Brit Grit. Nick Yelloly fended off a late race challenge from Jules Bianchi to give Comtec team first race victory since 2009.
Surprise winner in season opener at Aragon. Jules Bianchi is close second. Great drives from Kevin Magnussen and Robin Frijns.
Great qualifying position from front row, opening lap mayhem and a determined drive all helped 21-year-old English driver Nick Yelloly to win the opening round of the 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 at Motorland Aragon in Spain.
Arthur Pic, brother of F1 racer Charles, grabbed pole position for DAMS after being the pace setter in practice with Yelloly starting second for Comtec.
Row two had two of the favorites for the championship; Estonian Kevin Korjus with Tech 1 and Kiwi Richie Stanaway for Lotus, aka ART.
The second Tech 1 car driven by Ferrari young driver and Force India reserve driver Jules Bianchi was fifth on the grid; American Jake Rosenzweig was sixth for Czech ISR team.
Californian Alexander Rossi, last year third in the championship, qualified 13th with his new team for this season, Arden.
Crash & Casualties
The start was not kind to second row starters. Stanaway stalled and was then hit by the BVM Target car of Italian Giovanni Venturini. Korjus also struggled and while still on the opening lap was involved in a crash which would lead to his retirement and also for Rossi and Swiss Draco driver Nico Muller.
California Cool. Alexander Rossi’s focus is on winning the championship this season after finishing third last year behind Robert Wickens and Jean-Eric Vergne.
Yelloly had grabbed the lead from Pic at the start and was able to maintain his position four laps later after the safety car period was over. Another four laps later pole sitter Pic was out after a collision with Rosenzweig.
The leading trio of Yelloly, Colombian Carlos Huertas and Bianchi pulled away from rest of the field. On lap 16 Bianchi passed the Fortec car of Huertas and began to hunt down race leader Yelloly.
Bianchi brought the gap down to half a second but was not able to make the pass on Yelloly to take the lead, finally settling for second. Huertas’ late race engine woes allowed young Dane Kevin Magnussen grab final spot on the podium.
Frijns benefit. With two championships in past two years Dutchman Robin Frijns is looking for a three-peat in his rookie Formula Renault 3.5 season.
Fortec’s Dutchman Robin Frijns, the quickest driver in pre-season testing, was 17th at the end of the opening lap but charged up the field to finish an excellent fourth. Teammate Huertas was able to salvage a top five finish.
View from the top
The podium finishers as quoted on www.worldseriesbyrenault.fr
Nick Yelloly: “I made the perfect start, something we’d worked on a lot in pre-season testing. The safety car allowed me to save my DRS till the end of the race, though I had to make sure I didn’t make a mistake when Jules Bianchi started to come back at me. It’s a relief to start the season with a win. It takes a lot of pressure off, and it’s great for Comtec Racing, who haven’t won for a long time.”
Jules Bianchi: “It was all happening at the start. I locked a front wheel and brushed against Nick, and then I had trouble getting past Carlos Huertas. I managed it in the end and then went after Nick. I was pretty confident because my tyres were in good condition, but the only thing was I lost engine power at the end. Nick drove the perfect race, so congratulations to him and thanks to my team. This is a good way to start the championship.”
Kevin Magnussen: “You don’t expect to get on the podium when you start in 19th. I picked up a lot of places in the first few laps because there were cars going in all directions. I need to work on qualifying because we won’t run this well in every race. Our race pace was very good, though.”
Race two is on Sunday.
— Nasir Hameed.
All photos courtesy of World Series by Renault.