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Bird leads opening FR3.5 practice UPDATE After taking the Formula Renault 3.5 Series championship lead on the streets of Monaco, Sam Bird (ISR) picked up from where he left off by recording the fastest lap in collective testing. Bird’s effort was more than three seconds quicker than the fastest ever Formula Renault 3.5 lap time at Spa. Richie Stanaway (Lotus), who finished first in the morning session and second in the afternoon, was also on the pace. The New Zealander will no doubt draw confidence from his display after a difficult weekend in Monaco.

Barely a week after Monaco, the 26 drivers in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series were in action again at Spa-Francorchamps. Two collective testing sessions, each 75 minutes long, were scheduled for Friday. And, as the drivers had never driven the new Formula Renault 3.5 on the circuit before, they all took the opportunity to get a number of laps under their belts over the course of the two sessions.

With the track still damp in parts, Kevin Korjus (Tech 1 Racing) was the first driver to top the timesheets. The day started badly for Lucas Foresti (Dams), however, after his car came to a stop at La Source hairpin and forced the red flag to come out.

The main players in the first session were Arthur Pic (Dams), Nico Müller (International Draco Racing), Kevin Magnussen and Sam Bird (ISR). Bird, who represents Mercedes AMG F1 Team, occupied first place for most of the session thanks to a flying lap of 1:59.877. As is often the case, the situation changed in the final ten minutes of the session, with a number of sets of fresh tires coming out. It was Richie Stanaway who took control of the session, before the rain returned once again. The iRace Professional driver held on to finish the session on top with a lap of 1:59.441, ahead of Alexander Rossi (Arden Caterham), Sam Bird, Nico Müller and Kevin Magnussen.

The second session was punctuated by several red flags, after Vittorio Ghirelli (Comtec Racing), Giovanni Venturini (BVM Target) and Alexander Rossi (Arden Caterham) each went off the track. Arthur Pic led at the start of the session, but Sam Bird then set about improving on the fastest time in spectacular fashion. Bird was the first of the drivers to better Richie Stanaway’s effort from the morning session, before eventually clocking the fastest time of the day with a lap of 1:58.838. In the final seconds of the session, Richie Stanaway managed to remove Kevin Magnussen from second place. With 17 cars in the same second, qualifying promises to be wide-open.

What they said:

Sam Bird: “Winning in Monaco was something I’d wanted to do. I did it and I hope I’ll do it again, but now I have to forget about that and focus completely on the rest of the season. Driving this weekend is the perfect way to do that. Monaco is a rather slow, narrow circuit, where you’re often in second gear. Spa is a different world altogether, with fast bends and long straights. We’ll need a different car, particularly in terms of aerodynamic set-up.”

Richie Stanaway: “It’s better to start the weekend like this rather than against the barrier, like at Monaco! It’s a circuit that I like a lot, and it’s a completely different feeling to know from the outset where the turns are. We started working with little aerodynamic load. We then added a bit and the car became very quick. I really want some big results here.”

Kevin Magnussen: “Like everyone else, we did a lot of work on our set-ups between sessions and, unsurprisingly, we improved our times. You really can’t make the slightest mistake with such small gaps. Personally, I made a small mistake during my best lap and it no doubt cost me first place. To get pole position you have to get a perfect lap, which is far from simple here.”

06/01/12 Mercedes F1 test driver Sam Bird led the way for ISR in Formula Renault 3.5 free practice at Spa on Friday.

Hot on the heels of his victory last week in Monaco, Bird topped the times early in the session and was never headed.

Arden's Alexander Rossi from the USA had a heavy crash that caused a red-flag.



Driver Team Time Behind
1. Sam Bird ISR 1m58.838s +0.000s
2. Richie Stanaway Lotus 1m58.869s +0.031s
3. Kevin Magnussen Carlin 1m58.878s +0.040s
4. Marco Sorensen Lotus 1m58.895s +0.057s
5. Kevin Korjus Tech 1 1m58.901s +0.063s
6. Daniil Move P1 1m59.068s +0.230s
7. Nico Muller Draco 1m59.071s +0.233s
8. Robin Frijns Fortec 1m59.113s +0.275s
9. Arthur Pic DAMS 1m59.174s +0.336s
10. Mikhail Aleshin RFR 1m59.286s +0.448s
11. Carlos Huertas Fortec 1m59.384s +0.546s
12. Walter Grubmuller P1 1m59.409s +0.571s
13. Will Stevens Carlin 1m59.585s +0.747s
14. Nick Yelloly Comtec 1m59.595s +0.757s
15. Jake Rosenzweig ISR 1m59.623s +0.785s
16. Jules Bianchi Tech 1 1m59.626s +0.788s
17. Lucas Foresti DAMS 2m00.173s +1.335s
18. Alexander Rossi Arden 2m00.377s +1.539s
19. Andre Negrao Draco 2m00.619s +1.781s
20. Giovanni Venturini BVM Target 2m00.738s +1.900s
21. Zoel Amberg Pons 2m00.812s +1.974s
22. Lewis Williamson Arden 2m00.975s +2.137s
23. Yann Cunha Pons 2m01.091s +2.253s
24. Vittorio Ghirelli Comtec 2m01.120s +2.282s
25. Anton Nebylitskiy RFR 2m01.385s +2.547s
26. Nikolay Martsenko BVM Target 2m01.528s +2.690s

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