The Checkered Flag taked a look at some of the action across the junior single seater categories, with two Formula 3-based series taking to the track last weekend in Italy and France respectively.
Formula Renault Eurocup – Autodromo Nazionale Monza
The opening rounds of the 2019 Formula Renault Eurocup championship took place at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza last weekend, with the two race victories being shared by a rookie and a series returnee.
Twenty-two drivers took to the track for the first weekend of the new era of Eurocup racing, with Formula 3 chassis being used for the first time. Both Fortec Motorsports and Josef Kaufmann Racing opted to leave the series at the end of 2018, but four new teams have joined the field – BhaiTech Racing, FA Racing by Drivex, M2 Competition and GRS.
Series returnee Lorenzo Colombo took the first pole position of the year on Saturday morning for MP Motorsport, outpacing Belgian rookie Ugo de Wilde, while Leonardo Lorandi and Kush Maini made it three rookies inside the top four ahead of Victor Martins.
De Wilde made the better start to lead into the first turn but Colombo’s race was over at that first chicane after contact with Maini, with the safety car being deployed to recover the Italian’s car. On the restart, de Wilde remained in full control and was able to convert his position into victory.
“I am very happy about this first win, but I wasn’t expecting it at all! It was an extremely difficult race, but I got an excellent start and quickly pulled away from Leonardo before having to manage my tyres as I locked up the fronts a bit,” said de Wilde.
“My team mate took advantage to close in, but I was able to keep a reasonable gap. Now, I hope that the rain forecasted for tomorrow will come, because we are out of new slick tyres. We are convinced our strategy is the right one though.”
JD Motorsport’s Lorandi and M2 Competition’s Maini rounded out the podium, although the latter was forced to contend with a number of rivals during the race before completing the all-rookie top three.
Renault Sport Academy member Martins finished fourth for MP Motorsport ahead of Bhaitech’s Federico Malvestiti despite the Italian having found a way ahead of the Frenchman earlier in the race. Oscar Piastri of R-ace GP had done likewise but damaged his front wing after contact with Malvestiti.
Sebastian Fernandez of Arden Motorsport finished sixth ahead of Joao Vieira of JD Motorsport, who survived a trip through the gravel trap, while Frank Bird, Petr Ptacek and Yves Baltas completed the top ten.
Race two on Sunday was a much different affair in totally different weather conditions. Overnight showers made the track extremely wet, and despite a red flag to recover Alessio Deledda’s Global Racing Service car, Alexander Smolyar took pole position for R-ace GP.
After his pole position on Saturday, Colombo came within 0.054 seconds of taking a double pole, but the Italian was forced to settle for second ahead of Martins, although the Frenchman set an identical time to the Italian but was classified third thanks to setting the time after his rival.
The race began behind the safety car for three laps and was quickly back behind it again soon after incidents involving Deledda and Patrick Schott, and race one winner de Wilde and Xavier Lloveras.
The restart saw Smolyar retain the lead while Martins grabbed second from Colombo, although the race was soon to be compromised again by the safety car as three cars – Baltas, Brad Benavides and Callan O’Keeffe – all needed to be removed from the gravel.
Smolyar held on from Martins to take his maiden victory, while Colombo secured the final spot on the podium despite pressure from Piastri and Maini. Lorandi secured a sixth-place finish ahead of Caio Collet and Patrik Pasma, with Amaury Cordeel dropping from seventh to ninth in the closing laps. Fernandez overtook Vieira in the final laps to take the final point on offer.
“First pole, first podium and first win… It is a great, great day!” said Smolyar. “The visibility was good, but I know that the drivers behind me were struggling.
“During the restarts, I saw the field getting bigger in my mirrors and that kept the pressure on for the entire race. I had hoped to do better yesterday, but we still have work to do to fight for the win on a dry track and I also made some bad decisions in the race.
“Today, I reset everything to finish the weekend with a win!”
Martins leaves Italy with the championship lead on thirty points, four points ahead of Lorandi, while Smolyar, de Wilde and Maini all have twenty-five points as the championship moves onto Silverstone in May.
Formula Regional European Championship – Circuit Paul Ricard
Just ten cars participated in the opening event of the 2019 Formula Renault European Championship at the Circuit Paul Ricard, and it was Prema Powerteam who dominated proceedings, taking all three pole positions, wins and fastest laps.
Seven teams took their place on the grid, with three entries coming from Prema – Frederik Vesti, Olli Caldwell and Enzo Fittipaldi, with all three drivers taking a pole position each across the weekend.
Fittipaldi took pole for race one but victory ultimately went the way of Vesti after the Dane capitalised on the battle between Fittipaldi and Caldwell that saw both drivers run wide and allow Vesti and DR Formula’s Igor Fraga through into first and second.
Vesti dominated thereafter but Fittipaldi fought through to reclaim second on the penultimate lap, while Caldwell ended up fourth after coming out on top of a battle with US Racing’s David Schumacher that had seen the young German running ahead of the Briton in the early laps.
DR Racing’s Raul Guzman finished sixth ahead of Kic Motorsport duo Isac Blomqvist and Konsta Lappalainen, while Van Amersfoort Racing’s Sophia Flörsch and Scorace Team-Viola Formula’s Sharon Scolari rounded out the field.
Caldwell led from start to finish in race two but found himself disqualified post-race for having a car that did not comply with the technical regulations of the championship. This handed the win to team-mate Fittipaldi, who had been forced to make a pass on Fraga, who unfortunately struggled to conserve his tyres enough to retain his position at the front.
Vesti also found a way ahead of Fraga before making an unsuccessful last lap lunge on Fittipaldi. Nevertheless, the Dane inherited second after Caldwell’s disqualification, with Fraga taking the final spot on the podium. However, Prema have appealed the disqualification, meaning the result remains provisional.
Guzman ended fourth ahead of Blomqvist and Schumacher, while Lappalainen, Flörsch and Scolari rounded out the field this time around.
Vesti started the third and final race of the weekend from pole position but lost out at turn one to a fast starting Schumacher, but the US Racing driver was relegated back to second before the end of the first lap, with the Prema driver pulling away from the German to take his second win.
Fittipaldi also found his way passed Schumacher to finish second, however Caldwell couldn’t do likewise and was forced to settle for fourth behind the son of former Formula 1 racer Ralf Schumacher.
Caldwell was lucky to take fourth in the end, having been behind Fraga and Guzman only for the two DR Formula drivers to collide and retire. Flörsch took fifth ahead of Scolari, while Fraga and Guzman were classified seventh and eighth despite their confrontation. Unfortunately, they were not the only team-mates to collide during the race, with Blomqvist and Lappalainen doing likewise earlier on.
“I think it has been a great weekend,” said Vesti. “I managed to score a lot of points, two wins and a P3. The speed looked good all weekend.
“In qualifying, I didn’t manage to put the lap together. I made a mistake in the last lap when it was drying and lost P1. But we have a great car especially in race trim and we also got the fastest lap of the last race, showing good tyre management.
“I’m very happy and proud of the team. The work we have done in preseason testing has been tough but we managed to put it all together and now I hope we can continue the good results and hard work for the next round in Vallelunga.”