Aleshin wins despite Hartley's best efforts! Starting from pole position, Carlin's Mikhail Aleshin claimed his second win this season to lead the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. The Russian driver nevertheless had to hold off Tech 1 Racing's ...
Aleshin wins despite Hartley's best efforts!
Starting from pole position, Carlin's Mikhail Aleshin claimed his second win this season to lead the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. The Russian driver nevertheless had to hold off Tech 1 Racing's Brendon Hartley until his retirement. Aleshin was joined on the podium by Fortec Motorsport's Sten Pentus and Comtec Racing's Stefano Coletti.
Despite a high fever and four interruptions to the qualifying session due to accidents, including one for Formula Renault 3.5 Series leader Daniel Ricciardo, Russia's Mikhail Aleshin claimed his first pole of the season ahead of International Draco Racing's Nathanael Berthon, and Sten Pentus. In glorious sunshine, the three drivers lined up on the starting grid in front of packed stands. As with every Saturday race, the drivers were running a Light aerodynamic configuration.
The two FHV Interwetten cars missed the start, as did ISR's Esteban Guerrieri, while teammate Filip Salaquarda came into the pits as a result of a gearbox problem. At the green light, Aleshin made the best start and entered the La Source hairpin in first place. Berthon, meanwhile was not enjoying a successful first lap, and slipped to 5th place. Aleshin completed his first lap, leading Sten Pentus, Tech 1 Racing's Brendon Hartley and Stefano Coletti.
Aleshin continued to exploit the competition for second place, raging between Pentus, Hartley and Coletti, to extend his lead. Behind them, Berthon led the chasing pack, holding off an increasingly menacing Albert Costa. Epsilon Euskadi's Costa launched his attack at La Source on lap 4, just as KMP Racing's Anton Nebylitskyi saw his chance to attack. The maneuver resulted in the Russian and French drivers locking wheels. Costa dropped to 5th with Nebylitskyi in 6th, while Berthon found himself in amongst the back-markers.
On the following lap, Hartley got the better of Pentus at the Bus Stop. The New Zealander pulled of a magnificent maneuver to snatch second place. His goal was to now to claw back the two-second lead which race leader Aleshin had built up. Hartley raised the stakes, gradually catching up with the Russian. Meanwhile, positions continued to change in the pack as Nebylistkyi overtook Costa to claim 5th place.
Hartley's efforts were beginning to pay off. Twenty minutes from the end of the race, the Tech 1 Racing driver was sat squarely on Aleshin's rear wing. Time and again, Hartley tried to get past Aleshin, first at the Bus Stop, then at La Source, but the Russian held him off well. Behind them Pentus was a solid third and Coletti fourth. The driver from Monaco kept busy trying to hold off a comeback staged by Nebylitskyi, Costa, P1 Motorsport's Jan Charouz and Fortec Motorsport's Jon Lancaster.
The big surprise of the race came on lap 16, when Hartley broke down at the Pouhon turn. The Tech 1 driver could only watch as the Aleshin enjoyed his second win of the season, ahead of Pentus. However, the battle for third place went right to the finish line. In a high-stakes race, Stefano Coletti came out on top to climb the podium for the first time in his Formula Renault 3.5 Series career.
Mikhail Aleshin: "We've had a perfect start to the season! The competition has been intense and we've really had to fight, but it was an perfect day for Carlin and for me. I've been sick for a few days, and this morning I had a temperature of 38.5o.C, so I wasn't on top form. But if you're going to win you have to forget about all that!"
Sten Pentus: "After my win at Motorland Aragon, it's great to follow it with a podium finish. The race was very open at the start, after that it was quite a little calmer for me. But it's never going to be easy here."
Stefano Coletti: "After my accident last year, I'm very happy to get my first FR3.5 Series podium here at Spa. The last few laps with Nebylitskyi and Costa were crazy. My tyres were getting tired, and I made a few little mistakes. They tried to take advantage of me, but I wasn't going to let them!"