The Arden Motorsport drivers Pierre Gasly and William Buller had very different weekends in Paul Ricard as the Formula Renault 3.5 Series rolled into France for the penultimate weekend of the season.
Gasly enjoyed his best points haul of the year after taking two runners-up spots on Saturday and Sunday, but admitted he was hoping to take his first victory in front of his home fans, but was denied by the pace of championship leader Carlos Sainz Jr.
“For sure, in all honesty it was one of the best weekends so far this year,” said Red Bull Junior driver Gasly. “It was great to be racing at home and the results were not bad at all.
“In the first race I started second and I finished second, but it was still a really good race, which concluded with my third consecutive podium result. It is very positive, in as much as we had a difficult Friday. I tried to stay close to Carlos using the DRS, but we swapped best time lap after lap.”
The Frenchman took his maiden series pole position on Sunday but was powerless to prevent Sainz beating him into the first corner, and then spent a few laps holding off Jazeman Jaafar before settling down and pulling away from the Malaysian to take second place for the second day running.
“Of course [on Sunday] I wanted victory,” said Gasly. “I had been saying that I needed to be fighting from pole and that is exactly what we managed. I made a good start but Carlos made a mega start. I tried everything to stay ahead on the brakes for the first corner but it was too much and I went straight, I got a lot of marbles on my tyres and that ruined any chance I had of chasing Carlos.
“In fact for a few laps it was really horrible I was struggling just to stay in second. Then I managed to get into a rhythm but we had some technical problems and pit stop disaster when a journalist was standing in the pit lane right at our box as I came in. With all of that we did well not to lose position but Carlos was even further ahead and even though we had good pace when things were going well today there was no chance to catch him.
“So it was disappointing not to get my first win but the pace was there and there are still the two races in Jerez, it can certainly still happen. It was a good weekend for the points as well and though I can’t win the championship, second is certainly there to be taken.”
Team-mate Buller had a less successful weekend in France, but secured a point in Sunday’s second race. He was happy with the pace during the collective tests on Friday but ultimately his qualifying pace was not strong enough and he was left starting both races on the back foot.
“I was pleased with the start of the weekend,” said Buller. “We were looking good in the test sessions on Friday. It was shame that I couldn’t continue that onto the first Qualifying session on Saturday. This set me back in race one and I couldn’t do much from sixteenth.
“I was unable to make any improvement in Qualifying on Sunday but had a great start in the race, which was very positive. Getting a top ten finish and a point keeps me in good spirits and hopefully we can work this way at the last round in Jerez.”