Of those drivers, four now belong to Formula One teams.
Robin Frijns (Fortec Motorsports) and Nick Yelloly (Comtec Racing) have already won a race each this season but they will be taking to the streets of the principality for first time, along with several of their rivals. The more experienced drivers in the field will no doubt fancy their chances of success, even though the Monaco street circuit has often been a happy hunting ground for rookies.
Ask any driver which race they would most like to win, and there is a strong chance that Monaco will be their answer. The 26 hopefuls in this year’s FR 3.5 Series will perhaps be keener to win in Monaco than anywhere else, especially when it is said that anyone who wins in the principality is destined to compete in Formula One.
The list of past FR 3.5 Series winners in Monaco certainly supports that theory. 2006 victor Pastor Maldonado recently won his first Formula One Grand Prix for Williams F1 Team at Catalunya. Charles Pic, who now drives for Marussia F1 Team, was a FR 3.5 Series rookie when he won in Monaco for the first time in 2008. His achievement was emulated a year later by Oliver Turvey, now a test driver for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. Current Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo, meanwhile, is the only competitor to have claimed two FR 3.5 Series wins in the principality.
Having scored a victory and a third place at Motorland Aragon, Robin Frijns arrives in Monaco as the overall championship leader. However, the 2011 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 champion will have his work cut out to hold on to top spot, with Nick Yelloly, Sam Bird (ISR), Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) and Arthur Pic (Dams) all mathematically able to dislodge him in Monaco. Frijns, Yelloly and Magnussen will all be taking to the streets of Monaco for the first time, whereas Bird, who claimed pole there in the GP2 Series last year, already knows the legendary circuit very well.
Several other drivers, including Jules Bianchi (Tech 1 Racing), Kevin Korjus (Tech 1 Racing), Walter Gruebmuller (P1 Motorsport), Daniil Move (P1 Motorsport), Mikhail Aleshin (Team RFR), Anton Nebylitskiy (Team RFR), Andre Negrao (International Draco Racing) and Alexander Rossi (Arden Caterham), are also well acquainted with the circuit. However, none of the 26 drivers in the field has ever won a race against the backdrop of the Monaco Grand Prix, and whoever triumphs on Sunday 27 May will be savouring the special taste of a Monaco victory for the very first time.
The entire field will know the importance of securing pole position in Monaco. For the first and only time this season there will be just one FR 3.5 Series race, with qualifying divided into two groups. The fastest driver of the two groups will start the race on pole, which could be decisive given that, with the exception of 2006, the FR 3.5 Series pole man has always gone on to win the race. Arthur Pic has performed best in qualifying so far, the Frenchman claiming pole position in both races of the opening round of the season. Pic will no doubt be hoping to emulate his elder brother, Charles, by securing two further poles on the streets of Monaco.
For the thousands of spectators expected to flock to Monaco, the FR 3.5 Series race will have a real Formula One Grand Prix flavour to it. Indeed, on Sunday morning at 11.00, drivers Richie Stanaway and Marco Sorensen will line up on the starting grid in the distinctive colours of Lotus, while the cars of Arden Caterham pair Alexander Rossi and Lewis Williamson will bear the liveries of Caterham F1 Team and Red Bull Racing respectively.
- Nick Yelloly
- Robin Frijns