One of the most highly-rated junior formulae returns from its summer break tomorrow, as Formula Renault returns to racing. With just six races to go at three double-header rounds – at the Hungaroring, Circuit Paul Ricard and at Jerez, realistically there are just two drivers who are in with a shout of being the successor to Kevin Magnussen, who this year has shown some incredible speed in Formula One with McLaren. However, there are plenty of other competitors who feel as if they still have a shot at claiming this highly coveted crown.
2014 Formula Renault 3.5 Season championship contenders
Carlos Sainz Jr. – DAMS – 1st – 157 points – 5 wins
Sainz was tipped to easily take both this title and a Scuderia Toro Rosso seat this season. Despite five wins, he has a much smaller lead in the championship than he would have liked, especially after losing out on said Toro Rosso seat to the far less experienced Max Verstappen. Having picked up just 33 points over the last four races while his main rival has picked up far more, Sainz will need to get his year back on track as he considers his future with the Red Bull Juniors.
Roberto Merhi (R) – Zeta Corse – 2nd – 118 points – 2 wins
Merhi, now a Caterham Formula One Friday driver as of the Italian Grand Prix, has been largely impressive in his first season at this level. He had a relatively slow start to the season but has picked up points in every race except the two at Spa. He has picked up 80 points out of a possible 100 over the last four races and will be hoping that his new F1 experience will help him towards the title.
Pierre Gasly (R) – Arden Motorsport – 3rd – 103 points – 0 wins
Gasly has given fellow Red Bull Junior Sainz a run for his money at times, despite being younger and less experienced at this level. He is the only driver other than Norman Nato to finish every race this season and despite not winning, he has finished on the rostrum four times. He had his first taste of a GP2 car last week which resulted in a heavy shunt with Artem Markelov and will be hoping to not see a repeat of that during the rest of this season.
Oliver Rowland (R) – Fortec Motorsports – 4th – 96 points – 1 win
Rowland has been largely impressive this year, and is currently outscoring his more experienced team mate. While 61 points is a huge gap to climb to Sainz, with 150 points still available, a late title charge is certainly not out impossible. Three retirements in the last six rounds has certainly not helped.
Sergey Sirotkin – Fortec Motorsports – 5th – 89 points – 1 win
12 months ago, Sirotkin was linked with a Sauber Formula One drive for this season. While he may be glad to not be running around in a terrible car this year in F1, many were expecting him to challenge for the title this year. While four retirements in a row has not helped, being outraced by his less experienced team mate also has not been a good point for the young Russian.
Will Stevens – Strakka Racing – 6th – 84 points – 1 win
Stevens won the opening round of the championship in good fashion, but since then, he has achieved just two podiums. None of his other finishes have been top 5 finishes and he is definitely an outsider when it comes to snatching this championship.
While I believe that it will be tough for Sainz to lose the championship at this point, I believe Merhi’s new F1 experience will only do him good, and he clearly has the momentum to challenge regularly for strong results. This is one championship fight that is pretty intriguing and I feel that it is pretty certain that a Spaniard will come out on top, though it is tough to decide on which one.
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