Kiwi racing driver Richie Stanaway says he is going to have to prove himself all over again, following news that he will not be returning to Formula Renault 3.5 this year.
Stanaway competed in the series last year until a heavy crash at Belgium track Spa Francorchamps ended his season early, injuring his back and leading to a six-month break from the cockpit.
Although plans were made to resume normal service and step back into his old seat for this season, a lack of recent racing experience has led the 21-year-old driver's management to instead focus on other racing categories to help get back up to speed.
"For them [management] I'm a very large investment, and Formula Renault 3.5 was going to be a big risk since I've been out for so long and lost momentum," he said.
Instead, he will be turning his attention to other, lower formulae; although his plans will not be finalised until the end of January, it looks like a move to the European Formula 3 championship is going to be the most likely outcome.
"It's a smaller investment with more chance of winning . . . Lotus F1 also don't see a position opening up for another three or four years, so we've got a bit of time on our hands," he said.
The move will come as a bit of a disappointment, given that Formula Renault 3.5 is closely linked with leading Formula One team Lotus.
Still, the European Formula 3 championship, which has been around in various forms since 1975, is not for slouches. Winners of the original series include Formula One great Alain Prost, while recent winners of the Formula 3 Euro Series - which was recently incorporated into European Formula 3 championship - include current Formula One drivers Lewis Hamilton, Paul di Resta, and Nico Hulkenberg.
Before his injury, Stanaway was negotiating a tricky season in Formula Renault 3.5 with a string of mechanical issues constantly hobbling his progress. Nevertheless, he managed to qualify in a fine fourth place in the season opener at Motorland Aragon.
His last full season of racing was 2011, where he dominated the ATS Formel 3 Cup before taking part in the last two races of that year's GP3 championship; at the first race in Belgium, he stunned everybody by taking a win in only his second race in the car.
For now, though, he is focusing on the season ahead, taking part in an "intense" workout regimen to help get back into his first real competitive driving since June last year.
"I'm back to 100 per cent, just as I was before [the accident]," he said.
"I'm ready to get stuck back in."
- © Fairfax NZ News