SAINZ WINS AHEAD OF TWO FRENCHMEN AT CASTELLET
Spaniard Carlos Sainz (DAMS) came up big this Saturday at Circuit Paul Ricard. Starting from pole position, the Red Bull Junior Team driver took his sixth victory of the season in commanding style ahead of the two French rookies Pierre Gasly (Arden Motorsport) and Matthieu Vaxiviere (Lotus). The Formula Renault 3.5 Series championship leader extended his lead to 31 points from Roberti Merhi (Zeta Corse), fifth today. Outside the points, Oliver Rowland (Fortec Motorsports) is now eliminated from the race for the title.
In the morning, Carlos Sainz claimed his seventh pole of the season with a lap of 1:47.436, which allowed him to start ahead of fellow Red Bull Junior Team member, Pierre Gasly. Matthieu Vaxiviere and Roberto Merhi shared row two while Sergey Sirotkin (Fortec Motorsports) completed the top five.
At the start, the championship leader conserved the lead from Pierre Gasly. After an excellent get away, Oliver Rowland suffered a puncture on the opnening lap that also saw the races of Jazeman Jaafar (ISR) and Pietro Fantin (International Draco Racing) come to an early end. Matthieu Vaxiviere moved back to third place ahead of Sergey Sirotkin and Roberto Merhi.
Following the intervention of the safety car, Carlos Sainz built a small lead from Pierre Gasly, who swapped fastest lap times with the Spaniard. Back in the field, Luca Ghiotto (International Draco Racing) overtook Marco Sørensen (Tech 1 Racing) for seventh place, while Oliver Rowland put on a great show in his duel with Esteban Ocon (Comtec Racing).
Solidly in the lead, Carlos Sainz took the chequered flag with a four second margin from Pierre Gasly, who took his seventh podium result of the season. Matthieu Vaxiviere finished third ahead of Sergey Sirotkin, Roberto Merhi and Marlon Stockinger (Lotus). Luca Ghiotto, Marco Sørensen, Matias Laine (Strakka Racing) and Norman Nato (DAMS) completed the list of point scorers.
Carlos Sainz: “It is an incredible day. We needed this victory at this time of the season. Friday was a difficult day, but we did what we needed to do in qualifying, then kept the lead at the start and restart which wasn’t easy as I had opened a gap before the safety car. Then, we won the race! Pierre and I had similar pace, which meant I wasn’t allowed a mistake and I had to keep the lead above two seconds to keep him out of my tow!”
Pierre Gasly: “I wanted to win this home race. Alas, I started second and I finished second, but it was still a really good race, which concluded with my third consecutive podium result. It is very positive, in as much as we had a difficult Friday. I tried to stay close to Carlos using the DRS, but we swapped best time lap after lap.”
Matthieu Vaxiviere: “To get another podium, It’s a great feeling. Qualifying was good but my start could have been better. Oliver Rowland made contact with me at the first corner, but that’s racing. I tried to use the DRS to catch up to Carlos and Pierre, but tyre degradation is very important here.”