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Formula Renault 3.5

Stoffel Vandoorne (Fortec Motorsports) enjoyed a dream start to life in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, taking pole position and cruising to victory in the first race of the new season. The young Belgian becomes the first FR 3.5 Series rookie in the competition's history claim pole and win a race at the first attempt. Kevin Magnussen (Dams) and Christopher Zanella (ISR) rounded off the top three, while Antonio Félix da Costa (Arden Caterham) left empty-handed after retiring half-way through the race.

The first qualifying sessions of the new season took place in the morning, setting the tone for what would be a thrilling day's racing. With the track part wet and part dry, the sessions provided an absorbing test of strategy. It was Stoffel Vandoorne who won the tactical battle, choosing the right tyres at the right time to claim the first pole position of the year. The Belgian, who won the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 title last year, qualified ahead of fellow rookies Sergey Sirtokin (ISR) and Christopher Zanella. Antonio Félix da Costa (Arden Caterham) and Kevin Magnussen (Dams), both so impressive in collective testing, started in fourth and fifth respectively.

An hour before the first race of the year, the sun came out to cast some late doubt on the teams' tyre choice. It did not affect Stoffel Vandoorne, however, as he started well from pole and held his lead into the first chicane. Behind him, Sergey Sirotkin's hopes of a strong result were dealt a blow after he was caught up in a melee involving half a dozen drivers. With Vandoorne building a commanding lead, Nikolay Martsenko (Pons Racing) and Will Stevens (P1 Motorsport) battled it out for second before colliding at the first chicane and tumbling to the back of the field. Antonio Félix da Costa (Arden Caterham) took advantage and halved the gap on race leader Vandoorne, but was soon forced to retire after suffering a puncture.

That allowed Kevin Magnussen to move into second, but he was unable to catch Vandoorne, his McLaren Young Driver Programme colleague. The Dane did well to keep Christopher Zanella (ISR) and Oliver Webb (Fortec Motorsports) at bay until the finish, crossing the line in second with the pair hot on his trail. Arthur Pic made the strongest rise through the field, using his DRS wisely and overtaking well to storm from 22nd to sixth. Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), Mihai Marinescu (Zeta Corse), Matias Laine (P1 Motorsport) and Norman Nato (Dams), meanwhile, finished in the top ten to secure their first points of the season.

What they said

Stoffel Vandoorne: "It wasn't an easy race, as I had a flat tyre on lap seven after one of my wheels locked. My head is still spinning! I built a big lead at the start, and from there I simply had to manage it."

Kevin Magnussen: "I made a good start and quickly rose through the field, thanks to the incident at turn one. Towards the end of the race I had a flat in one of my tyres. There was no room for error, as Christopher Zanella was piling pressure on me. So I'm very pleased with this result."

Christopher Zanella: "I fought well against Kevin Magnussen. I had a problem with my brakes and I couldn't get close enough to try to overtake him. Still, it's great to be on the podium after my first race."

Official Renault Sport Press Release.

Posted: 06 April 2013
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