Strakka Racing Formula Renault review

Strong Monza fightback secures Laine top 12 finish in Formula Renault 3.5 race twoContact spoils day for Rd1 winner Will Stevens although Brit departs Italy with joint championship lead

Strakka Racing’s Matias Laine mounted an impressive recovery drive to secure a battling top 12 finish during round two of the 2014 Formula Renault 3.5 Series at Monza, Sunday, 13th April – although it was ultimately a race to forget for round one winner Will Stevens following contact on lap 11.

While the early morning qualifying session didn’t go entirely to plan for the team-mates, British driver Stevens made a typically rapid getaway at the start of the race from a lower than expected 14th on the grid and scythed his way into ninth position on the opening lap.

Pressuring Will Buller during the early running, Caterham Racing Academy-supported Stevens was in a position to have a look into the Rettifilo Chicane at the beginning of lap seven but with Buller slamming the door shut the Strakka Racing driver had no option but to cut across the kerbs.

With the delay compromising his exit from the turn, Stevens was a sitting duck into the second chicane and was nudged back to 10th place by Russia’s Nikolay Martsenko. Determined to hit back, Stevens was within touching distance of Buller by lap nine – the latter having dropped behind Martsenko.

Then, two laps later, Stevens’ hopes of a strong result were ruined when what initially looked to be a great pass resulted in a visit to the gravel and retirement. Getting alongside Buller into the braking zone for Rettifilo on the outside line, Stevens positioned his car neatly and looked to have the place secured.

Buller, though, refused to cede position and the resulting contact tipped Stevens onto two wheels before coming to rest on the outside of the turn – a hugely disappointing conclusion to what started as a superb weekend with his maiden victory on Saturday. Even so, he still ends the first event of the year with the joint championship lead.

“It’s a disappointing day after yesterday,” Stevens comments, “I managed to get a good start and was running in the points until the incident with [Will] Buller. It’s been an up and down weekend really, but I’m obviously happy with the win from Saturday and to come away joint leader of the championship.”

Laine experienced a more challenging beginning to the race than Stevens, the Finnish driver put wide out of the Rettifilo Chicane on lap one and losing a lot of momentum on the drag through Curva Grande. Elbowed back to 19th position, having started round two in 10th place, Laine had to battle hard through the incredibly competitive field and despite some additional setbacks – including damaged steering – he still managed to recover strongly.

Down to 20th position on lap four, after unfortunately running straight on at the second chicane, Laine was back into the top 15 by lap eight and then profited from the Stevens-Buller incident to move into 14th place. With Buller tumbling down the order due to damage sustained when hitting Stevens, Laine was able to get ahead on lap 15 to take 13th and he then grabbed 12th position eight laps from the finish to wrap-up a strong recovery.

“Qualifying was a lot better than yesterday and I was happy with my lap, I didn’t manage to get a tow at all, though, which would have given me an extra two tenths – top six on the grid was possible,” says Laine, “Anyway, in the race I was forced a bit wide at the first corner and lost time there.

“I passed a lot of cars after that before [Roberto] Merhi went straight through the chicane and rejoined, making contact with me. It damaged my steering so I was lucky to finish. It’s been a very promising weekend, though, with good pace.”

Motorland Aragon in Spain will host rounds three and four of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series on 26th/27th April.