After the loss of Renault at the end of 2015, the Formula V8 3.5 went it alone and for 2017, the FIA approved the title of World Series and therefore the World Series Formula V8 3.5 is born, promoted by RPM Racing. As one of the top level single seater championship across the globe paving a way to either Formula 1 or Sportscars, the 2017 season got underway in support of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at Silverstone on the Easter Weekend. Competing over nine weekends across the globe, the Silverstone curtain raiser would see a fresh batch of drivers and teams looking to replicate the performances of 2016 Champion Tom Dillman to be crown 2017 champion in a highly competitive one make formula. The Dallara T12 produces spectacular racing and the sound of the V8 engine produces sounds similar to the older generation F1 machinery.
As a proving ground for future talents, the class of 2017 were looking to go places and in top teams like Lotus, one to watch was generation racer Pietro Fittipaldi, as the grandson of Emerson was taking part in his second season, switching from Fortec to partner Rene Binder (nephew of former F1 driver Hans Binder) and looking to use his experience of 2016 to challenge for the title. With a space at Fortec, Force India test driver Alfonso Celis, Jr moved across from AV Formula to challenge for overall honours. Partnering Celis, Jr at Fortec is fellow countryman Diego Menchaca, who has experience of Silverstone from his time in Britain when he was competing in the BRDC F4 Championship. As Celis Jr left AV Formula, the Spanish team had hired the services of Russians Matevos Isaakyan and Egor Orudzhev to create a partnership with SMP Racing and be a force to be reckoned with in the paddock. With a grid of 12 for the opening round of the season at Silverstone and the cars lapping only THREE seconds slower than the WEC LMP1s, the motto that the championship carries of “Where the Stars are Born” was definitely right ahead of opening race on Saturday.
Fittipaldi Opens his Account for 2017
Being singled out as the favourite for the title after performances in the build up to the new season, Pietro Fittipaldi didn’t disappoint in the opening qualifying session of the season on Friday, as on a wet to drying circuit and even with a yellow flag caution period, Fittipaldi lapped Silverstone in 1:41.660. The Brazilian time in the Lotus was impressive and the team had two reasons to smile, as team mate Rene Binder was 0.2s slower to line up on the front row alongside Fittipaldi. The Lotus team didn’t have it all their own way early on though, as rookie Konstantin Tereschenko for Teo Martin Motorsport led the opening ten minutes before one of the SMP Racing Russians led as Egor Orudzhev went quickest. Once the two Lotus drivers locked out the front row, SMP secured row two with Orudzhev and Isaakyan third and fourth, ahead of the Mexican Fortec pairing, making an exciting prospect for turn 1 in race 1 on which team mate would give the most room?
Lining up on the front row, the question was which Lotus would get away the better and when the lights went green, it was the Brazilian as Rene Binder lit up the rears, allowing both SMP Racing cars to jump him into turn one, whilst it got tight behind. As Celis Jr won the battle of the Mexicans to secure fifth, team mate Diego Menchaca got into contact with Konstantin Tereschenko, having to pit to repair damage, whilst Roy Nissany became the early retiree following damage. With all the drama happening behind, Pietro Fittipaldi got on with the task at hand, breaking clear from the two SMP Racing Russians, led by Egor Orudzhev, whilst team mate Rene Binder was slipping further back in fourth and seeing Celis in his mirrors.
The race for fourth intensified between Binder and Celis, with Binder pulling off some fantastic defence driving and keeping the Fortec driver in fifth. As the race reached the mid-way mark, Celis and Binder ran wheel to wheel, before the Mexican sold Binder the dummy and moved up to fourth on lap 15 with the perfect pass at Woodcote. As one Lotus dropped a place, there was a slight worry for the team at the front of the field, as it sounded like Fittipaldi was nursing a sick Lotus, especially as the gap between him and Orudzhev decreased and continued to fall. Whilst it looked like one SMP Racing driver was on the race win if Fittipaldi lost it, the other was on the brink of losing his podium, as Celis was charging. Once disposing of Binder, nothing looked to be stopping the Mexican, setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 16. In the final stages Celis caught Isaakyan and after resisting pressure, the Russian finally made an error, handing Celis the final podium spot and giving British team Fortec a podium on home soil.
As Fittipaldi held on to record his first win in World Series Formula V8 3.5 and his first for Lotus, SMP Racing came home in second, only to see Egor Orudzhev excluded post-race for a technical infringement. This promoted Alfonso Celis Jr. to second and gave a podium spot back to the other SMP Racing car of Matevos Isaakyan. As Binder came home fourth following the exclusion, Italian Damiano Fioravanti had a quiet race in fifth, but not before he was nearly caught in final stages by rookie Nelson Mason, who had an eventful race for Teo Martin Motorsport, especially after having a couple of close shaves against team mate Tereschenko when the two decided to bash wheels at a few of the corners and force one another wide on more than one occasion.
Following the exclusion of Egor Orudzhev, SMP Racing appealed the result and these were declared as pending following review.
World Series Formula V8 3.5, Silverstone – Race 1 Top 5:
- Pietro Fittipaldi (No.4 – Lotus) = 24 Laps = 42:05.753s
- Alfonso Celis Jr (No.7 – Fortec Motorsport) = +1.584s
- Matevos Isaakyan (No.6 – SMP Racing by AVF) = +6.295s
- Rene Binder (No.3 – Lotus) = +13.977s
- Damiano Fioravanti (No.16 – IL Barone Rampante) = +16.208s
Fittipaldi ends the weekend with a Double in Everything
Qualifying for Sunday’s race took place on Saturday morning and with the World Series Formula V8 3.5 opening the day, the session was declared wet as damp patches were still visible following overnight rain. With Fittipaldi and Lotus looking to repeat results from Q1, wet tires were going to affect lap times and the early pace setter was Egor Orudzhev form SMP Racing, closely followed by Rene Binder. With the track drying minute by minute, running was effected after 8 minutes when rookie Konstantin Tereschenko was caught out, stopping at turn 13 and bringing out a code 60, full course yellow and halting any improvements in times. Once the session resumed with just over 16 minutes remaining, a switch in tires saw changes to the running order and RP Motorsport’s Roy Nissany had jumped to the top of the time sheet, lapping in a time of 1:55.317. It wasn’t long however before Lotus got up to speed and Pietro went quickest, nearly 7 seconds faster than his rivals with a time of 1:47.787. As Binder challenged his team mate, Lotus yet again locked out the front row as with a minute to go, session was red flagged due to an off by Giuseppe Cirpiani (Il Barone Rampante) and meant Roy Nissany had to settle for third behind the Lotus pairing, alongside top rookie Nelson Mason (Teo Martin Motorsport).
With Pietro Fittipaldi and Rene Binder again locking out the front row for Lotus, Fittipaldi repeated his performance from Saturday, timing the lights to perfection whilst Binder struggled to get away and got swallowed up by the chasing pack. As Roy Nissany slotted into second and fended off the SMP Racing duo, Binder recovered to fifth by the end of lap one and couldn’t seem to challenge Orudzhev and Isaakyan ahead. There was unfortunately one driver who suffered on the opening lap as Italian Damiano Fioravanti stalled on the grid in the II Barone Rampante car and had to be re-fired up in the pit lane, re-joining at the back of the field.
With the race being longer than Saturday’s and including a pit stop, Yu Kanamaru was the first to stop, however this was to retire from proceedings after an off on lap four. The first to properly stop and change tires was Alfonso Celis Jr, hoping an early stop would vault him up the order from outside the top five. Whilst Fittipaldi pulled out a nice advantage out front, the Lotus driver stopped a lap later, handing the lead to Roy Nissany. A period of lead changes took place over the following laps when leaders pitted for tires on laps six, seven and eight. By lap ten, Matevos Isaakyan pitted from the lead, re-joining ahead of Nelson Mason. As the two jostled for position on fresh tires, the Teo Martin Motorsport and SMP Racing cars collided at Brooklands. With both cars stranded and needing recovering, the safety car was deployed as Fittipaldi had moved up from seventh after his stop to lead the way for Lotus, with Isaskyan’s team mate Egor Orudzhev in second.
Three laps went by behind the safety car before the race got back underway and once the safety car exited the circuit, Fittipaldi began to dominant, pulling clear of Orudzhev to be more than two seconds clear of Orudzhev by lap twenty and continuing to secure win number two of the season, as Nissany held third with Binder and Konstantin Tereschenko running nose to nose in fourth and fifth. Positions remained unchanged in the closing stages of the race, apart from Fortec Motorsport team mates swapping in sixth and seventh, as Alfonso Celis Jr picked up additional points passing Diego Menchaca in a battle for team honour and out doing his fellow countryman.
World Series Formula V8 3.5 Championship Race Two Top Five:
- Pietro Fittipaldi (No.4 – Lotus) = 22 Laps = 41:50.035
- Egor Orudzhev (No.5 – SMP Racing with AVF) = +2.623s
- Roy Nissany (No.11 – RP Motorsport) = +5.404s
- Rene Binder (No.3 – Lotus) = +6.298s
- Konstantin Tereschenko (No.9 – Teo Martin Motorsport) = +6.930s
The second round of the 2017 World Series Formula V8 3.5 Championship takes place at the famous Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium on the 5th and 6th May along with the FIA World Endurance Championship and Lotus driver Pietro Fittipaldi held the comfortable advantage, sitting on top of the standings on 50 points after taking the full 25 points in both races. As the drivers behind either tripped themselves up or faced exclusions, Fortec Motorsport’s Alfonso Celis Jr holds second in the standings, 24 points behind Fittipaldi after missing out on a top five finish in race two, but benefitted from Orudzhev’s exclusion in race 1 to finish second. Its Fittipaldi’s team mate Rene Binder in third after Silverstone, two points back from Celis Jr on 24 points after taking third and fourth in both races. One of the main challengers to Fittipaldi in both races was Egor Orudzhev and after exclusion from race one, the Russian for SMP Racing lied fourth in the standings on only eighteen points and you can expect a fight back from the driver and the team in Belgium.
World Series Formula V8 3.5 Championship Standings After Silverstone
- Pietro Fittipaldi (No.4 – Lotus) = 50 Pts.
- Alfonso Celis Jr (No.7 – Fortec Motorsport) = 26 Pts.
- Rene Binder (No.3 – Lotus) = 24 Pts.
- Egor Orudzhev (No.5 – SMP Racing with AVF) = 18 Pts.
- Konstantin Tereschenko (No.9 – Teo Martin Motorsport) = 16 Pts.
- Matevos Isaakyan (No.6 – SMP Racing with AVF) = 15 Pts.
- Roy Nissany (No.11 = RP Motorsport) = 15 Pts.
For more photos of Saturday’s action at Silverstone, please click here.
For more information on the championship, please visit http://www.worldseriesv8.com/
Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs.