The delayed Formula Renault Eurocup campaign finally got underway at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza last weekend, and it saw two drivers secure their maiden victories in the category.
Opening Race Weekend Sees Eighteen Car Grid
Just prior to the start of the year, the Global Racing Service (GRS) team announced it would not be racing in 2020, with Xavier Lloveras’ position on the grid disappearing as well. However, ART Grand Prix are back in Eurocup for the first time since 2003 and will field three cars for Victor Martins, Mercedes-Benz protégé Paul Aron and Gregoire Saucy.
Eighteen cars took to the grid for first round, with defending Teams’ Champions R-ace GP running 2019 Rookie champion and Renault Sport Academy racer Caio Collet and alongside Petr Ptácek. Indian racer Kush Maini was set to race in a third car, but the coronavirus pandemic has put his campaign in doubt, and he was absent at Monza.
MP Motorsport promoted 2019 Spanish Formula 4 champion Franco Colapinto to Eurocup, with the Argentine being joined by 2019-20 Asian Formula 3 champion Joey Alders and 2019 French Formula 4 champion (and another member of the Renault Sport Academy) Hadrien David.
Arden Motorsport initially announced Jackson Walls, but the Australian was another casualty of the pandemic, with the team drafting in Alex Quinn for the early rounds until Walls can join the series. Reshad de Gerus and Ugo de Wilde have also been announced by Arden to run the full campaign.
JD Motorsport brought only one car to Monza for William Alatalo, as did M2 Competition for SMP Racing-backed Russian Mikhael Belov. FA Racing by Manor announced two drivers just prior to the start of the weekend for Belgian racer Amaury Cordeel and Dutchman Tijmen van der Helm.
Bhaitech Racing were the final team on the grid for Monza, with Hungarian László Tóth alongside Italian duo Nicola Marinangeli and Lorenzo Colombo, the latter a race winner in Eurocup last season.
Colapinto Survives Martins Clash to take Race One Victory
Quinn, who was standing in for Walls at Arden, took a surprise pole position for the first race of the campaign, but the young Briton was denied victory by Argentine racer Colapinto.
The early stages of the race saw Quinn hold the lead, but two safety car periods gave Colapinto the chance to close up on the Arden driver, and the MP Motorsport driver took over at the front. This is despite a clash with championship favourite Martins on the exit of the first chicane after the first restart.
Colapinto was running second when he had a moment exiting the corner and Martins, racing for ART Grand Prix, struck the back of the Argentine’s car and was forced to pit for repairs. Martins was lucky that another safety car was forthcoming, and he was able to join the back of the queue and fight for points.
Quinn gave it his all but was unable to deny Colapinto the win, while R-ace GP’s Collet, a member of the Renault Sport Academy programme, kept tabs on the leading duo to finish third.
Van der Helm, racing for FA Racing by Manor, took advantage of a mistake from M2 Competition’s Belov to claim fourth having fallen behind the Russian after a good battle between the two. Van der Helm’s team-mate Cordeel got the better of MP Motorsport’s David on the final lap to take sixth, while de Wilde (Arden), Ptácek (R-ace GP) and Martins completed the points scorers.
The two safety cars were called upon for incidents at the second chicane, with Alatalo (JD Motorsport) spinning out to cause the first before Alders (MP Motorsport) collided with Aron (ART Grand Prix) to cause the second. Alders received a grid penalty for race two for causing the collision.
2019 Rookie Champion Collet Clinches Maiden Outright Victory in Race Two
Martins took pole position for the second race of the weekend but, like in race one, the polesitter was denied the victory, with Collet making the most of his chance to take his maiden victory.
A first lap crash involving Quinn, de Wilde and Cordeel eliminated all three drivers and brought out the safety car before the leaders arrived at the final chicane, while van de Helm was forced to pit for a new front wing.
Czech racer Ptácek was deemed to have been mainly responsible for the incident and would later be handed a twenty-five second time penalty as a result that would have a dramatic effect on his finishing position.
On the restart, Martins was hounded by Collet, and it was not long before the positions switched, with the R-ace GP driver passing his countryman around the outside of the Rettifilo chicane. The move also allowed Colapinto to pass Martins, although the positions would switch again before the end of the race heading into the second chicane.
Belov ended his rookie weekend with a fourth-place finish, while Alatalo put his mistake from race one behind him to claim fifth ahead of David and Ptácek. Unfortunately for Ptácek, his time penalty meant he dropped out of the points, promoting Bhaitech Racing’s Lazslo Toth to seventh, Gregoire Saucy (ART Grand Prix) to eighth, van der Helm to ninth and Alders to tenth.
Heading away from Monza, the two race winners, Colapinto and Collet, are jointly on top of the standings on forty points, while Belov is third in the standings despite a best finish of fourth across the weekend. The Russian is on top of the rookie standings, however, with MP Motorsport leading the way in the Teams’ Championship.
Winning Drivers Reactions at Monza
Franco Colapinto: “I wasn’t so happy with my qualifying position of fourth, so I knew I had to be smart at the start to get myself in the position to take the race lead. I managed to get on the outside of turn one and then the inside of turn two, passing two cars and making it stick. After the safety car, I had an opportunity to take the lead, so I made sure I took advantage.
“It was a good start to the season, but I think I could have had a win and a second place and I can’t afford to drop any points. The competition is seriously tough. MP Motorsport gave me a great car and a great team and I think we can really get some strong results this season.
“I’ve got two weeks of hard work ahead of me before round two. The guys at Bullet make sure that I’m always learning and developing and have been with me here in Monza all week – so thank you to the whole Bullet team for everything.”
Caio Collet: “I’m extremely happy to score my first win! It was an extremely difficult race, but I was able to seize my chance by staying in the slipstream after the restart.
“Victor was more vulnerable and I took advantage of that. Once in the lead, I tried to push hard on as many laps as I could, but the gaps were very small among the three of us. I am also happy to see that we have improved our race pace compared to yesterday.
“I would like to thank R-ace GP, the Renault Sport Academy, God and my partners for giving me the opportunity to be here. This was only the first meeting of the season, so we will continue to work hard to stay on top of the podium.”