Renault seek FIA talks after Superlicence changes

by Paul Hensby

After the FIA introduced new Superlicence rules for Formula 1 starting from the beginning of the 2016 season, Renault have contacted the sports governing body after it’s series’ were graded lower than expected.

The Formula Renault 3.5 Series is regarded by many as a series on par with the GP2 Series, but while the champion of GP2 earns 50 points towards a Superlicence, the FR3.5 champion will only earn 30, and Renault are seeking to clarify why its series has been graded so low.

Even the European Formula 3 Championship is graded higher, and it is usual for drivers to want to move up to Formula Renault 3.5 from European Formula 3 rather than the other way around.

The Formula Renault 2.0 Series’ have also been graded lower than expected, with domestic-based Formula 4 championships earning more points than the Eurocup, ALPS and NEC championships.

Some believe that the move to downgrade the Renault series’ is politically motivated, with the FIA grading their own series’ higher.

Renault have insisted that they will ‘take all the opportunities to defend our championships’ and are keen to discuss with the FIA whether the points system can be changed before the new rules kick in from next year to make their championships have a more realistic value.

Speaking to Autosport, DAMS Team Principal Jean-Paul Droit believes that Formula Renault can still prosper despite its low grading, but insists it does need to be looked at closely.

“I think there should be an objective discussion among the promoters of these championships, in order to have a decent consensus on what has to be done,” said Droit. “This is the only way I see it working – all these people have to sit down together, and they must come up with a joint solution.

“It could make things harder in 3.5, but there is a difference in budgets, and people who cannot afford GP2 will still go to 3.5.”

Strakka Racing’s Team Principal Dan Walmsley also commented on the new Superlicence rules, and believes the rules could make it harder for teams to attract drivers.

“We were surprised by the decision, but we remain focused on these championships,” said Walmsley to Autosport. “It could well be harder to attract drivers but once they talk to use and understand all the Renault championships offer in terms of experience and value, they will see they remain a really strong training ground.

“FR3.5 is a proven and credible feeder series for F1, and is considerably better value when compared to an F3 season.”

Arden Motorsport, which runs teams in GP2, GP3, Formula Renault 3.5 and MSA Formula, welcomed the decision to tackle the ladder to F1 but understands the new rules will frustrate some people.

“I think it can help the junior categories on the whole, but obviously the new system will please some people and frustrate others,” said Sporting Manager Julian Rouse. “If it requires drivers to take a more structured route to F1, then hopefully that can help the current situation with the junior categories.”

Looking at the drivers who raced in Formula Renault 3.5 in 2014, none of the full-time drivers would have achieved a Superlicence had the rules been introduced for 2015, and series champion Carlos Sainz Jr would have missed out on promotion into Formula 1 with Scuderia Toro Rosso.

Driver NAT 2014 Team Points
Esteban Ocon FRA Comtec Racing* 41**
Carlos Sainz Jr ESP DAMS 38
Pierre Gasly FRA Arden Motorsport 25
Roberto Merhi ESP Zeta Corse 15
Will Stevens GBR Strakka Racing 15
Oliver Rowland GBR Fortec Motorsports 14
Will Buller GBR Arden Motorsport 11
Sergey Sirotkin RUS Fortec Motorsports 9
Marco Sorensen DEN Tech 1 Racing 8
Matias Lainé FIN Strakka Racing 7
Jazeman Jaafar MAL ISR Racing 7
Norman Nato FRA DAMS 6
Luca Ghiotto ITA International Draco Racing 3
Nicholas Latifi CAN Tech 1 Racing* 2
Richie Stanaway NZL Lotus* 2
Matthieu Vaxiviere FRA Lotus* 2
Marlon Stockinger PHI Lotus 1
Zoel Amberg SWI AV Formula 0
Nikolay Martsenko RUS Comtec Racing* 0
Pietro Fantin BRZ International Draco Racing 0
Meindert van Buuren NED Pons Racing 0
Beitske Visser NED AV Formula 0
Oscar Tunjo COL Pons Racing* 0
Roman Mavlanov RUS Zeta Corse 0
Cameron Twynham GBR Comtec Racing 0
Oliver Webb GBR Pons Racing* 0
Alfonso Celis Jr MEX Tech 1 Racing* 0
Andrea Roda ITA Comtec Racing* 0

* Partial Season Only*

** Points Included from winning the European Formula 3 Championship**

With the rules as they now are, the only way Fortec Motorsports driver Oliver Rowland, who finished fourth in the championship in 2014 and is one of the six drivers currently confirmed for the 2015 Formula Renault 3.5 Series season, can earn enough points to gain a Superlicence for Formula 1 for the 2016 season is to take the 2015 championship.

He currently has fourteen points and the thirty points for the title would take him to over the required forty-point barrier, but anything less and he will fall short of the requisite points.

“If you win the 3.5 championship it still means you are a good driver,” said Droit. Never has a truer word been said.

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