The first race of the 2014 Formula Renault season is in the books and Strakka Racing's Will Stevens came away with the victory.
Will Stevens (Strakka Racing) has become the first victor this year in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. On the Autodromo di Monza, the Englishman put in a stellar performance to score his maiden win in the category. The Caterham Racing Academy driver was joined on the podium by two newcomers, Roberto Merhi (Zeta Corse) and Pierre Gasly (Arden Motorsport), at the end of a spectacular and intense race.
After dominating free-practice on Friday, Carlos Sainz (DAMS) took the pole on Saturday. The Spaniard set a best time of 1’33’’235, four minutes from the end of the shortened session due to the spin of Zoël Amberg (AVF). William Buller (Arden Motorsport) was next, followed by Luca Ghiotto (International Draco Racing), Will Stevens (Strakka Racing) and Roberto Merhi
The DAMS driver stalled on the starting grid when the cars were released for the formation lap, as did Matthieu Vaxivière (Lotus). William Buller and Luca Ghiotto both had sub-par starts, allowing Will Stevens to move into the lead ahead of Roberto Merhi and Pierre Gasly. At the end of the opening lap, a terrifying airborne accident involving Marco Sørensen (Tech 1 Racing) and Jazeman Jaafar (ISR) brought out the safety car.
The race went back to green on lap five. Will Stevens maintained his lead, while Roman Mavlanov (Zeta Corse) passed Luca Ghiotto to join the leaders. Five laps later the Russian was then lost his position to William Buller, before suffering many attacks from a rampaging pack of cars.
Will Stevens continued to add to his advantage, taking a comfortable win ahead of Merhi and Pierre Gasly. William Buller took fourth place from Nikolay Martsenko in the waning moments of the race. In the pack further back, the action was on the boil just until the chequered flag with Oliver Rowland (Fortec Motorsports) taking sixth place ahead of Sergey Sirotkin (Fortec Motorsports), Zoël Amberg, Meindert van Buuren (Pons Racing) and Matias Laine (Strakka Racing).
Will Stevens: ”It’s been a long time coming. It is the best way to begin the championship, as opposed to last year. I have worked a lot on the starts and today it paid off. After the safety car period, I pushed the pace to build a gap. We now have to work on our single lap pace.”
Roberto Merhi: ”After two seasons away from open-wheel, it is a world that I am rediscovering as the driving style is so different. After we struggled in tests, I was more competitive in qualifying. I got a good start, but it was not perfect. Despite good pace, I made mistakes in trying to reduce the gap to Will, who was able to pull away.”
Pierre Gasly: ”I am pleased to be where I expected to be. I put in a very good start, but in trying to get around Roberto, it was very tight and I preferred to go straight. In coming back on to the track, he was a little faster than I was. I made a few small errors during my fight with Martsenko, but I am happy with this result.”