Berthon leads first FR3.5 session

Frenchman Nathanael Berthon set the pace for reigning teams' champion Draco at the Formula Renault 3.5 Series' final pre-season collective test at Motorland Aragon this morning

Berthon leads first FR3.5 session

Pons driver Federico Leo ended the three and half hour session just 0.166 seconds adrift in second, but the improving Italian felt that he had missed an opportunity to take the top spot.

"We completed our programme," said Leo, "but I can't say that I am happy with my time as I had two yellow flags after fitting new tyres. That meant driving around slowly for three laps, I'm sure on fresh rubber that I could have gone two or three tenths quicker."

British Formula 3 runner-up Walter Grubmuller was third fastest for P1 Motorsport, ahead of KMP Racing's Victor Garcia.

Austrian team Interwetten, which has recently expanded their operation to include a Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup team, made its first Formula Renault 3.5 appearance of the season with 2008 German Formula 3 champion Frederic Vervisch and 2009 European F3 Open champion Bruno Mendez at the wheel.

Briton Jon Lancaster, a race winner in 2009 with Comtec, was another to break cover after an eventful close-season, driving for Fortec.

"It's been a very difficult winter, and it's a funny feeling being back in a car as I haven't driven since November," said Lancaster. "I haven't signed yet with Fortec, but it's looking good.

"I was all ready to do [the GP2 Asia race in] Bahrain last weekend with Arden, and then [Rodolfo] Gonzalez turned up. I hope that Christian [Horner] wasn't playing us off each other. This team seems good, though. It's effectively Mofaz from last year without the Malaysians."

With reigning British Formula 3 champion Daniel Ricciardo fulfilling his Red Bull Formula 1 reserve duties at his home grand prix in Melbourne, Brendon Hartley will be partnered at Tech 1 by the 2009 Sud-Am Formula 3 champion Leonardo Santos Corderio and runner-up Claudio Cantelli. Both have been invited as a prize by Red Bull in light of their achievements last year, and will receive half a day of running each.

Sergio Canamasas continued to evaluate his options for the coming season; having driven for Fortec at Barcelona earlier this month and ISR at the most recent collective test at Jerez, the Spaniard sampled SG Formula machinery today.

The test will conclude tomorrow, with running exclusively given over to the testing of the low-downforce setting that will be mandatory during this year's Saturday sprint races. Motorland Aragon will play host to the opening round on April 17/18.

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