Race One (April 16th)
Fortec’s Alexander Rossi took victory in his début Formula Renault 3.5 race in the season opener at Motorland Aragon in Spain.
The American headed Carlin’s Robert Wickens by 8.5 seconds at the flag, with Nelson Panciatici a further second adrift in 3rd at the wheel of his KMP-run machine.
Rossi had to wait to get the front. A stellar start by Daniil Move propelled the Russian ahead of Rossi off the line, while an error from poleman Wickens dropped him to 3rd.
It would stay like this for the opening half of the race, as the increasingly wide Move kept the chasing pack at bay – so much so that after eleven laps, the top ten were covered by less than six seconds.
Rossi became more forceful at every turn, eventually storming passed the Russian bravely over the start / finish stretch in a cloud of dust, despite being shoved against the pitwall.
From here, Rossi disappeared from view, as Wickens, et al, struggled to break Move’s defensive barrier.
The position would eventually come for Wickens. Exiting the final corner on the fourteenth tour, the Canadian made the decisive pass, shoving Move wide onto the dusty off-line as the corner unfolded.
Robbed of traction and exit speed, Move fell to 5th Panciatici and Albert Costa grabbing 3rd and 4th respectively.
Costa had the better of Panciatici in the early stages thanks a good start by the former. Indeed Panciatici had also been passed by the equally quick starting Walter Grubmuller, although Panciatici would retake the German on the fifth lap.
The fighting trio received a minor bonus a lap later when Kevin Korjus suffered the first of several spins. Costa made a similar error on the fourteenth tour, gifting the advantage to Panciatici; however the weakening Grubmuller was not so well placed having fallen behind the erratic Move.
Under pressure from the feisty Sten Pentus, Chris van der Drift and Jean-Eric Vergne for 6th place, errors began to creep into Grubmuller’s run.
Grubmuller finally did crack on lap sixteen. On the approach to turn one, the German pilot ran wide, taking van der Drift with him and allowing Vergne take both for a top-six finish.
Van der Drift proved less decisive – while close, the Kiwi could not take 7th from Grubmuller in the final laps.
Mistakes were also coming from Pentus, who fell to 9th after an off trying to pressure Grubmuller. His confidence broken, Pentus would soon lose out to Daniel Zampieri on lap eighteen, dropping the Estonian to 10th.
The opening lap was marred by a large crash that brought out a three-lap safety car. Approaching turn fourteen, Vergne cut across Arthur Pic, opening the door for Anton Nebylitskiy.
A recovering Pic drifted back onto track, clipping Nebylitskiy’s KMP machine as he passed, sending Nebylitskiy into a violent roll. Neither suffered any injuries.
2011 Formula Renault 3.5 Rnd of Barcelona (Rd 1, Race 1, 25 laps) Pos Driver Team Time / Gap 1. Alexander Rossi Fortec 46:29.465 2. Robert Wickens Carlin +8.521 3. Nelson Panciatici KMP Racing +9.647 4. Albert Costa Epic Racing +15.130 5. Daniil Move P1 Motorsport +26.564 6. Jean-Eric Vergne Carlin +27.052 7. Walter Grubmuller P1 Motorsport +27.536 8. Chris van der Drift Mofaz Racing +27.869 9. Daniel Zampieri BVM Target +28.754 10. Sten Pentus Epic Racing +30.042 FL. Alexander Rossi Fortec 1:44.867
Race Two (April 17th)
Kevin Korjus made it a good week for débutante’s when he scored a well-judged victory ahead of Alexander Rossi in Motorland Aragon. Epic Racing’s Albert Costa came home several seconds adrift in 3rd spot.
The Estonian took an immediate lead at the start when poleman Cesar Ramos bogged down, allowing both Korjus and Costa ahead.
As Korjus headed the field, Costa drifted toward the pack containing the recovering Ramos (3rd), Nelson Panciatici (4th), Robert Wickens (5th) and Rossi (6th).
Rossi became the first of the front-runners to stop (lap 8), with Costa and Wickens following on lap 9 and race leader Korjus, on the lap 10 mark.
The extra lap on fresh rubber allowed Rossi to jump both Costa and Wickens; however Korjus had built enough of a lead to keep the American in arrears. Panciatici never made it to the pits – the Frenchman retired with a mechanical problem at the halfway point.
Ramos, meanwhile, stayed out to run in clear air, but for too long. By the time the Brazilian stopped on lap 15, his tyres had ceased to be effective, dropping Ramos behind Korjus, Rossi and Costa, but ahead of Wickens.
It would stay like this to the end, with Korjus nabbing the fastest lap as well, although Rossi would push the Estonian to the flag.
Costa, too, felt pressure until the final moments, with Ramos and Wickens sticking firmly to the rear of the Spaniard – the trio would only be split by 1.5 seconds.
After starting 17th, Anton Nebylitskiy took an admirable 6th thanks to a solid start, good pit work and notable pace. Indeed, Jean-Eric Vergne had a similar run, climbing from 15th to 7th thanks to a good combination of strategy and speed.
Nathanaël Berthon endured a most difficult race, due to constant rearward pressure. The Frenchman led a eight-car train across the finish line – all of whom were covered by a mere 2.8 seconds.
Behind Berthon, Andre Negrao (9th) and Sergio Canamasas (10th) took the final points, while Sten Pentus, Jake Rosenzweig, Chris van der Drift, Arthur Pic and Lewis Williamson just missed out.
Williamson was later penalised 20 seconds for taking his compulsory pitstop outside the designated lap window.
2011 Formula Renault 3.5 Rnd of Barcelona (Rd 1, Race 2, 26 laps) Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Kevin Korjus Tech 1 46:11.799 2. Alexander Rossi Fortec +1.735 3. Albert Costa Epic +8.154 4. Cesar Ramos Fortec +8.777 5. Robert Wickens Carlin +9.679 6. Anton Nebylitskiy KMP +20.359 7. Jean-Eric Vergne Carlin +26.401 8. Nathanael Berthon ISR +34.925 9. Andre Negrao International Draco +35.099 10. Sergio Canamasas BVM Target +35.684 FL. Kevin Korjus Tech 1 1:44.325 2011 Formula 3.5 Series (Round 1) Drivers’ Championship Pos Driver Points 1. Alexander Rossi 43 2. Robert Wickens 28 3. Albert Costa 27 4. Kevin Korjus 25 5. Nelson Panciatici 15 Teams’ Championship Pos Team Points 1. Fortec 55 2. Carlin 42 3. Epic Racing 28 4. Tech 1 25 5. KMP Racing 23