Nick Yelloly (Comtec Racing) scored his first ever Formula Renault 3.5 Series win as the 2012 season got under way in Spain. The British driver dug deep in the closing stages to hold off the charging Jules Bianchi (Tech 1 Racing), while Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) slipped into third when Carlos Huertas (Fortec Motorsports) suffered a technical problem in the final laps.
A hugely competitive qualifying session ended with 19 drivers posting times within a second of each other and Arthur Pic (Dams) becoming the first driver to claim pole in the new Formula Renault 3.5. Second on the grid was Yelloly, with Kevin Korjus (Tech 1 Racing) and Richie Stanaway (Lotus) third and fourth. The maximum time allocation for the use of DRS in the season’s opening race was 15 minutes.
Despite a sharp shower in the lead-up to the race, the Motorland Aragon track was dry by the start, with all the drivers opting for slicks. While there no problems for Yelloly as he lead the field at the first corner, there was chaos behind him. Both Daniil Move (P1 Motorsport) and Stanaway stalled on the grid, the New Zealander being rammed in the back by Giovanni Venturini (BVM Target). All three were forced to abandon, while Alexander Rossi (Arden Caterham), Nico Müller (International Draco Racing), Korjus and Walter Grubmüller (P1 Motorsport) came together at the first turn, prompting the safety car to put in an appearance as the marshals cleared the track.
As the rain began to fall again, Yelloly led the way behind the safety car, which stayed out for four laps, followed by Huertas, Bianchi, Pic and Rosenzweig (P1 Motorsport). When battle was rejoined the British driver stayed out front from Huertas and Bianchi, while Rosenzweig collided with Pic, causing both drivers to retire. Magnussen then moved up to fourth ahead Nicolay Martsenko (BVM Target) and the quartet of Will Stevens (Carlin), Andre Negrao (International Draco Racing), Marco Sorensen (Lotus) and Robin Frijns (Fortec Motorsports), who were locked in a tussle of their own.
Frijns came out on top in that particular duel to climb up to fourth, while Huertas and Bianchi battled it out for second, the Tech 1 Racing man executing a flawless manoeuvre with ten minutes remaining to finish behind Yelloly, with Magnussen, Frijns and Huertas completing the top five.
What they said
Nick Yelloly: “I made the perfect start, something we’d worked on a lot in pre-season testing. The safety car allowed me to save my DRS till the end of the race, though I had to make sure I didn’t make a mistake when Jules Bianchi started to come back at me. It’s a relief to start the season with a win. It takes a lot of pressure off, and it’s great for Comtec Racing, who haven’t won for a long time.”
Jules Bianchi: “It was all happening at the start. I locked a front wheel and brushed against Nick, and then I had trouble getting past Carlos Huertas. I managed it in the end and then went after Nick. I was pretty confident because my tyres were in good condition, but the only thing was I lost engine power at the end. Nick drove the perfect race, so congratulations to him and thanks to my team. This is a good way to start the championship.”
Kevin Magnussen: “You don’t expect to get on the podium when you start in 19th. I picked up a lot of places in the first few laps because there were cars going in all directions. I need to work on qualifying because we won’t run this well in every race. Our race pace was very good, though.”