Matthieu Vaxiviere is targeting title glory in the Formula Renault 3.5 series after taking victory in the second race of last weekend's opening round at Aragon.
The Lotus driver was on the pace throughout the weekend at the Spanish circuit, and was rewarded for his impressive speed with a win on Sunday after taking the lead on the very last lap of race two.
After setting the pace in practice on Friday and taking pole on Saturday morning, he had already established himself as a contender for the win - and he was a touch frustrated after finishing fourth in the first race, the result of being forced wide at the first corner by teammate Meindert van Buuren.
"We had worked well throughout the winter on many things, including the balance of the car", Vaxiviere told Motorsport.com. "We were fastest and we knew we were going to be competitive at Motorland.”
"Unfortunately, in race one, my teammate [van Buuren] jumped the start while I had started well, which was a shame. But this is racing, and fourth enabled me to score good points”.
Tyre management was crucial
On Sunday, Vaxiviere was determined not to let victory slip through his fingers, but the Frenchman was denied pole position after an extremely competitive qualifying session.
"We tried to change a small thing and it did not turn out well," he admitted. “Too bad that it was 0.024 seconds, but it was a shame not to be on pole!
"In the race, there was a lot of rain in the beginning and they made the right call by red flagging it, because it was undriveable.”
After a safety car start and a red flag that lasted nearly half an hour, race two took place on a drying track, meaning the last stint required good tyre management. Vaxiviere took advantage of this to pressure Nyck de Vries, who had been leading since the start.
"As it was drying more and more, I was trying to manage my brakes and cool down my tyres on the straights and on the parts of the track that were still wet," he explained. "It enabled me to have more traction in the last turn and overtake him [de Vries] on the outside”.
The winning move
As Vaxiviere made his move at the hairpin on the final lap of the race, de Vries veered wide on the exit and hit the Lotus driver, damaging his own steering.
"I had been planning that move the lap before and I knew it was possible to make it there", Vaxiviere said. "I didn’t think it would be that complicated, we collided, but in the end it was a win and good points, so it was a great weekend.
"I was especially happy for the team and for myself, because we really deserved it with all the work we carried out during the winter”.
Vaxiviere therefore left Aragon in second place in the standings, three points behind race one winner Olivier Rowland, and has set his sights firmly on sealing the title.
"I can’t rest on my laurels, I have to keep going and I’m already focused on Monaco," he insisted.
"The aim is very clear - winning the championship. We will do our utmost to win and we’ll work hard to make it."