Nick Yelloly and Robin Frijns shared the spoils at the opening weekend of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series at Motorland Aragon, with Frijns leading the championship after a successful graduation from the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0.
Arthur Pic made a good impression throughout the weekend as he bids to join brother Charles in Formula 1, the DAMS driver setting the pace in both practice sessions on Friday before claiming pole position on Saturday morning. The competitiveness of the field was proven even before a racing lap was turned with the top 19 being covered by less than a second.
Pic was beaten into the first corner however by Comtec Racing’s Yelloly, and the former was eased down to fourth place behind Carlos Huertas and Jules Bianchi. Behind, it was a chaotic start to the season, with Richie Stanaway stalling and being collected by Giovanni Venturini, while a number of drivers were caught up in a first corner clash triggered when Alexander Rossi went in too hot and ran into a rather innocent Walter Grubmuller. Kevin Korjus was also left with nowhere to go.
The safety car was scrambled, and Yelloly enjoyed a good restart as Huertas came under pressure from Bianchi, before Pic was taken out by contact from ISR’s Jake Rosenzweig.
Bianchi eventually got past Huertas and set off after Yelloly, but the British driver had done enough to seal his maiden victory in the category. Bianchi’s car came to a halt after crossing the finish line, but there was worse to come for the Force India reserve driver when he was excluded for a technical infringement. His Tech 1 Racing team appealed the stewards decision, meaning his second place finish was upheld pending the results of the appeal.
Huertas slipped back to fifth in the closing stages, losing out to Carlin's Kevin Magnussen as well as his Fortec Motorsport teammate Robin Frijns. It was an impressive drive from last year’s British Formula 3 runner-up Magnussen, who had started the race way down in 19th place.
Russian Nicolai Martsenko got through the opening lap melee to score a surprise sixth place finish on his debut in the series with the BVM Target team, finishing only two places shy of his best result from two seasons of German F3. Will Stevens took seventh in Carlin’s second car, with Marcus Sorensen (Lotus), Andre Negrao (Draco) and GP2 convert Sam Bird (ISR) rounding out the top ten.
Sunday morning saw a repeat performance from Pic as he stuck it on pole position again, and once again he was beaten into the first corner by the man alongside him on the front row – which this time was Sorensen. Pic again lost multiple places on the first lap, with Bird, Frijns and Korjus also getting by.
A multi-car incident at the first corner led to five drivers being taken out of the race, including Magnussen, Lewis Williamson and Nico Muller, who had failed to make it out of turn one in either race. Yelloly was also caught up, but did manage to rejoin.
While Sorensen opened up a lead out front, Frijns defied his lack of experience versus Bird to get by the Brit for second place.
Second place then became first when Sorensen slowed to a crawl with a mechanical issue, making it back to the pits before retiring.
Having successfully negotiated the pitstop phase, Frijns crossed the finish line with an advantage of nearly ten seconds over Bird. Pic completed the podium in third after fighting his way back past his 2011 teammate Korjus, who claimed fourth, and Rossi, who finished a difficult weekend with series newcomers Arden Caterham with a decent fifth place.
Another man salvaging something from a less than ideal weekend was sixth-placed Stanaway, with series veteran Daniil Move (P1 Motorsport) seventh and Stevens completing a double points-scoring debut weekend with eighth. Venturini took ninth for BVM Target, with Negrao in tenth.
Frijns leads the points standings on 37 points, and as the only man to record two top seven finishes he’s 12 points clear of second-placed Yelloly. Bird, Bianchi, Magnussen and Pic complete the top six after their podium finishes.
The drivers will next be in action in a single race on the morning of the Monaco Grand Prix, where Frijns will be racing for the first time. The likes of Bianchi and Bird meanwhile will hope to make use of their experience around the streets of the Principality, with Bird having claimed pole there in GP2 last season.
Formula Renault 3.5 Series results – Round 1, Motorland Aragon
1 Nick Yelloly, Comtec Racing, 46:55.350
2 Jules Bianchi, Tech 1 Racing, +1.675
3 Kevin Magnussen, Carlin, +12.543
4 Robin Frijns, Fortec Motorsports, +17.855
5 Carlos Huertas, Fortec Motorsports, +18.761
6 Nicolay Martsenko, BVM Target, +19.385
7 Will Stevens, Carlin, +21.827
8 Marco Sorensen, Lotus, +22.562
9 Andre Negrao, International Draco Racing, +24.569
10 Sam Bird, ISR, +25.066
11 Zoel Amberg, Pons Racing, +26.054
12 Lucas Foresti , DAMS, +26.867
13 Vittorio Ghirelli, Comtec Racing, +36.584
14 Anton Nebylitskiy, Team RFR, +37.709
15 Lewis Williamson, Arden Caterham, +40.272
16 Yann Cunha, Pons Racing, +40.586
17 Walter Grubmuller, P1 Motorsport, +1 lap
18 Daniil Move, P1 Motorsport, +3 laps
Mikhail Aleshin, Team RFR, 17 laps
Jake Rosenzweig, ISR, 7 laps
Arthur Pic, DAMS, 6 laps
Kevin Korjus, Tech 1 Racing, 1 lap
Richie Stanaway, Lotus, 0 laps
Giovanni Venturini, BVM Target, 0 laps
Nico Muller, International Draco Racing, 0 laps
Alexander Rossi , Arden Caterham, 0 laps
1 Robin Frijns, Fortec Motorsports, 46:38.013
2 Sam Bird, ISR, +9.908
3 Arthur Pic, DAMS, +10.898
4 Kevin Korjus, Tech 1 Racing, +15.787
5 Alexander Rossi, Arden Caterham, +21.18
6 Richie Stanaway, Lotus, +23.843
7 Daniil Move, P1 Motorsport, +33.602
8 Will Stevens, Carlin, +39.995
9 Giovanni Venturini, BVM Target, +46.079
10 Andre Negrao, International Draco Racing, +46.623
11 Mikhail Aleshin, Team RFR, +47.346
12 Carlos Huertas, Fortec Motorsports, +47.869
13 Jules Bianchi, Tech 1 Racing, +51.700
14 Anton Nebylitskiy, Team RFR, +55.574
15 Nicolay Martsenko, BVM Target, +56.528
16 Zoel Amberg, Pons Racing, +1:02.589
17 Vittorio Ghirelli, Comtec Racing, +1:20.057
18 Nick Yelloly, Comtec Racing, +1:39.983
Walter Grubmuller, P1 Motorsport, 13 laps
Marco Sorensen, Lotus, 10 laps
Yann Cunha, Pons Racing, 9 laps
Lewis Williamson, Arden Caterham, 1 lap
Kevin Magnussen, Carlin, 0 laps
Jake Rosenzweig, ISR, 0 laps
Nico Muller, International Draco Racing, 0 laps
Lucas Foresti, DAMS, 0 laps
Championship Standings (after 1 round)
1 Robin Frijns, 37pts
2 Nick Yelloly, 25
3 Sam Bird, 19
4 Jules Bianchi, 18
5 Kevin Magnussen, 15
6 Arthur Pic, 15
7 Kevin Korjus, 12
8 Carlos Huertas, 10
9 Alexander Rossi, 10
10 Will Stevens, 10
Next round: 27 May, Monaco
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