Fortec's Cesar Ramos led the way in Formula Renault 3.5 free practice at Spa-Francorchamps
The Brazilian, who claimed pole position for the second race of the season at Aragon a fortnight ago, set the quickest time of 2m04.337s in the afternoon's second session.
ISR's Daniel Ricciardo finished an impressive second, 0.472s adrift of Ramos, in his first Formula Renault 3.5 meeting of the season. Ricciardo sat out the opening round in order drive for Toro Rosso in free practice at the Chinese Grand Prix. The Australian will be determined to make inroads into a 43 point deficit to series leader Alexander Rossi (Fortec), who was fourth quickest.
Having appeared less than content with his podium at Aragon, Albert Costa was all smiles in third, just 0.027s behind Ricciardo.
The EPIC Racing driver said: "I am happy, but there's still a big gap to Ramos. Things are much better than in Motorland [Aragon]. For me there were too many corners there where you are braking and turning at the same time. I like Spa, and I think most of the other tracks this year you are doing the majority of your braking in a straight line."
KMP Racing's Nelson Panciatici continued his strong form from round one to take fifth ahead of Robert Wickens. Carlin driver Wickens took a brief break from serious business by posting a joke picture on Twitter of watching the royal wedding from the cockpit of his Dallara.
Wickens' team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne headed the morning session with a fastest time of 2m05.27s. The British Formula 3 champion was half a second faster than BVM Target's Daniel Zampieri, who claimed second at Spa despite a drive-through penalty with Pons in 2010. Vergne had a more trying afternoon, finding the gravel at the Rivage hairpin.
Last year's Spa polesitter Jake Rosenzweig suffered engine trouble. "We were 5-10kph down, so we're changing the engine now," said the Mofaz driver.
Rosenzweig's team-mate Chris van der Drift did well to claim eighth spot, despite having only one set of new tyres following brake problems at Aragon that destroyed several sets of rubber.
Aragon race two victor Kevin Korjus was 22nd in the morning session and 19th in the afternoon. "We had some problems today," said the Estonian. "I think half the problem may be me, and then we also have some small problems with the car."
Korjus's Tech 1 Racing team boss Simon Abadie stated that he would be happy if the 18-year-old could finish in the top 10 in Saturday's race and in the top five on Sunday.
Session one:Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Jean-Eric Vergne Carlin 2m05.271s 2. Daniel Zampieri Target 2m05.777s + 0.506s 3. Robert Wickens Carlin 2m05.890s + 0.619s 4. Arthur Pic Tech 1 2m05.901s + 0.630s 5. Anton Nebylitskiy KMP 2m05.953s + 0.682s 6. Daniel Ricciardo ISR 2m05.994s + 0.723s 7. Albert Costa EPIC 2m06.084s + 0.813s 8. Daniil Move P1 2m06.098s + 0.827s 9. Walter Grubmuller P1 2m06.110s + 0.839s 10. Alexander Rossi Fortec 2m06.117s + 0.846s 11. Sergio Canamasas Target 2m06.118s + 0.847s 12. Brendon Hartley Gravity-Charouz 2m06.199s + 0.928s 13. Chris van der Drift Mofaz 2m06.315s + 1.044s 14. Jan Charouz Gravity-Charouz 2m06.420s + 1.149s 15. Nelson Panciatici KMP 2m06.476s + 1.205s 16. Sten Pentus EPIC 2m06.618s + 1.347s 17. Stephane Richelmi Draco 2m06.685s + 1.414s 18. Andre Negrao Draco 2m06.796s + 1.525s 19. Nathanael Berthon ISR 2m06.891s + 1.620s 20. Cesar Ramos Fortec 2m06.912s + 1.641s 21. Oliver Webb Pons 2m07.002s + 1.731s 22. Kevin Korjus Tech 1 2m07.116s + 1.845s 23. Jean-Karl Vernay Pons 2m07.250s + 1.979s 24. Jake Rosenzweig Mofaz 2m07.905s + 2.634s 25. Daniel McKenzie Comtec 2m08.461s + 3.190s 26. Daniel de Jong Comtec 2m08.745s + 3.474s Session two:Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Cesar Ramos Fortec 2m04.337s 2. Daniel Ricciardo ISR 2m04.809s + 0.472s 3. Albert Costa EPIC 2m04.836s + 0.499s 4. Alexander Rossi Fortec 2m04.899s + 0.562s 5. Nelson Panciatici KMP 2m05.188s + 0.851s 6. Robert Wickens Carlin 2m05.195s + 0.858s 7. Daniil Move P1 2m05.237s + 0.900s 8. Chris van der Drift Mofaz 2m05.275s + 0.938s 9. Walter Grubmuller P1 2m05.385s + 1.048s 10. Sten Pentus EPIC 2m05.405s + 1.068s 11. Sergio Canamasas Target 2m05.430s + 1.093s 12. Brendon Hartley Gravity-Charouz 2m05.455s + 1.118s 13. Stephane Richelmi Draco 2m05.509s + 1.172s 14. Daniel Zampieri Target 2m05.593s + 1.256s 15. Arthur Pic Tech 1 2m05.633s + 1.296s 16. Jean-Karl Vernay Pons 2m05.673s + 1.336s 17. Oliver Webb Pons 2m05.838s + 1.501s 18. Jake Rosenzweig Mofaz 2m05.846s + 1.509s 19. Kevin Korjus Tech 1 2m05.968s + 1.631s 20. Nathanael Berthon ISR 2m06.154s + 1.817s 21. Anton Nebylitskiy KMP 2m06.181s + 1.844s 22. Jan Charouz Gravity-Charouz 2m06.202s + 1.865s 23. Daniel de Jong Comtec 2m06.711s + 2.374s 24. Daniel McKenzie Comtec 2m06.914s + 2.577s 25. Andre Negrao Draco 2m07.310s + 2.973s 26. Jean-Eric Vergne Carlin 2m07.729s + 3.392s
The 2015 Formula Renault 3.5 season will be notable for being the last with the French company's backing but also produced a worthy champion in Oliver Rowland. PETER MILLS evaluates this year's crop of drivers
Last year's field was extraordinary and hard to match, but the Formula Renault 3.5 grid will still have plenty of talent this season. Glenn Freeman runs through the field ahead of this weekend's season opener
Landing the Fortec seat that took rising star Robin Frijns to the 2012 FR3.5 title was already a good sign for Stoffel Vandoorne. Then McLaren took him under its wing. Peter Mills tells Vandoorne's story so far