Bianchi ends wait for first FR3.5 Series win
Jules Bianchi (Tech 1 Racing) led from start to finish at the Nürburgring to claim his first victory in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, with Nico Müller (International Draco Racing) and Robin Frijns (Fortec Motorsports) finishing second and third respectively. By finishing third, 2011 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 champion Frijns takes the overall championship lead and edges ever closer to an appearance in the Red Bull Racing F1 exhibition – the prize at stake for the man at the top of the standings at the end of the weekend.
Robin Frijns and Jules Bianchi engaged in a brilliant duel in qualifying. French driver Bianchi eventually got the better of his Dutch rival, putting in a perfect lap to claim his maiden pole position in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. The drivers had 450 seconds of DRS at their disposal for the race.
Bianchi made a perfect start to the race, but the same cannot be said for Frijns and Arthur Pic (Dams). Nico Müller, who started fourth on the grid, took advantage of the pair’s less than ideal getaway to move up into second place. Bianchi, Müller and Frijns began to pull away after the first lap, while Pic, fourth at this stage, fought to keep Kevin Magnussen (Carlin), Walter Grubmüller (P1 Motorsport), Marco Sorensen (Lotus), Sam Bird (ISR), Antonio Felix da Costa (Arden Caterham) and Carlos Huertas (Fortec Motorsports) at bay.
The leading trio took advantage of the battle behind them and began to widen the gap, and after five laps, Bianchi, Müller and Frijns were almost five seconds ahead of Pic. The Frenchman held the upper hand over Magnussen, while Sorensen moved up into sixth after getting past Grubmüller with a perfect manoeuvre.
Bianchi was having a masterful race at the front of the field and managed to build a slim lead over Müller, who for his part was gradually moving away from Frijns. The most keenly contested battle was for Grubmüller’s seventh place, with the Austrian doing everything in his power to stop Sam Bird from sneaking past.
Frijns caught up with Müller towards the end of the race and launched a DRS-aided attack, but Müller refused to budge. The fight for fifth place was every bit as intense, with Sorensen also regaining contact with Magnussen.
From then, however, the race order remained unchanged. Bianchi, Sahara Force India’s third driver and a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, took the chequered flag to claim his first victory in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. With it, he became the sixth different winner in six races. Müller, for his part, finished second to make his first appearance on the podium this season. The biggest winner, however, was third-placed Robin Frijns, who moves top of the championship standings with a two-point lead over Sam Bird, who could only finish eighth.
Jules Bianchi: “It’s never easy to win! We had a difficult start to the season, and even this weekend things started badly with the technical problems we suffered in collective testing. But I knew the car was quick, and that showed in qualifying. This victory really kick-starts my season. I’ll need more wins if I’m to have a real hope of winning the championship.”
Nico Müller: “From the start, we knew we were in a good position to do well. This podium finish is the culmination of all the work we’ve done since the first tests. The season started very badly at Motorland Aragón, but since then we have made steady progress. It wasn’t possible for us to win today, but it will come eventually.”
Robin Frijns: “I didn’t get off to a good start, to say the least. But after that, the race went well. We have the car to win and I was faster than Nico [Müller], but he defended his position perfectly without making the slightest mistake. I’m top of the championship tonight, but all I’m thinking about now is qualifying well tomorrow and getting a good result.”