Robert Wickens (Photo Credit: Renault Sport)

Robert Wickens (Photo Credit: Renault Sport)

Robert Wickens took a lights to flag victory in race one of the Formula Renault 3.5 season finale in Barcelona.

The Canadian, who started from pole position, was peerless as he streaked away at the front and eventually won the race by 21.051secs from team mate Jean-Eric Vergne, who shared the acclaim following an excellent recovery drive after qualifying a lowly ninth.

The result means that Wickens has extended his lead over his team mate to nine points heading into tomorrow's title decider, while both drivers are now on five wins apiece this season.

The championship leader said: “I was keeping my eye on that famous tower in the pit straight to see how Jean-Eric was doing, and when I saw that he was fourth I knew I couldn't afford to make any mistakes. I got a good pace going and the car was very consistent from start to finish.

“Its always good to win a by a good margin, rather than a couple of tenths, and today's race was really the first time that has happened to me this season, so it was fun.”I did what I had to do today and that was win.”

Vergne's drive was certainly feisty; he got a reasonable start from the fifth row of the grid, but weaved his way through the first sequence of corners and found himself up to sixth at Seat.

He then fortuitously gained two further places at Turns 7 and 8 after Albert Costa and Jake Rosenzweig collided whilst battling for fourth.

The American had the inside line but Costa, perhaps over eager in front of his home crowd, refused to yield on the outside line and the two made contact, with the Epic driver spinning into the gravel and retirement.

Now up to fourth, Vergne pressurized third placed Alexander Rossi for several laps before making a bold move around the outside of the American into turn one on lap 17.

Placing tremendous trust in Rossi ahead, Vergne squeezed through up into third before repeating the same move five laps later on P1's Daniil Move, although the Russian was slightly more submissive in his defence.

For Vergne, second place was the maximum in a race focused on damage limitation.

He said: “This is the best result I could have hoped for after starting in ninth place. The car hasn't been perfect since the start of the weekend and we have to get that right for tomorrow. I had to take a few risks today and I pulled two good passes. We've both proved a lot of things this season, and tomorrow I just have to go out and win.”

Move hung on to third for what was his best result since race one at Monza.

Starting from fifth, the Russian benefitted from Costa's late lunge at Wickens into turn one at the start, which simultaneously delayed Rossi, allowing Move to sneak into second place.

Despite being passed by Vergne, the 25 year old was able to keep Rossi at bay to score his first podium since May.

Move said: “This is my second podium of the year. It's been tough for us to recover from Roly Vincini's departure. We've had to work very hard and this result is a pretty good reward for that.”

Sergio Canamasas did provide some joy in front of his fellow countryman by taking fifth ahead of Pons' Nick Yelloly, although the Brit may face repercussions after colliding with Kevin Korjus at Seat with three laps to go.

The Estonian, with greater speed, attempted to go around the outside of the Briton at the sharp left hander but as Yelloly tried to defend his position he collided with Korjus.

The Tech 1 driver was spun round dropped to 11th and out of the points, while Yelloly, who was passed by Canamasas in the incident, took his second consecutive sixth place.

Nelson Pantiatici, Jan Charouz, Nathanael Berthon and Arthur Pic completed the top ten, while Brendon Hartley did not even make the start after the sufficient damage he suffered to his car in qualifying.

Speaking on his Twitter account he said: “Rubbish day. Cracked the chassis and blew the engine after 2 laps in qualifying. Not enough time to fix it for the race. (The) car was quick!”

Adrien Tambay was also unable to start the race after suffering a stiff neck following his shunt in qualifying, meaning his participation in tomorrow's race is in doubt.

A dramatic championship decider tomorrow will not be, though.

 

Race One Results - 29 laps:

Pos Driver Team Time/Gap
 1.  Robert Wickens     Carlin            47m03.837s
 2.  Jean-Eric Vergne   Carlin             + 21.051s
 3.  Daniil Move        P1                 + 31.271s
 4.  Alexander Rossi    Fortec             + 32.042s
 5.  Sergio Canamasas   BVM Target         + 33.011s
 6.  Nick Yelloly       Pons               + 39.144s
 7.  Nelson Panciatici  KMP                + 39.598s
 8.  Jan Charouz        Gravity-Charouz    + 40.217s
 9.  Nathanael Berthon  ISR                + 41.366s
10.  Arthur Pic         Tech 1             + 42.334s
11.  Kevin Korjus       Tech 1             + 42.753s
12.  Daniel Zampieri    BVM Target         + 51.862s
13.  Walter Grubmuller  P1                 + 52.322s
14.  Sten Pentus        Epic               + 52.635s
15.  Fairuz Fauzy       Mofaz              + 53.518s
16.  Daniel de Jong     Comtec             + 54.521s
17.  Daniel McKenzie    Comtec             + 55.777s
18.  Lewis Williamson   ISR              + 1m01.227s
19.  Jake Rosenzweig    Mofaz            + 1m06.425s

Retirements:

     Cesar Ramos        Fortec               15 laps
     Stephane Richelmi  Draco                12 laps
     Anton Nebylitskiy  KMP                   2 laps
     Oliver Webb        Pons                   1 lap
     Albert Costa       Epic                  0 laps
     Brendon Hartley    Gravity-Charouz       0 laps
     Adrien Tambay      Draco                 0 laps