1 January 1901
WS preview: Spa-Francorchamps.
After the early season excursion to Monaco, the World Series Formula Renault 3.5 wanders outside of the scope of the World Series by Renault meetings again this weekend, playing a supporting role to the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa.
Seven races in and the championship was far from narrowed down in Misano. Indeed, the list of potential successors to Robert Kubica appears, if anything, to have grown longer!
After Sebastian Vettel's flawless debut performance in Italy, the German has already thrown himself into the title fight, despite missing the first five rounds of the year. Called up to replace Colin Fleming at Carlin Motorsport, Vettel was on impressive form at Misano. A pole position, two wins and 31 points were collected by the young German, who went straight to sixth place in the championship.
After returning to the F3 Euroseries and the latest round of the championship at the Norisring, Vettel is back in the cockpit of the World Series car at Spa. Another two good results would make him a serious contender for the title, which would give him a dilemma as to where to race the following weekend - World Series at the Nürburgring or Masters F3 in Zandvoort?
The new championship leader after Misano is Alvaro Parente, the Portuguese driver having bagged third and fourth place finish to go with his maiden win in Turkey. It is enough to have given him a six-point lead over former leader Borja Garcia, the Spaniard having struggled somewhat at the tight and twisty Misano.
Another big winner in Italy was Andy Soucek, who has shot up through the ranks to third place, one point behind Spanish compatriot Garcia.
However, if Vettel, Parente, Garcia and Soucek could call Misano a success, then Pastor Maldonado could only label it an unmitigated disaster. Biting at the heels of Garcia going into the race, Maldonado looked to have done enough to claim the championship lead when he claimed the race one win from pole position. It was joy that was short-lived though, as a technical irregularity saw him disqualified. Trying to make up the time in the second race, Maldonado duly crashed in qualifying and eventually failed to finish, thus coming away from Italy with no points to show for his efforts.
Eric Salignon and James Rossiter also struggled as they saw their championship challenge begin to wilt, the duo being caught by Ben Hanley and Davide Valsecchi after the two podium winners made substantial gains on their rivals to both go eighth overall.
As has been the case at every race so far this season, the driver merry-go-round has been in full swing with Spa seeing two new drivers making their World Series debut. Tech 1 Racing has announced Marco Bonanomi as the replacement for Jerome d'Ambrosio, the Belgian's disappointing rookie season seeing him demoted to Italian F3000 for the time being.
The second new driver joining the line-up is Pasquale di Sabatino, another Italian who is making the leap from his national Formula Renault Championship to join Hanley at Cram.
With two Italians joining the fray, another one has left, with Enrico Toccacelo calling time on his lacklustre season in a bid to pursue other interests. His place at Eurointernational will therefore be taken by Milos Pavlovic, who side-steps from Cram.
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