The eleventh season of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series gets underway this weekend at Motorland Aragon in Spain, with many drivers eager to follow in the footsteps of last years Champion Carlos Sainz Jr and make the step up into Formula 1.
Taking in nine great circuits in eight European countries, the 2015 season promising to be exciting, with the racing set to enthral the crowds once more.
Reigning Teams’ Champions DAMS, who have seen Sainz and Kevin Magnussen win the past two Drivers’ titles, will once again be the team to beat this season, with reigning Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 Series champion Nyck de Vries moving up into the bigger cars alongside the now Red Bull-backed Dean Stoneman, who returns to the series five years after his debut in the series before an enforced break in his career due to illness.
Fortec Motorsports are one of only a handful of teams to have retained one of their drivers for the forthcoming season, with Racing Steps Foundation-backed and 2014 race winner Oliver Rowland staying for a second season alongside Jazeman Jaafar, who moves from being the sole driver of ISR Racing to join the Briton in the team.
Arden Motorsport field an all-new line-up, with Canadian Nicholas Latifi, who raced in three rounds of the series in 2014 with Tech 1 Racing, being joined by Russian Egor Orudzhev, who moves up to the series from Eurocup, complete with his SMP Racing backing.
The Charouz Racing-run Lotus team have retained Matthieu Vaxiviere for a second season, with the Frenchman likely to be a main contender for top honours this year after a strong close to the 2014 season. He will be joined by Meindert van Buuren, with the Dutchman having moved across from Pons Racing for his sophomore year in the series.
The Silverstone-based Strakka Racing team have signed top Cypriot racer Tio Ellinas to their team for the new season, with the former GP3 Series championship contender having a series of strong pre-season tests, and will be one of the drivers to watch this season. He will be joined by Swede Gustav Malja, who is another driver to graduate from Eurocup this season.
Adrian Vallés’ AVF team have retained the services of the only female in the series, Beitske Visser, with the Dutch twenty-year-old looking to build on her debut year in 2014 with a much stronger campaign this time around. Mexican Alfonso Celis Jr, who is racing in both this series and in GP3 this year, will join her in the line-up.
Tech 1 Racing will field two rookies in 2015, with Israeli driver Roy Nissany moving from racing in the FIA European Formula 3 championship with Mücke Motorsport in 2014 to join Aurelien Panis in the team. Panis is the son of 1996 Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix winner Olivier, and moves up from Eurocup.
Pietro Fantin returns to the series for a third year, and a second of them with International Draco Racing, and will be joined in the team by his fellow Brazilian Bruno Bonifacio, who was a race winner in Eurocup last year with Prema Powerteam.
The Carlin team make a welcome return to the series after taking a sabbatical in 2014 with Jagonya Ayam backing, with Sean Gelael moving from European Formula 3 to join Frenchman Tom Dillmann in Trevor Carlin’s team.
Manor F1 Team driver Roberto Merhi will continue to race in Formula Renault 3.5 alongside his Formula 1 commitments, and has switched from Zeta Corse, in which he won three races in 2014, to Pons Racing, and will be the highest returning driver from last years’ championship, with Sainz and Pierre Gasly both moving to F1 and GP2 respectively. Merhi will be joined by Indonesian Philo Paz Patric Armand, who raced in the Formula Renault 2.0 ALPS championship in 2014.
2013 GP3 Series runner-up Facu Regalia, who ran a partial GP2 Series campaign in 2014 with Hilmer Motorsport, is the only driver so far to be confirmed for the Comtec Racing team, with the Argentine having made a last minute switch from Zeta Corse.
At the time of going to press, Zeta Corse have yet to reveal either driver and is likely to miss the season opener in Spain due to a shortfall in budget. Roman Mavlanov, who drove for the team in 2014 and ran one of the days of the most recent test with the team, is highly tipped to return to the team if and when they come back, while Johnny Cecotto Jr also tested during the pre-season tests so could also be an option for the second seat.
All in all, the 2015 Formula Renault 3.5 Series promises to be an exciting season once again, with visits to historic circuits such as Monaco, the Nurburgring, Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans and a welcome return to Silverstone. Who will prevail? The Checkered Flag will be with you the whole step of the way!
2015 Formula Renault 3.5 Series Entry List
|1||Nyck de Vries||NED||DAMS|
|3||Jazeman Jaafar||MAL||Fortec Motorsports|
|4||Oliver Rowland||GBR||Fortec Motorsports|
|5||Nicholas Latifi||CAN||Arden Motorsport|
|6||Egor Orudzhev||RUS||Arden Motorsport|
|10||Meindert van Buuren||NED||Lotus|
|11||Tio Ellinas||CYP||Strakka Racing|
|12||Gustav Malja||SWE||Strakka Racing|
|15||Alfonso Celis Jr||MEX||AVF|
|17||Roy Nissany||ISR||Tech 1 Racing|
|18||Aurelien Panis||FRA||Tech 1 Racing|
|19||Pietro Fantin||BRZ||International Draco Racing|
|20||Bruno Bonifacio||BRZ||International Draco Racing|
|21||Facu Regalia||ARG||Comtec Racing|
|25||Sean Gelael||INO||Jagonya Ayam with Carlin|
|26||Tom Dillmann||FRA||Jagonya Ayam with Carlin|
|39||Philo Paz Patric Armand||INO||Pons Racing|
|40||Roberto Merhi||ESP||Pons Racing|