Strakka Racing duo Will Stevens and Matias Laine deliver consistently strong pace in blue riband F1 support race
Formula Renault 3.5 Series title contender Will Stevens kept his 2014 championship challenge bubbling away during the annual Monaco Grand Prix support race this morning, Sunday, 25thMay, with eighth position for top team Strakka Racing.
Team-mate Matias Laine, who was served with a disappointing and highly unfortunate ‘track limits’ time penalty after avoiding a collision, concluded round five of the season in 13thposition.
Making its annual appearance on the streets of Monte-Carlo as a support category to the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Formula Renault 3.5 Series entry was split into two groups for qualifying due to the tight confines of the 3.3-kilometre circuit.
Session two, in which Stevens participated, benefited from faster times than the opening run as the track evolved. Lapping with a best time of 1m23.924 seconds, the Surrey driver posted the fifth quickest lap which equated to ninth on the combined grid.
Laine, meanwhile, was eighth in the first session which meant the Finn lined-up on the eighth row of the grid for the sole race of the weekend in 16thposition.
At the start, Stevens made swift progress into eighth while Laine managed to avoid any troubles at Sainte Devote to leap into the top 12.
Fending off the attentions of Roberto Merhi for the first three laps, British driver Stevens then set about pulling clear of his rival and ultimately finished the 30-lap encounter seven seconds clear to hold on to fourth in the championship standings.
“It’s been a pretty tough weekend here in Monaco,” said the Caterham Racing Academy driver, “It’s always a great circuit to drive but as it’s so tight and twisty, it’s all about qualifying. So starting P9 was always going to make the race difficult.
“We came home with some points, though, which all add up at the end of the year. We head to Spa knowing we are very strong there so we need to come away with two good points finishes.”
Finnish racer Laine, meanwhile, fended off the close attentions of William Buller and remained in 12thposition until lap 22 when he was able to claim 11thplace, which he held to the finish.
Championship officials, however, decided the Strakka driver was one of several competitors to have exceeded track limits while avoiding an incident at Saint Devote early on. The harsh 10 second penalty which was applied dropped him to 13thposition.
“Our pace in qualifying was not too bad until I broke the rear anti-roll bar,” explained Laine, “My race start was very good and I was pretty happy to finish in P11. We got a penalty for track limits, but it was when I was trying to avoid a crash at the first corner so that’s really disappointing. I’m looking forward to Spa now.”
Strakka Racing now heads straight to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium for rounds six and seven of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, which will take place next weekend – 31stMay/1stJune.