Robert, an official Formula One reserve driver for Marussia Virgin Racing, signaled his intent early in the weekend quickly setting the pace throughout Friday’s fifth round free practice sessions at the 4.55km track. The 22-year-old then translated his pace into points, recapturing the lead of the Driver Standings with Wickens now heading the 2011 title chase on 132 points.
As a result of taking control of the points at the half-way stage of the season, Wickens will be rewarded by the ‘World Series by Renault’ with the opportunity to drive a Renault F1 car in a demonstration run at the next round of the championship in Hungary in July.
NÃ¼rburgring’s variable weather-system proved to be the only other constant of the weekend alongside Robert’s impressive performance. Renowned for changeable conditions, Saturday’s qualifying session brought with it the ever-present threat of a downpour. Undeterred, Robert paced the field to claim pole position with a flying lap of 1m44.782s, nearly four tenths of a second faster than America’s Alexander Rossi in second.
Rain on the formation lap of Saturday’s race posed a dilemma but starting from the pole on ‘dry’ tires meant Wickens was unwilling to sacrifice the lead to opt for ‘wets’. An early safety car period offered those who wished to pit the opportunity to do so but Robert’s optimism was rewarded as the rain stopped.
Despite losing the lead briefly to Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo, it was the Canadian’s mastery of the challenging conditions that made the difference as he reclaimed the lead and ultimately led the field home to the checkered. Wickens duly celebrated his second victory of the season, joined on the podium this time around by Ricciardo in second and Estonia’s Kevin Korjus in third.
Sunday morning’s wet qualifying session once again saw Robert top the timesheets in his Marussia Motors-backed Carlin entry. The Toronto native enjoyed a half second advantage in the rain over New Zealand’s Brendon Hartley, Robert’s best a 2m04.009s to the Kiwi’s 2m04.552s.
A good start to the 24-lap race allowed Wickens to build a solid lead but a safety car period in the middle of the mandatory pit-window blew out the team’s strategy of a late-stop with time in hand. With his advantage eradicated and some rivals having already pitted, Robert surrendered his lead when he darted into the pits. Back on-track and charging in third with a fresh set of tires, Robert passed Malaysia’s Fairuz Fauzy on the penultimate lap to take second but ran out of time to catch leader and ultimately race winner Kevin Korjus.
“Overall it’s been a fantastic weekend," stated Wickens. “We were close to achieving the complete sweep which would have been remarkable but unfortunately that safety car period in today’s race ended our shot at another win. It’s a bit ironic that I’m left a little disappointed because of that, not least considering the weekend was so strong, but I really am happy with our overall achievements. Carlin gave me a great car here in Germany and we’re back in the points lead!"
Round 6 of the ‘World Series by Renault’ heads to Hungary next month and the Hungaroring Circuit, Saturday 2nd – Sunday 3rd July 2011.