The Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship once again underlined its credentials as a stepping-stone to Formula 1 this week as no fewer than seven of its former racers took part in the F1 young driver tests at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi.
Twenty-year-old Dean Stoneman from Southampton was the most recent Formula Renault UK graduate to test an F1 car after earning the chance to pilot a Williams F1 machine as a prize for winning this year’s FIA Formula Two Championship. Stoneman, who raced in the one-make Renault series in 2008 and 2009 with Alpine Motorsport, instantly impressed on his debut ending the day’s first test session as the fifth quickest driver and ahead of others racers with more experience.
Surrey racer Sam Bird, who finished fourth in the 2006 series with Fortec Motorsport, also got the chance to test an F1 car this week at the 3.451m circuit running with the Mercedes GP Team, while 2003 and 2004 Formula Renault UK driver Paul Di Resta got to pilot a Force India F1 car.
There were also tests for 2004 and 2005 Renault racer Rodolfo Gonzalez (Lotus), Oliver Turvey (McLaren), who took part in the 2003 Winter Series, while Force India also tested Antonio Felix de Costa, Winter Series racer in 2008, and 2005 Formula Renault UK driver Yelmer Buurman.
In addition, almost all of the drivers taking part in the post-race tests have raced in either Formula Renault 2.0, Formula Renault Eurocup or Formula Renault 3.5 with Daniel Ricciardo, Mikhail Aleshin and Jean Eric Vergne just some of the pilots that have risen through Renault’s worldwide single-seater championships.
Championship Promoter Simon North commented: “It’s very encouraging to see so many former Renault racers testing in Abu Dhabi this week and clearly demonstrates the championship’s credentials as a passport to Formula 1. Pedro de La Rosa, Heikki Kovalainen, Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Räikkönen are just some of the past Formula Renault UK racers who have achieved F1 stardom and it would be great to see some of this week’s drivers follow in their footsteps.”