DAMS’ and Red Bull junior driver Carlos Sainz Jr dominated the opening race of the second Formula Renault 3.5 round at Motorland Aragon.
The Spaniard led from pole, after fending off an aggressive Nikolay Martsenko (Comtec) from the line, but was unchallenged thereafter.
In clear air, Sainz Jr extended a gap almost every lap around, eventually securing a lead of 14.3s come the end of 25 laps.
Such was Sainz Jr’s dominance; the 19-year-old had pulled a gap of more than 30 seconds beyond those outside the top four.
Yet despite his margin of victory, Sainz Jr was candid about how he almost lost it into turn one. “After a delicate start, where I honestly thought I would lose a few spots, I didn’t expect the gap to increase so quickly, in as much as qualifying was very close.”
Martsenko not only held on to 2nd place, but even pulled more than ten seconds over his chasing rivals to score his first podium in the category – something the Russian put down to his decision to run a higher downforce setting than those around him.
“My good start was probably due to the fact that I was the only car at the front of the grid that had a high-downforce configuration,” said Martsenko. “I managed to overtake Oliver [Rowland] before having a good battle with Carlos at the first corner. Then, he pulled away, so I made the most of it to assure this first podium finish.”
A tricky start and missed apex in turn one by Fortec’s Rowland saw him drop from the front row to 4th; however the Racing Steps Foundation driver took 3rd back when he passed Zoel Amberg (AVF) on lap 13; however by then Martsenko was lost in the distance.
The Briton noted: “My start was a little difficult, in as much as I had already messed up at Monza. The race pace was good, but it is so hard to overtake on this track.”
As Rowland moved up to the podium place, Lotus’ Marlon Stockinger took advantage to claim 4th, relegating Amberg to 5th, but despite his best efforts, the Filipino was unable to take Rowland in the final laps. Over the line, Rowland held Stockinger at bay by a mere two-tenths.
Amberg, meanwhile, continued to fall backwards toward Robert Merhi (Zeta Corse) and Matthieu Vaxivière (Lotus), but neither could push beyond Amberg. While 7th was not necessarily an ideal result for Vaxivière, the Frenchman was pleased having started 13th on the grid.
Sergey Sirotkin (Fortec) took 8th place ahead of the Arden of Pierre Gasly – the latter of whom drove the race with a damaged nosecone – and Pietro Fantin closed out the top ten for Draco Racing.
2014 Formula Renault 3.5 Series (Rd 2, Race 1) Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Carlos Sainz Jr. DAMS 43m14.984s (25 laps) 2. Nikolay Martsenko Comtec +14.335s 3. Oliver Rowland Fortec +24.291s 4. Marlon Stockinger Lotus +24.488s 5. Zoel Amberg AVF +33.825s 6. Roberto Merhi Zeta Corse +34.652s 7. Matthieu Vaxiviere Lotus +34.942s 8. Sergey Sirotkin Fortec +37.387s 9. Pierre Gasly Arden +38.622s 10. Pietro Fantin Draco +42.885s 11. Norman Nato DAMS +43.309s 12. Will Stevens Strakka +46.232s 13. Jazeman Jaafar ISR +48.853s 14. Meindert van Buuren Pons +49.922s 15. Marco Sorensen Tech 1 +51.361s 16. Luca Ghiotto Draco +54.250s 17. Roman Mavlanov Zeta Corse +57.127s 18. Beitske Visser AVF +59.760s 19. Matias Laine Strakka +1m05.335s Retirements: Oliver Webb Pons +24 laps William Buller Arden +24 laps