Charles comes a cropper at Combes No sooner had they returned from Monza than the Formula Renault 3.5 Series drivers headed off to Francorchamps for the second round. A good crowd enjoyed a sunny weekend for this 'World Series by Renault' race...
Charles comes a cropper at Combes
No sooner had they returned from Monza than the Formula Renault 3.5 Series drivers headed off to Francorchamps for the second round. A good crowd enjoyed a sunny weekend for this 'World Series by Renault' race which was contested at one of the greatest F1 venues. After picking up a podium place in Italy, Charles Pic was on his way to more points in Belgium when the fates intervened to decide otherwise.
This was the Tech 1 Racing rookie's first taste of the 'Ardennes toboggan' but he soon showed his mettle by clocking the 2nd fastest time in open practice, just behind championship leader Van der Garde. "I drove as much as I could in the morning so that we could work on the data acquired. This enabled me to make rapid progress from the second session onwards. The results were satisfactory after practice so I thought I was able to qualify for the SuperPole." This is a new feature that was introduced at Spa. The six fastest from each qualifying group go on to race against each other in a final session. The eight best times decide the front four grid rows for the two main races, the first of which is run in reverse order and the other in standard fastest first order.
Charles managed to stay in the top six on Saturday morning but he just got pipped at the line in the final qualifier and came in 7th. "It's a choker to miss the SuperPole for the sake of 82 thousandths of a second at the flag but that's motor racing."
Since he was only starting 13th the aim was to get amongst the points by finishing in the Top 10, so as to be close behind the eight SuperPole starters in race 2. He managed to avoid a collision at 'La Source' bend and climbed two spots. Quick in the first fast portion of the circuit, Charles slipstreamed to good effect on several occasions in the long straight coming out of the Raidillon bend. He climbed several places this way. Lying 8th a third of the way through the race, Charles was going well when Spanish driver Marcos Martinez halted his progress.
"He was slipstreaming me going into the Combes chicane and tried to take me on the outside. I held him off by braking late but he shot straight on and blocked the centre of the bend. There was no way I could have avoided him. We touched wheels and my car overturned and rolled. This was galling because the team had done a great job to get us up to scratch after the qualifying session." Charles' task in Sunday's racing was made harder having to start in 20th position on the grid. His race included a mandatory pit stop, which the Tech 1 driver opted to take in Lap 6.
"I had already made up 4 or 5 places by the time I came in for the pit stop. I have the team to thank for a particularly speedy tyre change. Thanks to them I was able to rejoin the race in 9th place. Then as I was trying to get past di Sabatino I ran a bit too wide round the left hander following the 'Brussels' bend and lost three places. Unfortunately I finished the race two places off the points."
Charles will encounter different conditions in the next round, which will take place on the prestigious Monaco circuit. A single Formula Renault 3.5 Series race will be run as a starter for the Formula One Grand Prix on May 24-25.
-credit: charles pic