Many young hopefuls that have been able to make their way into the world of Formula One, and there are two championships that come with substantial recognition. The World Series By Renault 3.5 category has seen the likes of Robert Frijns, Daniel Ricciardo, Alexander Rossi and Sam Bird make their way, in some respect, to the F1 scene, whether it means securing a third driver role, or even making it onto the grid itself.
One young driver, Nick Yelloly, who looks to follow suit, exploded out of the blocks for Comtec Racing last season, made his impact by winning the very first race in Aragon, before an up and down season for the 22-year-old provided an eventual 5th place finish, with 124 points. We caught up with the man from Stafford himself at the Autosport International Show in January to talk to him about WSR, his plans for this year, remembering the late Henry Surtees, and Silverstone…
He competed alongside Oliver Webb with Pons Racing in the latter part of 2011, before the new 3.5 Series car was unveiled, with some significant changes, with Nick giving an idea on how much of an evolution the car has had, even though the main tub is still the same: “The front end is pretty similar to last year, as it is still a mono-shock car. We then got a bit more power on the rear end, as well as a 33% increase in downforce, and that really took getting used to, but with running full downforce, I was really impressed with the 2012 car.I only drove the 2011 car for a short time, but in comparison, the new car is a completely animal, where you have to be incredibly fit and very strong physically to drive it, as this beast of a car tries to pull your neck off at corners like Copse with the additional downforce.”
Training for the fastest sport on four wheels is non-stop, and is more emphasized as a driver develops their skills towards reaching their goal. But along with this, drivers are always tight-lipped until any future plans until it is made public, which is also the case with Nick, but he looks to stay in the category for 2013: “I believe I’m a title contender for this season, with strong rivals like Antonio Felix de Costa and Kevin Magnussen returning as well, which is good for the series in general. It will end up being between four or five drivers, with one of them being myself, if I am able to get on the grid in the couple of weeks.”
It doesn’t matter where a driver is in their career, but karting has a major part to play in how they all keep themselves razor-sharp behind the wheel, and Nick is no exception, as he, along with the likes of Alex Brundle, Scott Malvern, Laura Tillet and Alexander Sims, took part in the Henry Surtees Challenge last September at Buckmore Park, where Jack Aitken, who raced in Intersteps in 2012, took the overall win in the Grand Final.
John Surtees is still, to this day, the individual that helps young talent in this way, by securing top prizes for the drivers from major teams, but to also remember the spirit of his late son in the best way possible. Nick said that the milestone that John has reached in his racing career is “marvellous,” as well as stating that no one else is really going to be able to repeat the feat again, and that there is no one like John.
Nick raced against Henry only twice, but remembers the fact that he was lapped all the time in his first Formula Renault UK Winter Series campaign, due to where Henry was as a racer, and saw the Challenge as a great way for young drivers from Henry’s era like himself to get together and have some fun in some karts: “A lot of the kids that compete in the event like to beat us, because they can at that point, being a lot lighter. The event itself and continuing the tradition that henry would want, is to go out there and have fun, as well as racing for the great prizes that John has been able to get for us.”
Nick is positioned nicely at this point in his career, as WSR and GP2 are the main feeder series, where the Formula One teams are looking to find the next potential champion. He goes on to explain about the fact that drivers are needing to provide sponsorship at this level, so as to be able to make the move upwards, unlike Frijns, who got the third driver role at Sauber purely on merit: “It was a matter of being consistent all season long, which was awesome. So, I think you have to be within the top three to five drivers in all the events, as well as winning races. This is as well as making races extraordinary, like the win I had at the Nurburgring, where I crossed the line 27 seconds in front. In order to get the attention of the F1 bosses, you do have to try and do this as much as possible.”
The travelling is a part of what racing drivers have to do as a major part of their schedule, as World Series by Renault ventured to the newly built Moscow Speedway, as well as the Hungaroring, where chances for overtaking are quite remote these days when it comes to racing there. Nick explained his experience of going to Moscow, and how things differed in his eyes: “Well, it was different, especially when the nearest hotel we could find was around 70 kilometers away, which meant for an early morning start most days. The driving out there is pretty much like a World Series By Renault race on the highways, with no real lines, and we even saw a man changing the tyre on his car in the middle lane, as well as buses driving over the grass. The people there were lovely, and the fans were great, with so many crowds out there, which is the most I have seen at a World Series By Renault race, if I’m honest.”
The final talking point was to discuss the complete exclusion of the World Series By Renault from Silverstone, which hosted a full event in 2011, with only the 3.5 cars supporting the WEC last year. As a proud Brit, Nick expressed his view on how it affects his family coming to see him race, at his favourite track: “In comparison with 2011, we didn’t have as many fans last year, supporting the WEC. The stands were packed, as both Oli and myself were racing that weekend in the same team. It is a real shame, as I like to bring friends and family to the track. In respects of my grandparents, it’s the easiest track to get to, as they love coming to see me race, but say in respect of them travelling to Spa in their mid 80s, it is quite a way for them to travel. It is sad, but I hope that something gets sorted for Silverstone for 2014, and that the best event, in my opinion, goes back to World Series.
“The accessibility around Silverstone is just fantastic, as the layout of the track allows you to see so many of the corners, but even when you get to Spa, you have to go a long way in comparison to another great vantage point, especially in the case of my grandparents. To lose such a legendary track like Silverstone on the calendar itself, is a real shame.”
Nick is still working as hard as always trying to make his mark, and he truthfully does have a good chance at competing in the top five, and will be one to keep your eyes on, especially with the 2013 title being a great battle. We all are looking forward to seeing where he is for this year, being on the cusp of joining the F1 fraternity, and has shown great glimpses of his talent in 2012, and this just may be his breakthrough year. Wait until the lights go out for the first race this season, and see where Nick ends up as the cars speed off to the first corner…