Career best qualifying for Laine but frustration for title contender Stevens at German GP venue – Strakka up to third in team title race
Finland’s Matias Laine converted his best ever Formula Renault 3.5 Series qualifying performance into a deserved top six result at the Nurburgring over the weekend, 12th/13thJuly, but opening lap contact in race two resulted in a vexing retirement.
Strakka Racing team-mate Will Stevens, meanwhile, rued two lower than anticipated grid starts for rounds 10 and 11 but the Briton managed to salvage a seventh place result in Sunday’s encounter where he delivered podium challenging pace.
Laine starred during Saturday morning’s qualifying session, lapping with the sixth fastest time of 1m41.033 seconds (183.4 km/h) to only miss out on pole position by a mere 0.2 seconds.
Light rain in the air ahead of round 10 threatened to have an impact, but Laine made a good launch and remained out of trouble through the first couple of turns to hold his top six placing.
With overtaking opportunities at an absolute premium, the Finn spent the remainder of the 24 lapper holding station. He proved his speed, though, with a best lap of 1m44.676 seconds (177.0 km/h) – within just 0.1 seconds of top two performance.
Sunday morning’s round 11 qualifying session took place in wet conditions and the Strakka drivers had to settle for lower than expected positions – Laine starting 16thon the grid.
Unfortunately, his involvement in race two was over almost as soon as it started after a multi-car tangle at Turn Two. Sustaining damage, Laine was able to tour back to the pits but had to retire.
“The pace was there all weekend and Saturday qualifying was excellent, two tenths off pole – it’s a shame I got traffic on my last lap or it could have been even better” said Laine.
“We overheated the brakes in Sunday’s session which meant we started in among the pack. Unfortunately, that resulted in my first accident of the year. Overall, though, I’m very happy and go into the break looking forward to returning to Hungary even stronger.”
Stevens had an uneventful first race and finished just outside the points-paying top 10. Starting in 12thplace, the Caterham Racing Academy driver remained there until lap seven when he moved into 11thposition but he couldn’t quite crack the top 10.
Beginning race two from 10thon the grid, Stevens was determined to make up plenty of ground off the start and made a sensational getaway. Slicing his way into the top four, his hard work was then undone when forced wide at the first corner avoiding a collision.
Dropping the Briton back to ninth place, following a three lap Safety Car period Stevens set about challenging for eighth but then served his mandatory pit-stop as soon as the pit window opened.
When the race order stabilised following the pit-stops the Strakka driver held eighth position. Moving into seventh five laps from the end, when Pietro Fantin retired, Stevens stayed there to the finish.
He also took away the second fastest lap of the race, a time of 1m44.488 seconds (177.4 km/h), which was a mere 0.1 seconds shy of the best of all.
“Overall, it’s been a disappointing weekend,” he reflected, “Coming through in the races was difficult, overtaking was hard. Qualifying 12thfor race one and then 10thin the wet for race two was always going to make things difficult.
“In the second race I managed to get up to fourth before the first corner but had to avoid the crash with [Carlos] Sainz and [Oliver] Rowland which meant I had to go off, dropping to P9. We had a good pit stop and came through to seventh, which was good from where we started. Setting second fastest race lap shows we have very promising pace if we can get qualifying sorted.”
Stevens ended the weekend sixth in the driver standings on 84 points with Laine moving up into 11th place with 37 points. In the team standings, Strakka Racing has climbed into the top three.
Rounds 12 and 13 of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series will take place at the Hungaroring in Hungary on 13th /14th September.