Oliver Rowland feels like the underdog and says he has "nothing to lose" in the battle to impress Renault against other members of its driver line-up.
The Renault Sport Academy was launched at the start of this season following the French manufacturer's decision to return to F1 as a constructor. 2015 Formula Renault 3.5 champion Rowland is an academy member racing for MP Motorsport in GP2 this season against two other Renault-affiliated drivers in the form of ART's Sergey Sirotkin and DAMS driver Nicholas Latifi. Sirotkin acts as a development driver for Renault and drove in FP1 at the Russian Grand Prix, while Latifi is named as a test driver.
Asked during an exclusive interview with F1i if he feels any added pressure to perform from Renault, Rowland replied: "No.
"To be honest I’m not really sure what they expect from the whole… because it was a little bit difficult, the decision we made, to be in the team that we’re in. I’m not sure if they thought ‘oh, we might have let him down a little bit so we really don’t know what to expect’. But there’s no pressure from them, I just do my best.
"Obviously after Silverstone when I was leading the championship I looked a bit of a hero, and now it’s like we need to really improve. But I don’t feel anything from them.
"Fred [Vasseur, Renault team principal] is a really good guy, he understands and knows, I don’t really have to explain myself to him. I just tell him how we’re getting on and how we can improve and he seems really relaxed about it.
"I have both Latifi and Sirotkin as well in Renault, I’ve beaten both of them. So, so far it’s quite good. It’s quite clear that Sirotkin has had better pace just not done the job he should have done, so I don’t feel any extra pressure. If anything I feel a bit like I’m the underdog and I’ve got nothing to lose.”
Sirotkin currently leads the standings on results count back from Pierre Gasly after a strong weekend in Germany, but Rowland sits in fifth place, 14 points off the championship lead.