Formula Renault 3.5 - Monza set for moment of truth as season begins

The Formula Renault 3.5 Series kicks off this weekend at Monza, bringing to a head the efforts of intense testing since February.

Formula Renault 3.5 - Monza set for moment of truth as season begins

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Antonio Felix da Costa

Antonio Félix da Costa (Arden Caterham), Stoffel Vandoorne (Fortec Motorsports) and Will Stevens (P1 Motorsport) all impressed over the winter sessions at Motorland Aragon, the Circuit Paul Ricard and the Circuit de Catalunya, and they begin the season as favourites.

Da Costa won four races last year and would surely have challenged for the title had he not missed the opening three meetings of the 2012 season.

As it was, Robin Frijns and Jules Bianchi battled it out for the title - the Dutchman clinching it - but with Da Costa present from the start this time around, the Portuguese driver is one to watch.

As is Vandoorne, who takes over the seat of Frijns at Fortec Motorsports having won the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 championship - just like his predecessor did before him.

That victory earned the Belgian 500,000 euros and with that cash injection he has been able to step up to the next level.

While Da Costa and Vandoorne dominated testing this winter, they should not be alone in challenging for honours at the Autodromo di Monza.

The experienced Stevens, along with fellow 2012 podium sitters Nico Mueller (International DracoRacing), Kevin Magnussen (Dams), Marco Sorensen (Lotus), Daniil Move (SMP Racing by Comtec), Arthur Pic (AV Formula) and Andre Negrao (International Draco Racing), should also be contenders.

Champion in 2010, Mikhail Aleshin (Tech 1 Racing) kept a low profile over the winter, but the Russian could also feature, as could Oliver Webb (Fortec Motorsports), who returns to the series after a season in Indy Lights.

Amongst the newcomers vying for the title of 'best rookie' are Norman Nato (Dams), who took fourth place in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, and former F2, F3 GP3 drivers Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), Matias Laine (P1 Motorsport), Christopher Zanella and Sergey Sirotkin (ISR).

The first battle of the season - organised separately from the World Series by Renault, which will start on 27 and 28 April at Motorland Aragon - promises plenty of action at the circuit just outside Milan, dubbed the 'Temple of Speed'.

Combined with the slipstreaming effect, the use of DRS is set to make overtaking a little easier and with an average of eight to nine winners every season since the championship was created in 2005, the season is set to provide ample entertainment.


(Times are CET)

Thursday 4 April

15h00 - 18h00: collective tests

Friday 5 April

11h10 - 12h10: collective tests

15h45 - 16h45: collective tests

Saturday 6 April

9h00 - 9h30: qualifications 1

13h00: race 1 (44' + 1 lap)

Sunday 7 April

9h00 - 9h30: qualifications 2

13h05: race 2 (44' + 1 lap)

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