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Formula Renault 3.5

After taking pole position, Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin) led from start to finish in Race 1 at the Paul Ricard HTTT to close the gap on FR 3.5 Series championship leader and Carlin team-mate Robert Wickens (Carlin) to a mere 17 points with only three races remaining. Albert Costa (Epic Racing) took second but was later disqualified after his car was found to have exceeeded the minimum weight in the post-race checks. As a result, Wickens was promoted one place to second, with Brendon Hartley (Gravity-Charouz) taking third.

Vergne was first to react as the lights went out, while Costa held on to second and Hartley saw first Wickens and then Rossi flash past him. And by the end of lap one Ricciardo had relinquished sixth place to Jake Rosenzweig (Mofaz Racing).

As Vergne, Costa and Wickens started to break away, it was Rossi who led the chasing pack ahead of Hartley, with Rosenzweig, Ricciardo and Daniil Move (P1 Motorsport) forming a group of their own slightly further back.

Hartley made his move on lap six, jumping into fourth past a startled Rossi, who then saw Rosenzweig ease past him. Having slipped from fourth to sixth in a handful of turns, the American suddenly found himself in a tight duel with HRT F1 driver Ricciardo.

Up ahead the leading trio kept pace with each other, before Vergne strung together a series of fastest laps to pull away from the chasing Costa and Wickens. Three seconds clear of the field, the leaders set a consistent pace over the opening ten laps.

Further back, Ricciardo finally won his tussle with Rossi, with Sergio Canamasas (BVM Target) taking full advantage to overtake the Fortec Motorsports driver in the same manoeuvre and complete his impressive climb from 16th on the grid to seventh. Finding his rhythm as the finish line neared, Ricciardo then slid past Rosenzweig into fifth, a position the Australian in the Red Bull Junior Team colours would hold on to

There was no stopping the consistent Vergne, however, the Frenchman easing to the smoothest of victories, his fifth of the season, ahead of Costa and Wickens. There was bad news for Costa, however, when his car was later judged to have exceeded the minimum weight. His disqualification led to Wickens moving up to second and Hartley third, with Vergne now just 17 points adrift of the Canadian in the FR 3.5 Series standings.

Official Renault Sport Press Release.

Posted: 17 September 2011
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