did not help because we were not sure what direction to go in at the start of the season. In the last few races I started to get the hang of it and set fastest lap in Monza and qualified fifth in Spa, along with the podium at Silverstone.

With Yelloly's GP3 campaign proving an unsuccessful venture, a light appeared at the end of the tunnel in the form of Formula Renault 3.5 outfit Pons Racing in August.

He was offered a seat with the team for the World Series by Renault event at Silverstone, where he had scored a podium just the previous month.

For Yelloly, a spell in a different category was worth the gamble.

“They said I was a good option. We came to an agreement and I turned up on the Thursday, got my seat fitted, and then got into the car on the following day for the first time.

“When I jumped into the World Series car, I just felt at home straight away. Beginning on a circuit that I knew well helped because I was on the pace straight away. For me, driving a more powerful car is definitely much easier. The GP3 car is quite fiddly and with the turbo power you need quite a unique driving style, whereas as soon as I jumped into the World Series car I was much more comfortable and able to be really competitive.

“To be disqualified in the first race was frustrating, but I think we showed our true pace with fourth in our first ever practice session together and finishing second quickest later that day. From then, the weekend just did not really go our way despite qualifying seventh for race one.

“Then we went onto Paul Ricard and showed our pace straight away on a track configuration that I had not driven on before (Yelloly was fifth in race two). In the final round in Barcelona, where I had driven before, we were extremely competitive all weekend.”

Such has been Yelloly's form in the final six races of the year he is likely to continue in the category in 2012.

Maintaining his end of season form is going to be crucial as Yelloly looks to progress up the motor racing ladder, especially with fierce competition from his fellow countrymen.

“Over the winter, I have got keep really fit and I will be doing some karting in the gearbox formulas to keep myself sharp. I will also have decide which team I am going to be driving for, and there are a number of options, and then I have got to be at the workshop as much as I can to understand everything about the car, especially the new engine from Zytek and the DRS.”

“There are three or four British drivers that are seriously knocking on the door of F1, in my view. So all you have to do is to go out and be the best, just to get the coverage and to get the sponsors.

“This is obviously my aim for next year.”

With that mentality, he may be donning Hugo Boss billboards after all, as a successful progression up the motor racing chain beckons.

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