Mikhail Aleshin Champion!

Rarely has a championship been so hotly contested. The stakes were high in this last race of the season, but the challenge was very straightforward. Tech 1 Racing's Daniel Ricciardo and Carlin's Mikhail Aleshin each had to finish ahead of the other to claim 2010 Formula Renault 3.5 Series title. Throughout the race, Daniel Ricciardo led Mikhail Aleshin. But just three laps from the finish the Russian found the opening he needed. In so doing he claimed not only the 2010 Drivers title, but also the tryout with Renault F1 Team in Abu Dhabi this November. Meanwhile, ISR's Esteban Guerrieri won his sixth race of the season ahead of Tech 1 Racing's Jean-Eric Vergne.

Just to add to the excitement of this final showdown, this morning's qualifying session took place under persistent rain. The timesheet continued to change, but it was Esteban Guerrieri who eventually came out on top. The Argentinean claimed his third pole of the season while, in second, Daniel Ricciardo contented himself with an advantage over Mikhail Aleshin, fifth, behind Comtec Racing's Greg Mansell, third, and Pons Racing's Daniel Zampieri, fourth.

The rain continued as the race began and, as a safety measure, the race management decided on a rolling start behind the Safety Car. Daniel Zampieri crashed out and, his race effectively over, Mikhail Aleshin climbed up to fourth. When the Safety Car pulled in Esteban Guerrieri pulled away from Daniel Ricciardo, Greg Mansell and Mikhail Aleshin. With visibility greatly reduced, Aleshin was keen to get past Mansell. The Brit span his car and handed third to Aleshin.

The Russian now found himself on Daniel Ricciardo's rear wing. The proposition was straightforward; whoever finished first was the Champion. The leaders took advantage of the clear track ahead to delay their mandatory pit-stop for as long as possible. Esteban Guerrieri, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne stayed out for as long as they could before pitting for a change of tyres.

Daniel Ricciardo took his turn, leaving the pit with a three-second advantage over Mikhail Aleshin. Nevertheless, it took the Russian just a few laps to catch up with the Australian. The Carlin driver seemed the faster of the two and was clearly waiting for the right moment to attack. Meanwhile, everything was going great for Guerrieri, who was steaming ahead to his sixth win and final win of the season.

The scrap for the title was vintage stuff as Aleshin made a small error but was back up with Ricciardo within moments. The two drivers caught up with Jean-Eric Vergne, who was in second as a result of his pit-stop. Aleshin was clearly leaving nothing to chance. Three laps from the finish, having taken a number of corners virtually along side each other, Mikhail Aleshin spied his opening and passed Daniel Ricciardo and claimed third. At that moment the title was decided. Daniel Ricciardo tried all he could to claw back his advantage but span out at the end of the race. It was all to no avail though as, while Esteban Guerrieri won the race, the happiest man on the track was Mikhail Aleshin, the new champion.

Quote, unquote :

Mikhail Aleshin : "For me the race seemed really short. I made a mistake in my pit-stop, so I didn't think I'd be able to catch Daniel. But he was losing oil or something. It made a real mess of my visor and I couldn't see a thing. I caught up with him and the race was terrific, great sport. I've got to hand it to him. The next step for me is the tryout with Renault F1 Team. We're going to celebrate the title and the move to higher things now."

Daniel Ricciardo : "That was a long race. Everything was great up till the pit-stop. Esteban made a good start, and I wasn't out to try to catch him, that wasn't the aim of the game. After the pit-stop things got tough. The car was sliding all over. Maybe we had a problem if we were losing liquids. Everyone is disappointed, but I'm proud of my season all the same. Second in my first season of Formula Renault 3.5 Series is pretty good. It was a crazy season. I should be taking part in the F1 Rookies Tests in Abu Dhabi. We'll see in the coming weeks what Red Bull has in store for me."

Esteban Guerrieri : "Six victories, it's not a based result for a team that just started this season. I'm very happy and I'd like to thank everyone. The conditions were really difficult today. I'd also like to say well done to Mikhail and Daniel. It's been a fantastic season and the result was well deserved. Now we're going to go to work on getting a drive in F1!"

Jean-Eric Vergne : "It's the first time I've driven this car in the ran. It went well. I'm pleased with the results for the weekend and it proves that I'm ready for the Formula Renault 3.5 Series championship in 2011. Daniel and Mikhail caught up with me at the end of the race, but they were never able to get past me. Above all I didn't want to interfere wit their race."

-source: renault sport