In a very difficult race full of changing conditions Christian Vietoris drove a faultless race to take a great victory for Racing Engineering.
Today’s 25 lap Feature Race started in sunny conditions but with threatening dark clouds in the sky. Although there was a dry line on the track there were still damp patches off the racing line making overtaking difficult.
As the red lights went off Vietoris made a great start from pole position to lead into the first corner from the chasing pair of Bianchi and Grosjean and the young German pressed on as hard as he could on the opening lap to lead from Bianchi as the cars started their second lap. With the possibility of rain in mind Vietoris continued to build his lead, setting fastest times on lap 2 and 3, and as the cars started lap 4 he had a 2.5 second lead over Bianchi.
For the next 5 laps the gap to Bianchi remained constant as the two cars seemed equally matched. As the skies darkened all the drivers were staying out on track and delaying their mandatory pitstops for as long as possible to avoid having to make a second stop to change to wets if the predicted rain arrived.
Then on lap 13 it began to rain heavily and cars immediately began to pit and on lap 14 the top three runners all made their stops and changed to wet tyres. The usual efficient pit stop from the Racing Engineering team saw Vietoris retain his lead and at the end of lap 15 the German led by 3.2 seconds from Bianchi.
It was now raining much harder and with several cars spinning off the Safety Car was deployed at the end of lap 15 negating the hard won lead Vietoris had built up.
Dani Clos had an exciting race starting from 12th on the grid, the young Spaniard made a good start and at the end of lap 1 he was 11th and chasing Cecotto. On lap 2 Clos passed Cecotto for 10th and he began a long battle with Kral for 9th. Lap 6 saw the Racing Engineering car lose a place to Cecotto but within a lap Clos had re-passed the Ocean car and resumed his fight with Kral.
Clos made his mandatory stop on lap 14 and resumed right behind Kral once again but with the clearly faster car he was able to pass the Arden car on the exit from the Bus Stop Chicane in a beautifully timed manoeuvre just before the Safety Car came out.
The Safety car continued to lead the field as more cars spun and conditions deteriorated further. Clos now found himself lying 7th without passing any cars as, even at the reduced pace of the Safety Car, other drivers made mistakes and left the track.
With the conditions not improving the Safety Car continued to lead cars around but with the time nearing the one hour mark it was called in with just enough time for one racing lap. Vietoris made a perfect restart and held his lead to the chequered flag for a great win in terrible conditions.
Clos was lying 6th at the restart as another car in front of him had retired and he immediately made a brave effort to pass Hartley through Eau Rouge but the spray was so heavy that visibility was almost zero and he had to settle for 6th place.
Tomorrow’s Sprint race will see Vietoris starting 8th on the reversed grid and Clos will start 3rd and both men will be looking for a podium finish after their great showing today.
Dani Clos: “My start was good considering that I had to start from the wet side of the track. You could see a big difference between those on the right and on the left side. The opening laps were quite intense with several passes. I was also overtaken, but took back the position. Then I was waiting for the rain, everyone came in the same lap. The team did an awesome job at the pitstop. I had good opportunities to overtake and took 6th place. When the safety car left, Hartley brake tested me twice which is quite dangerous given the fact that the visibility was so low. Good job and we have a pretty good car. Tomorrow good things are possible.”
Christian Vietoris: “I had a quite good start and a very good first lap. I controlled the gap during the following laps. The car was very consistent and we are improving it with every race. We are competitive under all conditions, dry and wet. Good job from the team. For tomorrow I definitely want to be in the points and if it rains, I think even the race win is possible.”
Alfonso de Orléans-Borbón, president of Racing Engineering: “What a great job from the whole team today. The drivers drove a difficult race in extreme conditions and did it wonderfully. The mechanics made a perfect pit stop for both cars and the engineers really nailed the set up. Congratulations to everyone for getting both drivers in the points and a win for Christian. Now, after some celebrating, let's get ready for the race tomorrow since both drivers have a chance to be on the podium and hopefully another win.”