Home favorite Vergne reigns supreme UPDATE Albert Costa and Daniel Ricciardo have both fallen foul of the stewards following this afternoon's opening race at Paul Ricard, with the Spaniard being disqualified and the ISR man dropping from fifth to sixth place on the overall classification.
Epic Racing's Costa had finished the race in second place, trailing ultimate winner Jean-Eric Vergne by just 1.037 seconds at the chequered flag. However, his car was found to be 2kg underweight following in-depth scrutiny, resulting in exclusion.
On the other hand, Ricciardo was deemed to have exceeded the track limits during the race, with officials therefore opting to add ten seconds to his overall time.
09/17/11 After taking pole position, Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin) led from start to finish in Race 1 at the Paul Ricard HTTT to close the gap on FR 3.5 Series championship leader and Carlin team-mate Robert Wickens (Carlin) to a mere 17 points with only three races remaining. Albert Costa (Epic Racing) took second but was later disqualified after his car was found to have exceeded the minimum weight in the post-race checks. As a result, Wickens was promoted one place to second, with Brendon Hartley (Gravity-Charouz) taking third.
In the morning American Alexander Rossi was straight on to the pace and set an early P1 in first Qualifying. In a maneuver to pass a slower car on his quickest timed lap, he had to veer off track in the all important third sector, and this bumped him down the time sheet to P5 at the end of running.
Vergne was first to react as the lights went out, while Costa held on to second and Hartley saw first Wickens and then Rossi flash past him. And by the end of lap one Ricciardo had relinquished sixth place to Jake Rosenzweig (Mofaz Racing).
As Vergne, Costa and Wickens started to break away, it was Rossi who led the chasing pack ahead of Hartley, with Rosenzweig, Ricciardo and Daniil Move (P1 Motorsport) forming a group of their own slightly further back.
Rossi made a great start to the race and had soon taken Hartley for P4, setting the fastest lap time in the process. Making headway and catching Wickens, Rossi then picked up debris kicked up from Wickens right rear blocking his right side pod entry. Half of a main front wing plane became lodged in Alexander’s car, blocking the vital air flow through to the engine and caused a negative effect on the aerodynamics – actually slowing the car down. Fighting for the rest of the race to defend position, all Alexander could do was try to keep the car on track as his tires rapidly fell away from him making the Fortec Motorsports car virtually undividable.
Hartley made his move on lap six, jumping into fourth past a slowed Rossi, who then saw Rosenzweig ease past him. Having slipped from fourth to sixth in a handful of turns, the American suddenly found himself in a tight duel with HRT F1 driver Ricciardo.
Up ahead the leading trio kept pace with each other, before Vergne strung together a series of fastest laps to pull away from the chasing Costa and Wickens. Three seconds clear of the field, the leaders set a consistent pace over the opening ten laps.
Further back, Ricciardo finally won his tussle with Rossi, with Sergio Canamasas (BVM Target) taking full advantage to overtake the Fortec Motorsports driver in the same maneuver and complete his impressive climb from 16th on the grid to seventh. Finding his rhythm as the finish line neared, Ricciardo then slid past Rosenzweig into fifth, a position the Australian in the Red Bull Junior Team colors would hold on to.
There was no stopping the consistent Vergne, however, the Frenchman easing to the smoothest of victories, his fifth of the season, ahead of Costa and Wickens. There was bad news for Costa, however, when his car was later judged to have exceeded the minimum weight. His disqualification led to Wickens moving up to second and Hartley third, with Vergne now just 17 points adrift of the Canadian in the FR 3.5 Series standings.
Jean-Eric Vergne: “This is a very special weekend for me and it’s always an emotional moment when you hear La Marseillaise booming out on home soil. It was a great race after a great qualifying session, and now we’ll just have to wait and see what tomorrow brings. Everything’s going just fine in the team. We’re working well with Robert [Wickens] even if we are fighting it out for the title. That’s the advantage of working in a team like Carlin.”
Robert Wickens: “I made a mistake in qualifying and I started down the grid. I tried to get past Albert at the start but it was important not to take too many risks, and I got in among the points. Jean-Eric winning today was not ideal, but the key thing is to still be in the lead at the end of the weekend.”
Alexander Rossi "I am bitterly disappointed. The car felt good before the race and when I had taken Hartley at the start I knew I had a good run on Robert and was confident for podium finish today. Half of a front wing from the first lap incident got stuck in my right side pod on lap three, destabilizing the whole car for the entire race. I am sure, with the car showing great pace in qualifying and at the start of the race that I could have won today and to not even finish in the points after I fought to defend the whole time, is truly frustrating.”
Race 1 Results
||Jean Eric VERGNE
||GRAVITY - CHAROUZ
||TECH 1 RACING
||INTERNATIONAL DRACO RACING
||INTERNATIONAL DRACO RACING
||TECH 1 RACING
||Daniel DE JONG