Hockenhiem, Germany – Max Defourny was crowned 2016 Formula Renault 2.0 NEC vice-champion this weekend with a clean sweep of podium finishes at the series’ final round from Hockenheim.
Max enjoyed a consistent weekend at the German circuit, showing strong pace at the helm of R-ace GP’s car #33. The Belgian added 68 points to his 2016 haul to take second in the championship, one year after becoming the NEC rookie champion. His performance in the Northern European series ended on a high with three podium finishes from a busy three-race weekend.
Indeed, Max’s final NEC round of the year began in earnest with the teenager securing the fastest lap overall in free practice. His 1m 37.445s was enough to put him ahead of title rival, and eventual champion, Lando Norris, further proving Max’s abilities over one flying lap. Originally second fastest at the close of morning practice, some fresh tyres made the difference, pushing Max to the top of time sheets ahead of qualifying.
Just before Max could begin Q1, the rain made itself known, having threatened to disrupt the session all day. Towards the end, the track was drying quickly and traffic occurred as each of the 22 drivers rushed to complete a flying lap in the ever-changing conditions. As a result, Max settled for P5 on the grid for race one. By the time Max and his rivals lined up on the grid for the first race of the weekend, the unpredictable German weather brought dry conditions on track.
Max subsequently overtook James Allen into the first corner and was a solid P3 by the end of Lap 1. Max and Norris were then side-by-side, fighting for bragging rights in the championship when a safety car was called to the track. Coupled with a new rain shower, Max was forced to pit for tyres hereby disrupting his chances of overtaking Norris. Although the session was eventually red-flagged, 75% of the distance had been covered under the safety car, allowing Max to obtain a full 20 points from the race. Despite only one and a half laps taking place without the presence of a safety car, Max walked away with a strong podium finish.
For a second time, traffic cost Max when he qualified P2 for race two. Maintaining second place after the first lap, Max found himself in a tussle for the win with Russian racer, Robert Shwartzman. Max continually piled on the pressure and forced the Josef Kaufmann driver to make a few mistakes. However, these errors occurred in positions on track not suitable for overtaking, forcing Max to cross the line P2 with the fastest lap to his credit. It was with this podium finish he secured second in the championship after Dorian Boccolacci failed to finish. With his status as 2016 vice-champion secured, the team championship was on Max’s mind for the third and final race of the weekend.
Max lined up P5 on the grid. Tech 1 Racing were the team to fight in the championship and their driver Sacha Fenestraz was on pole and Boccolacci just one place behind Max in the starting order. The Belgian teenager took the fight to the Tech 1 Racing duo, throwing himself into an accomplished overtaking manoeuvre. At the hairpin, Max launched his car #33 onto the brakes, making the corner in confident fashion to secure the overtake from a great distance. Although the safety car was again introduced in the final few laps, Max took P2 for his ninth podium of the 2016 FR2.0 NEC season. R-ace GP also walked away as vice team champions with a 19-point advantage over the Tech 1 Racing team.
“That overtake in race three was probably the best of my entire career,” reflected DCM’s Max post-race. “I managed to pull it off from quite a long distance and was particularly proud of that manoeuvre this weekend.”
With the end of the seventh round comes the close of the 2016 NEC season. Reflecting on his campaign, Max was pleased with his consistency, having only once being forced to retire his car all year.
“We can be happy with P2 in the driver and team championships,” he continued. “The gap to Norris may seem large but it was small details which cost us the championship to him.
“The team did a great job all season, now we just need to focus on the Eurocup round coming up later this month and finishing my season on a high at Estoril.”
Max’s final charge of the season will take place from 22-23 October in Cascais, Portugal.