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Formula Renault 3.5

The rain made its presence felt in the first Formula Renault 3.5 Series race at Paul Ricard, making for plenty of entertainment. One man keeping out of trouble, however, was Antonio Felix da Costa (Arden Caterham), who stayed calm to chalk up his second straight victory. Nick Yelloly (Comtec Racing) and Daniil Move (P1 Motorsport), who started in tenth, came home behind him to complete the podium. Jules Bianchi (Tech 1 Racing) finished fourth to cut the deficit on championship leader Robin Frijns (Fortec Motorsports) by six points.

It was a damp start to Saturday for the Formula Renault 3.5 Series field, though Nick Yelloly made light of the wet conditions to secure his first pole in the category ahead of Robin Frijns, Antonio Felix da Costa and Jules Bianchi, while Sam Bird (ISR), who started the day third in the standings, could only qualify in 16th.

A hailstorm hit Paul Ricard just a few minutes before the race, forcing the drivers to all switch to wet tyres, although the storm had passed by the time the lights went out. Poleman Nick Yelloly made a poor start, allowing Robin Frijns and Jules Bianchi to fight it out for the first place on the opening lap, only for Andre Negrao (International Draco Racing) to surge up from fifth and steal into the lead himself.

With the track clear up ahead, Andre Negrao, Jules Bianchi and Robin Frijns pulled away from a chasing pack led by Marco Sorensen (Lotus) and Nick Yelloly. A series of shunts behind them saw Arthur Pic (Dams) retire early.

Marco Sorensen ran wide to drop from fourth to seventh, allowing Nick Yelloly to close up on Robin Frijns, while Jules Bianchi started to reel in Andre Negrao.

Lap seven proved to be a pivotal one as Nick Yelloly shot past Robin Frijns and into third, and Antonio Felix da Costa eased past Mikhail Aleshin (Team RFR), with Jules Bianchi pulling off a superb manoeuvre on the next lap to take the lead from Andre Negrao.

Antonio Felix da Costa’s charge continued when he overtook Robin Frijns and both Jules Bianchi and Andre Negrao went off to leave the Portuguese in second behind Nick Yelloly, with Robin Frijns, Andre Negrao and Jules Bianchi making up the rest of the top five. The Briton relinquished his lead to the Red Bull Junior Team man on lap 14, while Robin Frijns saw Andre Negrao, Jules Bianchi and Mikhail Aleshin all fly past him, with the Frenchman then nipping past Negrao and into third.

While the top two positions remained unchanged all the way to the chequered flag, with Antonio Felix da Costa holding on for his second win, it was all happening further down the field as Daniil Move snatched third and Jules Bianchi took fourth to slice six points from Robin Frijns’ championship lead. After struggling with his tyres, the Dutchman now finds himself only 16 points clear of the chasing Frenchman.

What they said:

Antonio Felix da Costa: “I felt I was in with a chance before the start but not at the end of the first lap, when I was running about tenth. The conditions on the track were terrible so I just calmed myself down and focused above all on not making a mistake. This is my second consecutive victory, which is totally unexpected, and it’s thanks to my team.”

Nick Yelloly: “You really want to win when you start on pole, but second place is good in terms of the championship. It was a great battle with Antonio, but I cut the chicane a couple of times and I let Antonio go through to avoid getting a penalty. After that it was impossible for me to pull him back.”

Daniil Move: “I started tenth and I lost five or six places at the start. I gave it my all after that, though, and got past four or five drivers on a single lap. My car just got better and better. I took a few risks and they paid off and at one stage I even thought I might be able to catch the leaders.”

Official Renault Sport Press Release.

Posted: 29 September 2012
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