Clark & Nasir share a pasta dish whilst discussing the Italian Grand Prix.
Following his successes at the Moscow Raceway and the Nürburgring before the summer break, Roberto Merhi (Zeta Corse) continued his strong form in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. With a fantastic start from seventh place on the grid, the Spaniard soon took control of the race to score his third triumph of the season. Second place, Pierre Gasly (Arden Motorsport) overtook pole man Oliver Rowland (Fortec Motorsports) in the final corner of the race. Eight days after his maiden Formula 1 test with the Caterham F1 Team, Roberto Merhi is now just 26 points adrift of his compatriot Carlos Sainz (DAMS), who finished fourth on Saturday.
This morning, Oliver Rowland took his second pole position of the year with a lap of 1:30.203 ahead of the French trio of Pierre Gasly, Norman Nato (DAMS) and Matthieu Vaxiviere (Lotus). Will Stevens (Strakka Racing) completed the top five, while championship leader, Carlos Sainz had to settle for 14th position.
A shower before the start of the race soaked the track surface. When the lights went out, Oliver Rowland held on to the lead ahead of Roberto Merhi who put in a splendid start from seventh place on the grid. Pierre Gasly, Will Stevens and Matthieu Vaxiviere followed at the end of the opening lap while Carlos Sainz was already up to sixth place.
Oliver Rowland and Roberto Merhi quickly pulled away from the rest of the field. Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz continued his march forward, passing Matthieu Vaxiviere and Will Stevens. After several unsuccessful attempts, Roberto Merhi moved into the lead on lap seven when Oliver Rowland went a bit wide at the first corner.
Now in lead, the Zeta Corse driver pulled away and went on for the win with a 29-second margin of victory from Pierre Gasly, who passed Oliver Rowland in the last corner of the final lap. Carlos Sainz finished fourth ahead of Matthieu Vaxiviere, Will Stevens, Marco Sørensen (Tech 1 Racing) and Norman Nato. FIA F3 European Championship leader, Esteban Ocon (Comtec Racing) claimed ninth place in his first race in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series while Jazeman Jaafar (ISR) was the final driver in the points.
Roberto Merhi: “We were not able to run to our potential in qualifying due to a red flag. Happily, we made up for that at the start. There was a lot of water spray behind Oliver and I wasn’t able to see. He then made a small mistake that allowed me to get by. Afterwards, I was able to pull away while taking care of my tyres because this track is very demanding when it comes to tyre wear, especially in drying conditions. “
Pierre Gasly: “The opening laps were very tough. I just tried to stay on the track because the grip was really low. We all had different strategies in terms of tyre pressure today. When Carlos caught me, I had to defend my position, and then the car became better in the drying conditions. I was able to pick up the pace and I saw Oliver in the final laps and I gave it everything I had!”
Oliver Rowland: “Right from the opening laps of the race we struggled with the traction. Roberto caught up to me very quickly and I could only defend my position for a few laps. We must remember the positive things today: a pole position in the dry, which is a good step forward. I hope the conditions tomorrow will allow us be in front of them.”
Carlos Sainz (DAMS) set fastest time in the two collective tests in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. The Red Bull Junior Team driver dominated the morning session in the rain before doing it again on a nearly dry track in the afternoon. With a time of 1:33.273, the championship leader led from Oliver Rowland (Fortec Motorsports) and Oscar Tunjo (Pons Racing), both of whom finished second to the Spaniard during the first day of action at the Hungaroring.
The Formula Renault 3.5 Series field returned to action in rainy conditions at the Hungaroring. After only 40 minutes, Sergey Sirotkin (Fortec Motorsports) caused the first red flag. Once the track was cleared, Carlos Sainz went quickest before becoming the first driver to break the two-minute barrier.
With 11 minutes remaining, Beitske Visser (AVF) provoked a new stoppage of the session. When the action re-started, Carlos Sainz improved his best time to 1:57.309 before the session came to a premature end caused by Zoel Amberg (AVF). The Spaniard completed the morning session more than two seconds faster than Oscar Tunjo. Oliver Rowland was third ahead of Luca Ghiotto (International Draco Racing) and Marco Sorensen (Tech 1 Racing).
The conditions were more favorable in the afternoon. Carlos Sainz quickly improved his reference time of the morning. After a red flag provoked by Beitske Visser, his team-mate Norman Nato (DAMS) took over the top spot before he was dislodged by Pierre Gasly (Arden Caterham). Norman Nato answered back before another interruption following the stoppage on track of the cars of Roman Mavlanov (Zeta Corse) and Meindert van Buuren (Pons Racing).
The switch to fresh tyres accelerated the pace in the final 20 minutes. Oliver Rowland, then Carlos Sainz moved to the sharp end of the order. Luca Ghiotto took over before the Spaniard answered. In the waning seconds, Oliver Rowland posted a best time of 1:33.273, but it was not counted as he did not slow down enough with the yellow flags being shown. Carlos Sainz re-took the top spot ahead of the Englishman. Oscar Tunjo, Norman Nato and Matthieu Vaxiviere (Lotus) completed the top five.
Carlos Sainz: ” With the conditions we had two very different practice sessions. In the wet, I quickly felt comfortable and capable of pushing right from the start. For the second session, we hoped to run on a dry track, but the surface wasn’t totally dry. We did though switch to slicks. Now, we have to see what the weather has in store for us tomorrow. ”
Oliver Rowland: ”In the rain this morning, we managed to set the third best time. In the afternoon, the track was still a little wet, but we posted the best time. It was disallowed even though I think I slowed enough under the yellow flag. It was a good day and we can run for the pole tomorrow, no matter the conditions. ”
Oscar Tunjo: ”The conditions were difficult, but the day went very well! We were not able to collect a lot of information for the rest of the weekend because the forecasts call for a lot of rain. I am feeling more and more comfortable in the Formula Renault 3.5 and the team has helped me a lot to progress throughout the races and sessions. ”
• Lewis took his sixth win of the season, driving a great race to recover from a slow start that saw him drop to P4
• Nico took the lead on lap one and held it before a mistake into turn one allowed Lewis to regain the lead on lap 29
• Both drivers ran the same strategy, starting on the medium tyres and pitting one lap apart on lap 24 (Nico) and lap 25 (Lewis) to change to the hard tyres and race to the end
• The 1-2 finish represents the seventh this season; only three seasons in Formula One history have seen seven or more 1-2 finishes from a team
• The team now have a lead of 182 points in the Constructors’ Championship (454 points in total) with both drivers 50 points or more ahead of third place in the Drivers’ Championship
• All of the top four and seven of the top ten today are powered by Mercedes-Benz Hybrid Power
Firstly it was amazing to see the straight completely filled with fans from the podium today. You make this race and thank you so much for your support! Big congratulations to the team for our performance this weekend. We said we wanted a one-two and we got it today; this result is important for everyone. It was a difficult race for me though. The launch sequence didn´t engage properly for the formation lap and then again for the start. I tried to pull away as fast as possible, basically I just floored it and hoped for the best! Fortunately I didn´t lose too many places and was able to get past Kevin, then have a good battle with Felipe. When I closed up to Nico, I didn´t want to hold back as the car felt good and I knew from experience that the only chance would be at the start of the stint when the tyres were fresh so I went for it. I´m really pleased with the win, it´s feels like I have some momentum back as we go into the final races.
Lewis was quicker this weekend, so he deserved the win. That for sure is very disappointing for me. I had a lock up in Turn One and I decided to go straight to avoid a flat spotted tyre. That cost me the lead. But he was very quick behind me, so I had to push all the time. But I need to see the positive things from today. Second place is still good and I lost only seven points to Lewis, so this could have been much worse. It’s also a great result for the team, the first 1-2 since Austria. So I’m happy for everybody in our team and I have to thank everyone again for this great Silver Arrow. We were the strongest team at this unique circuit. The Tifosi created a great atmosphere for us on the podium; it was all red all the way down the straight. That was great to see. Now I look forward to Singapore, I like the track and I have great memories from last year.
Felipe Massa: It was a fantastic race for me so I am really happy. I had a good start and passed Magnussen at just the right time. I had to work hard to establish that position, sadly the Mercedes were still a bit quick, so we did the best we could. Monza is a special podium, and to hear the fans sing my name was amazing.