The 2017 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 series promised so much, with a full-field of at least twenty-eight cars per round and a twenty-three race campaign, and it did not disappoint, delivering a superb season of close action and great moments, amid some controversy, but for Sacha Fenestraz it was a year to remember.
The French-Argentine driver switched from Tech 1 Racing to Josef Kaufmann Racing for his sophomore campaign, and despite taking a little while to claim his first victory – his first win came in the eighth race of the season – he was by far the most consistent performer from start to finish, taking ten podiums on top of his seven race victories.
Three of Fenestraz’s main rivals during the season came from R-ace GP in the form of Will Palmer, Robert Shwartzman and Max Defourny, while Tech 1 Racing’s Gabriel Aubry was the other driver with multiple victories.
Fortec Motorsport’s Alex Peroni and rookie’s Daniel Ticktum and Max Fewtrell, of Arden Motorsport and Tech 1 Racing respectively, each took a victory, with the last two fighting tooth and nail for the rookie title until the last race of the season.
Consistency the key to the championship for Fenestraz
The season began with a visit to the Autodromo Nazionale Monza in April, and it was R-ace GP who hit the ground running by taking both victories, with Shwartzman taking the opening win of the year before Palmer took the Sunday win, but Fenestraz was second in both races, with Aubry and Defourny completing the respective podiums.
The same two drivers were victorious at Silverstone, albeit in reverse order to Monza, while Fenestraz had a very rare off weekend with a best finish of fifth, with Henrique Chaves of AVF by Adrian Vallés taking his one and only podium of the year in race one ahead of Shwartzman, while Palmer and Ticktum filled the podium in race two.
Around the streets of Pau, Shwartzman took his third win in race one ahead of Defourny and Aubry, while Peroni surprised many by taking his first Eurocup win in race two ahead of Fenestraz, with Shwartzman denying Palmer the final podium spot.
The round around the streets of Monaco had two races for the first time, and it was Palmer who took his third win of the year in race one ahead of Fenestraz and Defourny, but Fenestraz finally took his first win of the season in race two, with Shwartzman and Palmer completing the podium.
There were two different winners at the triple-header at the Hungaroring, with Ticktum claiming his and Arden Motorsport’s first Eurocup victory in race one ahead of Fenestraz and MP Motorsport’s Neil Verhagen, while Aubry was the victor in the final two races. Palmer and Fenestraz took the podium finishes in race two, with Shwartzman and Defourny doing likewise in race three.
Shwartzman returned to winning ways in race one at the Nurburgring ahead of Defourny and Fenestraz, while Fenestraz took the honours in race two ahead of Ticktum and Yifei Ye, who took his first podium of the year for Josef Kaufmann Racing.
Renault Sport Academy star Fewtrell took his maiden Eurocup victory in race one at the Red Bull Ring, with Fenestraz a close second ahead of Defourny, while Fenestraz continued his strong form with a third win of the year in race two from Palmer and Aubry.
Paul Ricard was the weekend where it truly went wrong for Shwartzman’s championship challenge, as despite taking the chequered flag first in both races, he found himself penalised in both that prevented him from scoring any points.
The first race saw him collide with Fenestraz on the final lap, which left his rival upside down at the chicane on the Mistral Straight, while a technical issue cost him victory in the second race.
Defourny inherited victory in race one despite not leading a lap, with Ye and Palmer completing the podium, while Fenestraz, in a heavily repaired car that included spare parts of his team-mates, took race two victory ahead of Defourny and Aubry.
The penultimate round took place at Spa-Francorchamps, and Fenestraz took race one victory thanks to being on pole position, after the whole race was run behind the safety car due to fog around the circuit ahead of Shwartzman and Ye.
Aubry won race two ahead of home hero Defourny and Fenestraz, while the Josef Kaufmann Racing driver took the final win in race three to pull clear in the championship, although Palmer kept himself in contention – just – by finishing second ahead of Defourny, but the hopes of Shwartzman and Defourny on winning the title came to an end.
The season finale took place at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and Shwartzman, days after joining the Ferrari Driver Academy, took victory in race one ahead of team-mate Palmer and Aubry, while Fenestraz moved one step closer to the title with fourth place.
A second win of the weekend for Shwartzman came in race two, with Fenestraz securing the championship with second ahead of Richard Verschoor, who took his first podium for MP Motorsport in third, but the race was overshadowed by a first lap, thirteen-car crash that saw a red flag and a depleted field for the restart.
With the championship in his pocket, Fenestraz took his seventh win of the year in race three, denying Shwartzman a clean sweep, while Defourny recovered from being involved in the race two crash to claim the final podium of the season.
The future is bright – for drivers and the series
There is no doubt that the talent depth in Eurocup in 2017 was deep, with the top five in particular – Fenestraz, Palmer, Shwartzman, Defourny and Aubry – are great prospects for the future.
Winning the championship has earned Fenestraz a place in the Renault Sport Academy for 2018, and it is just reward for the way the teenager performed during the season, with a move to the FIA European Formula 3 Championship his likely destination next year.
2018 in Eurocup could be exciting, should the likes of Fewtrell, Ye and Verschoor return, and with a great looking schedule, and some exciting talent coming through Formula 4 and karting, the battle to follow in the footsteps of Fenestraz should be thrilling.
Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 Final Standings
|1||11||Sacha Fenestraz||FRA||Josef Kaufmann Racing||367.5|
|2||8||Will Palmer||GBR||R-ace GP||298|
|3||10||Robert Shwartzman||RUS||R-ace GP||285|
|4||9||Max Defourny||BEL||R-ace GP||255|
|5||4||Gabriel Aubry||FRA||Tech 1 Racing||232|
|6||7||Max Fewtrell||GBR||Tech 1 Racing||164|
|7||33||Daniel Ticktum||GBR||Arden Motorsport||134|
|8||1||Yifei Ye||CHI||Josef Kaufmann Racing||106.5|
|9||29||Richard Verschoor||NED||MP Motorsport||89|
|10||17||Alex Peroni||AUS||Fortec Motorsports||72|
|11||31||Neil Verhagen||USA||MP Motorsport||59|
|12||13||Henrique Chaves||POR||AVF by Adrian Valles||53|
|13||23||Aleksandr Vartanyan||RUS||JD Motorsport||42|
|14||16||Thomas Randle||AUS||AVF by Adrian Valles||39.5|
|15||30||Jarno Opmeer||NED||MP Motorsport||27|
|16||5||Thomas Maxwell||AUS||Tech 1 Racing||14|
|17||12||Raul Guzman||MEX||R-ace GP||13|
|18||18||Aleksey Korneev||RUS||Fortec Motorsports||8|
|19||2||Luis Leeds||AUS||Josef Kaufmann Racing||7|
|20||93||Zane Goddard||AUS||Arden Motorsport||5|
|21||26||Presley Martono||INO||Mark Burdett Motorsport||1|
|22||20||Najiy Razak||MAL||Fortec Motorsports||1|
|23||6||Thomas Neubauer||FRA||Tech 1 Racing||0|
|24||15||Axel Matus||MEX||AVF by Adrian Valles||0|
|25||34||Ghislain Cordeel||BEL||Arden Motorsport||0|
|26||16||Gregoire Saucy||SWI||AVF by Adrian Valles||0|
|27||22||Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer||FRA||JD Motorsport||0|
|28||14||Xavier Lloveras||ESP||AVF by Adrian Valles||0|
|29||14||Rodrigo Pflucker||PER||AVF by Adrian Valles||0|
|30||25||Julia Pankiewicz||POL||Mark Burdett Motorsport||0|
|31||21||Sun Yue Yang||CHI||JD Motorsport||0|
|32||19||Frank Bird||GBR||Fortec Motorsports||0|
|-||40||Charles Milesi||FRA||R-ace GP||-|
|-||43||Logan Sargeant||USA||R-ace GP||-|
|-||42||Michael Benyahia||MOR||R-ace GP||-|
|-||44||Gilles Magnus||BEL||R-ace GP||-|
|-||41||Theo Coicaud||FRA||R-ace GP||-|
|-||96||Bartlomiej Mirecki||POL||BM Racing Team||-|