ISR rules the day on home turf
Having already tasted victory at Spa, ISR's Esteban Guerrieri struck again today, winning the first Formula Renault 3.5 Series race at the Brno circuit. The Argentinian brought the Czech ISR team a home win. Tech 1 Racing's Brendon Hartley finished second ahead of KMP Racing's Anton Nebiliskiy. Guerrieri and Hartley put on the best performance of the day, taking advantage of the leaders' disappointment to gain a new foot-hold in the Championship.
In fine weather, the first Formula qualifying session was dominated by the ISR team. On his favorite circuit, driving with a light aerodynamic set-up, as with every Saturday race, ISR's Filip Salaquarda gained the upper hand over teammate Esteban Guerrieri to claim his first pole position in Formula Renault 3.5 Series. On the line, Brendon Hartley claimed third place, with the second row completed by Epsilon Euskadi's Keisuke Kunimoto. The four drivers lined up in that order, with a vintage race ahead of them.
As the lights changed, Guerrieri made the best start and crept ahead at the entry to the first bend, to lead Salaquarda. Hartley held third place despite challenges from Nebilitskiy who had made a great start from the fifth row. The first round was very exciting, with several cars touching and overtaking. Carlin's Mikhail Aleshin was one particular casualty, entering the pits to change his back-right tire.
On the second lap, Filip Salaquarda, now second, ran wide and ended up in the gravel-trap, to the benefit of Brendon Hartley. The New Zealander was now second ahead of Nebilitskiy, Kunimoto and International Draco Racing's Julian Leal. The Italian, who started from sixth place was holding fourth place before making a clean maneuver to pass the Japanese driver.
Up front Guerrieri tried to extend his lead, but he was unable to shake off Hartley. Behind them Nebilitskiy, Leal and Kunimoto were locked in a fight for third place. The Russian was giving nothing away to his rivals. The situation benefitted Fortec Motorsport's Sten Pentus ad P1 Motorsport's Jan Charouz who had caught up with the trio.
The positions began to stabilize at the race's half-way point. Guerrieri managed to maintain his lead over Hartley, while Nebilitskiy had carved out some breathing space ahead of his pursuers. The most intense racing, for sixth place, was between Sten Pentus and Jan Charouz who was intent on getting past him.
Relying on his experience, Guerrieri led the race from start to finish. The Argentinian claimed his second win of the season and handed ISR an important home win. He crossed the line with two seconds lead over Brendon Hartley. Nebilitskiy finished third to climb the podium for the first time in his Formula Renault 3.5 Series career.
Esteban Guerrieri : "I won at Spa, but for financial reasons I didn't race at Monaco. So it's something of a triumphal return today. I got a good start, better than Filip, and then I just held on throughout the race. It's an important win for ISR and for the Chapionship. It's a good result. We have another card to play."
Brendon Hartley : "It's been too long since I was last on the podium. At Spa it looked like I could have done it until I had to retire. And I drove a good race at Monaco. Today's podium is payback for all that. I'm happy for both myself and my team. It means more points for the Teams Championship."
Anton Nebilitskiy : "I made a good start. It was close, and I have to admit I was a little nervous. The race wasn't easy, they were pushing hard behind me. It's important for KMP Racing to score points and finish on the podium for the first time. It a great incentive to work even harder than ever, to go one step further."