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Formula Renault 3.5

Watched by a 62,000 crowd, the final Formula Renault 3.5 Series race of the season could hardly have been more eventful. The eagerly awaited duel between Carlin team-mates and championship rivals Robert Wickens and Jean-Eric Vergne was cut short when they clashed at the start, with Wickens forced to retire. The Frenchman battled on, however, and was virtual champion before having to pull out himself just ten minutes from the end, allowing the Canadian to become the seventh man to win the FR 3.5 Series. Claiming the race victory – his first in the discipline – was home favourite Albert Costa (Epic Racing).

In taking his maiden Formula Renault 3.5 Series pole, Costa relegated Wickens to second on the grid, though the Canadian had every reason to be satisfied at seeing his title rival Vergne qualify in fifth. Only nine points separated the Carlin duo going into the race, and there was no shortage of tension as a packed crowd waited expectantly for the start. For championship leader Wickens the equation was simple: stay ahead of the Frenchman by match his every move.

Costa made a solid start at the lights, as Anton Nebylitskiy (KMP Racing) nipped into second at turn one, though the real drama was unfolding behind them as Vergne pulled up alongside Wickens and the two cars clashed, causing a mass collision. While the Canadian was forced to retire along with Lewis Williamson (ISR), Nathanael Berthon (ISR), Cesar Ramos (Fortec Motorsports), Nelson Panciatici (KMP Racing) and Jan Charouz (Gravity-Charouz), Vergne emerged relatively unscathed to stay fourth. As the safety car emerged, the way was open for the Frenchman to take the title.

Costa held sway on the restart, leading from Nebylitskiy, Nick Yelloly (Pons Racing), Vergne and Daniel Zampieri (BVM Target), though Vergne’s title hopes took a turn for the worse when first Zampieri and then Stephane Richelmi (International Draco Racing) both passed him, leaving the Frenchman sixth and a point short of Wickens.

No sooner had the pit-stop window opened than Vergne changed his rear tyres, while race leader Costa opted to stay out longer and Yelloly moved past Nebylitskiy and into second.

Costa was still out front at the end of the obligatory stop, with Yelloly, Hartley, Sergio Canamasas (BVM Target) and Nebylitskiy in pursuit. Vergne, meanwhile, had dropped down to twelfth and out of the points before fighting his way back to fifth, enough to give him the title. With just ten minutes remaining, however, the Carlin driver was forced out of the race when Fairuz Fauzy (Mofaz Racing) attempted a pass and the two collided, leaving Vergne’s single-seater stricken and stable-mate Wickens as the 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 Series champion.

There were no such problems for Costa as he coasted to his first FR 3.5 Series win ahead of Yelloly and Hartley. As the Spaniard celebrated, so too did the watching Wickens, whose reward for a triumphant season is a Formula One test drive with Lotus Renault GP at the rookie tests in Abu Dhabi.

What they said:

Robert Wickens: “This isn’t the way I dreamed of winning the title. I finished second in the last two seasons and I thought it was going to be the same old story today, which wasn’t easy to deal with. But today I’m the champion and that’s fantastic. My thanks to Carlin for everything they’ve done this season. As for my future, nothing’s been decided yet but I know I’m going to be driving a Lotus Renault GP in Abu Dhabi.”

Albert Costa: “This is my first Formula Renault 3.5 Series win and it’s come at the right time. Epic Racing are a new team and a lot of hard work has gone into this. We’ve not had much success, though we could have had a few other wins along the way. I don’t know how my future’s going to pan out because I need to get a budget together. Winning here could help me with that.”

Official Renault Sport Press Release

Posted: 09 October 2011
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