Race One (April 30th)
Robert Wickens expertly controlled the opening Formula Renault 3.5 race at Spa-Francorchamps to claim his first win of the season.
The Carlin pilot led his rookie teammate Jean-Eric Vergne for the duration, while Albert Costa grabbed another podium for Epic Racing.
Having also claimed pole, Wickens led from the start, although Vergne was keen not to let the Canadian escape from his sights.
Track him was all Vergne could manage. The Frenchman at no point looked like passing Wickens for the win and while the gap between the pair largely remained under two seconds each lap around, the race leader seemed safe.
It could have been quite different had Costa pulled off his attempt on the opening tour. The Spaniard ran in 2nd place up Eau Rouge, dropping to 3rd when his lunge at Les Combes went awry.
Wickens held the advantage for the rest of the way, leading Vergne by 2.6 seconds come the chequered flag.
Once in 3rd, Costa endured somewhat more intense pressure from Nelson Panciatici and Brendon Hartley for the remaining laps.
The Epic Racing pilot was kept on his toes by his respective chasers; however while Panciatici was concerned about attacking, the Frenchman was also defending had from Hartley.
Panciatici would hold Hartley off until the final lap, when at last, the Kiwi surged passed for 4th on the approach into Les Combes. Now 5th, Panciatici had no time to reclaim his lost bounty, eventually finishing 1.1 seconds shy of Hartley.
Hartley, meanwhile, was a mere three-tenths off of Costa come the line.
Daniil Move and Alexander Rossi also showed their noses. Lingering just shy of the 3rd place battle for much of the running.
In another steady drive, Move held 6th for the duration, despite the presence of the aggressive Rossi, who had passed Red Bull reserve Daniel Ricciardo on the opening lap for 7th spot.
Rossi could not force an error from Move, settling for 7th, albeit 0.354 shy of the Russian at the flag.
For Ricciardo, a promising first weekend back for the Australian turned to disappointment, falling to 10th by race completion.
Struggling for speed, Ricciardo eventually dropped behind Sergio Canamasas (lap 13) and Jan Charouz (lap 19). Charouz would still find time to demote Canamasas, assuming 8th from the Spaniard on lap 20.
Chris van der Drift and Walter Grubmuller shadowed Ricciardo over the line; however neither had the strength in speed to take the Australian.
2011 Formula Renault 3.5 Rnd of Spa-Francorchamps (Rd 2, Race 1, 22 laps) Pos Driver Team Time / Gap 1. Robert Wickens Carlin 46:34.016 2. Jean-Eric Vergne Carlin +2.694 3. Albert Costa Epic Racing +19.544 4. Brendon Hartley Gravity-Charouz +19.867 5. Nelson Panciatici KMP Racing +20.958 6. Daniil Move P1 Motorsports +21.919 7. Alexander Rossi Fortec +22.273 8. Jan Charouz Gravity-Charouz +24.697 9. Sergio Canamasas Fortec +27.214 10. Daniel Ricciardo ISR +28.072 FL. Robert Wickens Carlin 2:06.295
Race Two (May 1st)
Jean-Eric Vergne took a hard-earned victory in the second Formula Renault 3.5 race at Spa-Francorchamps.
The former British Formula 3 Champion fell behind teammate Robert Wickens during the pitstop phase, only to force a way past the Canadian on the sixteenth lap.
Not far behind, Chris van der Drift completed the podium, keeping the Carlin pair honest following an impressive performance in his Mofaz Racing machine.
Initially, the lead belonged to Vergne, who kept Wickens, Daniel Zampieri and van der Drift at bay until he stopped for tyres on the eighth tour. Despite Vergne’s early dominance, Wickens kept a close watch, but it was the Canadian lap seven tyre change that changed the face of the race.
With an extra lap in clean air and on fresh rubber, Wickens edged ahead of Vergne as the Red Bull driver exited the pits one lap later.
Wickens extended the gap to 1.8 seconds, only for Vergne to draw back in, before driving around the outside of Wickens at Les Combes. As Vergne nosed ahead, Wickens locked his tyres heavily in defence, but the move was done.
Zampieri stayed out to garner time in free-air, only for the Italian to lose out when he finally stopped on lap ten.
Indeed, by the time Zampieri had completed his tyre change, not only had van der Drift jumped the BVM Target racer, but so had Albert Costa and Walter Grubmuller.
For van der Drift, the Kiwi surged away from Costa, quickly latching onto the rear of Wickens, although van der Drift would not find a way passed.
Costa, meanwhile, instantly found himself struggling as he overworked his Michelin’s, yet despite this Grubmuller could not find a gap.
Zampieri, on the other hand, was rather more forceful – first taking Grubmuller (lap 19), before taking 4th from Costa on the final tour at the top of Les Combes, while Grubmuller watched from the safety of 6th place.
Alexander Rossi kept close to Grubmuller in the final laps, but not enough to force the issue. The American assumed his second 7th place finish of the weekend, despite starting a lowly 15th. Rossi held Brendon Hartley over the line, although the Gravity-Charouz pilot rarely looked like forcing the issue.
Daniel Ricciardo suffered another disappointing race, coming home 9th after starting on the fourth row. The Australian pipped Nelson Panciatici to the flag, with the Frenchman losing out in the pitstops.
Former Indy Lights champion, Jean-Karl Vernay made his Formula Renault 3.5 début at Spa-Francorchamps, in what can only be described as a painfully late deal with Pons Racing.
The Frenchman did not score points, before showed impressive pace as he climbed up the field to finish 15th twice, despite starting both races on the final row.
2011 Formula Renault 3.5 Rnd of Spa-Francorchamps (Rd 2, Race 2, 22 laps) Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Jean-Eric Vergne Carlin 46:56.662 2. Robert Wickens Carlin +1.468 3. Chris van der Drift Mofaz +2.173 4. Daniel Zampieri BVM Target +7.153 5. Albert Costa Epic Racing +8.434 6. Walter Grubmuller P1 Motorsport +8.784 7. Alexander Rossi Fortec +9.183 8. Brendon Hartley Gravity-Charouz +9.419 9. Daniel Ricciardo ISR +11.808 10. Nelson Panciatici KMP Racing +12.602 FL. Robert Wickens Carlin 2:05.774 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 Series (Round 2) Drivers’ Championship Pos Driver Points 1. Robert Wickens 71 2. Jean-Eric Vergne 57 3. Alexander Rossi 55 4. Albert Costa 52 5. Nelson Panciatici 26 Teams’ Championship Pos Team Points 1. Carlin 128 2. Fortec 67 3. Epic Racing 53 4. KMP Racing 34 5. P1 Motorsport 32