For Oliver Rowland, 2015 was all about records: most victories, podiums and points in a season in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series and an unprecedented run of 20 consecutive top ten finishes. At 23 years of age, the Racing Steps Foundation-backed Englishman has done it all in the categories organized by Renault Sport Technologies and now hopes to have a chance at the next level.
Following a brilliant career in karting where he won the 2008 KF2 World Cup and 2010 Super KF-KF1, Rowland's single-seater debut was just as promising when he finished runner-up in the 2011 Formula Renault UK in his first full season.
After winning the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Award, the Brit moved on to the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, where he finished third behind Stoffel Vandoorne and Daniil Kvyat. The British Rookie of the Year left Fortec Motorsports for Manor MP Motorsports the following year with New Formula Renault 2.0, where he rallied the troops both at the track and back at the factory, taking his racing to the next level in battling Pierre Gasly for the title.
"There were doubts about me. The winter was tricky, but we stayed focused and the results started to come. It made me both mentally and physically stronger. It was an excellent season, although I didn't get the title", comments Rowland.
In 2014, Rowland's entourage, featuring former F1 driver Derek Warwick, continued its participation in the Renault-organized feeder formula. The Englishman made the jump to the Formula Renault 3.5 Series and returned to Fortec Motorsports. Very early on, the chemistry between the Richard Dutton-run team and the Barnsley native took hold, resulting in fourth place in the general classification. While he lost out on rookie of the year honors, he was the only first-year driver to win a race, not once but twice.
"After the strong first year, returning for another was the best thing to do. I needed a year to learn everything and one to win. I was a bit apprehensive about the idea of coming back to race against a weak field, but I was fortunate to face brilliant competitors," reflects Rowland.
Despite his compliments, returning for 2015, Rowland won at the opening round and then at every circuit on the calendar, except Monaco. Even with the best efforts of Matthieu Vaxiviere, the Englishman took the title at Le Mans, one meeting before the end of the season, as well as several records.
Says Rowland, "everything went beautifully. Some moments will remain engraved in my memory like getting behind the wheel of an F1 car at Silverstone and then winning on Sunday. There was never a low point, although I am disappointed not to have done a double and not winning at Monaco."
"None of this would've been possible without the support of the Racing Steps Foundation. They gave me an opportunity to show what I can do. Thanks also to Matthieu Vaxiviere for having been an incredibly fast rival on one lap. The starts and consistency was probably where the differences were, although we were never allowed to relax!"
"I'd also like to thank Renault for the five years with them, including the last four in the World Series by Renault. I debuted in Formula Renault 2.0 before stepping up to the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. It is a first-rate driver development academy and I don't think there is a better school to progress as a driver. Nothing of what I have said can match the accomplishments some of the former drivers have done today. I must still remain patient to know about my future, but F1 is not an impossibility."
Derek Warwick, BRDC President and former F1 driver: "Oliver dominated the season with style! The World Series by Renault provided him with a superb opportunity to demonstrate his talent and the future promises to be exciting. We are speaking with a lot of people about his future. Many are convinced about his incredible talent. Several teams in the GP2 Series have shown an interest and we are also in contact with two F1 teams and others in the DTM."
Jean-Pascal Dauce, Renault Sport Technologies Motorsport Director: "We've watched Oliver grow up over the past few seasons in our driver development program categories. We are extremely happy to have such a deserving champion, both on and off the track. Against competitors that never gave up, his title capped off a run where he showed an innate sense of attack and an incredible talent. We wish him the best in his future adventures and his occasional showings in the GP2 Series confirmed his potential, like when he overtook Stoffel Vandoorne!
Thank you to Derek Warwick, Derek Walters and the Racing Steps Foundation for the trust that has been shown to the World Series by Renault. We hope we did our best to help Oliver to become the complete driver he is and to build him as the perfect package for any team he will be with!"
Born:10 August 1992, Barnsley (Great-Britain)
2010:Formula Renault 2.0 UK Winter Cup (7th)
2011:Formula Renault 2.0 UK (2nd), Formula Renault 2.0 UK Finals (Winner)
2012:Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 (3rd)
2013:Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 (2nd)
2014:Formula Renault 3.5 Series (4th)
2015:Formula Renault 3.5 Series (Winner) – Nominated for the Autosport Awards for British driver of the year.