Maldonado + Draco = Monaco
After helping Montanari to victory last year, Draco Multiracing USA continues its unbeaten run in the Principality. This time it was the Venezuelan driver Pastor Maldonado who took the chequered flag under the attentive gaze of Carlos Ghosn, ahead of James Rossiter (Pons Racing) and Gregory Franchi (Prema Power Team). Maldonado leaves Monaco as leader of the World Series Formula Renault 3.5 on level pegging with Salignon.
Christian Montanari (Prema Power Team) got off to a perfect start from pole position and was first into Sainte D0x00e9vote ahead of Pastor Maldonado and Jaap Van Lagen (Comtec Racing). The whole field made it through the narrow, opening section without incident. But we didn't have to wait long for the first coming-together with Mikhail Aleshin (Carlin Motorsport) running into Sean McIntosh (KTR) just before Loews. Both drivers were however able to rejoin. Before the end of lap one, Hayanari Shimoda (Victory Engineering) managed to get the better of his teammate Alvaro Parente.
On lap two, the race took on a completely different complexion. Montanari nearly lost it at Massenet and came into contact with the safety barriers. Maldonado took his opportunity to move into the lead. Further back, Jaap Van Lagen and Celso Miguez, in third and fourth respectively, were involved in a similar, more serious incident and were forced to abandon. The careful approach of the drivers and some efficient work by the ACM race marshals meant the race was able to continue without the safety car coming out.
Determined to regain the lead, Montanari was quickly back on the attack, making repeated efforts to get past Maldonado. The two rivals completed lap three with a five second lead over James Rossiter, who had in turn opened up a gap over a group consisting of Greg Franchi, Patrick Pilet (GD Racing) and Colin Fleming (Carlin Motorsport). A little further down the field, Robbie Kerr (KTR) was putting pressure on Shimoda and Parente.
Montanari's race ended on lap seven, when he crashed into the safety barrier at the Swimming Pool chicane. This left Maldonado alone out front with a nine second lead over Rossiter! But the race was not over yet: the Venezuelan clipped the rail at Sainte Devote on lap 11. From thereon in though, he was fully committed right to the finish. Setting a series of fastest laps, he remained on the attack until the moment he crossed the line.
Having opened up significant gaps, James Rossiter and Greg Franchi were also in a comfortable position. The action was really happening with the battle for fourth between Patrick Pilet and Colin Fleming. The French driver was able to hold off the man from California until the penultimate lap when he span under pressure.
Having remained nose-to-tail from start to finish, Shimoda, Parente and Kerr finally finished in that order. Tomas Kostka (Draco Multiracing USA), Milos Pavlovic (Cram Comp0x00e9tition) and Andy Soucek (Interwetten.com) also made it into the points.
After starting from the back row, Eric Salignon (Interwetten.com) crossed the line in twentieth, way out of the points. The Frenchman nevertheless remains joint leader of the Championship with today's race winner.
Pastor Maldonado: "I got a good start and I knew the car was right. The opening laps were crucial as it was a question of getting the tyres up to temperature in controlled fashion. I was just waiting for Christian to make a mistake and felt sure I could win here today."
James Rossiter: "I took a risk by starting on tyres that had already been worn in. But it enabled me to be in action right from the word go. The most important thing was to complete lap one without incident."
Gregory Franchi: "It's the best result of my career! The team has worked so well, I think I want to drive for Prema for the rest of my life!"