Matthieu Vaxiviere rounded off his debut Formula Renault 3.5 Series season with two top eight finishes at Jerez to enable the Lotus driver to finish eighth in the final Drivers’ Championship standings.
The Frenchman was able to recover from brake problems during the collective tests on Friday to put his Lotus eighth on the grid for race one on Saturday, and drove an impressive race to finish just off the podium in fourth. He made up a trio of places at the start and then passed team-mate Marlon Stockinger, but was unable to remain close to the drivers ahead of him.
“Right from the start of practice it was clear that we’d have only one lap to get the best out of our tyres in qualifying,” said Vaxiviere. “So free practice was even more important than usual. Unfortunately, I had serious brake problems in the afternoon that had a big impact on the handling.
“After our brake problems we didn’t really know which way to go in qualifying. I could maybe have done a bit better and we also lacked a little speed. On the other hand, I had a good race pulling off some good overtaking moves to see the flag in fourth place.”
Heading into Sunday, Vaxiviere had high hopes of taking his third podium finish of the season, but was left disappointed after being compromised during qualifying, and ultimately could not finish higher than eighth, although he felt he should have finished inside the top six had he not been delayed in the pits by Roberto Merhi.
“My second qualifying session was so-so,” reflected Vaxiviere. “It was hard with the first set of tyres, but our set-up for the second one helped us improve our times. Unfortunately, I was delayed in my final run and I had the potential to set a time that was good enough for the top three.
“When you start in ninth position it’s hard to pull back places in the race. I also lost two seconds in heat two – again because of Merhi – which forced me to exit the pits behind [Sergey] Sirotkin and [Oscar] Tunjo. Without that hiccup sixth was on the cards. I managed to score big points in the last weekend. I finished the championship in eighth place even though I missed four races.”
Vaxiviere praised his team for enabling him to finish inside the top ten in the championship despite missing the races at Spa-Francorchamps and Moscow Raceway due to injury. He was happy that his results were showing signs of improvement; podium finishes at the Nurburgring and Paul Ricard proving the Frenchman was heading in the right direction.
“I’d like to thank the whole team and my partners for their support during my first season,” said Vaxiviere. “Overall, it’s been very positive as I kept on improving over the months. My apprenticeship is heading in the right direction, but I have to do a lot of work in view of my future and see what doors will open.”
The Frenchman remained with Lotus for the post-Jerez test, and set the best time on the second and final day, and should he return to the Formula Renault 3.5 Series in 2015, should be one of the drivers to be in with a shout of the championship.