Strakka Racing’s British driver Will Stevens finally won his first Formula Renault 3.5 series race at the 35th time of asking. The British driver will head into the second round of the season at Aragon at the end of the month as joint championship leader with DAMS’ Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jr and Arden Motorsport’s French driver Pierre Gasly.
“I’m really happy to get the win, my first in World Series,” says Stevens on the official Strakka Racing website. “The car was mega. We worked hard on our starts over the winter and are really confident about them at the moment. Once we managed to get a good start, we knew our race pace would be good. That is where we are strongest, and we know that if we are able to get out in front, we are able to put in that sort of performance
“We managed to get a good start and controlled the race really well. It’s been a long time coming but we knew we could do it.
“We were pulling away by three or four tenths every lap and I was comfortable at that pace. We didn’t have to push too hard and I always felt on top of the situation. So yes, it really was the perfect start to the season.
“I managed to get a good start [on Sunday] and was running in the points until the incident with [Will] Buller. I had a look at the first chicane on one lap but wasn’t in quite the right position so backed out. I tried again later at the same chicane and got past into the first corner. He squeezed me into the second and made contact with the rear of the car, which put me into the gravel. I didn’t have anywhere to go. It’s disappointing because I’d got the move done.
“It’s been an up and down weekend really, but I’m obviously happy with the win from Saturday and to come away joint leader of the championship.
“If I had been offered that on Thursday I’d have happily taken it – but of course you always want more. There are a lot of positives to take away from Italy but it’s only the first event: we need to keep working hard and we need to improve.”
Stevens’ Finnish team-mate Matias Lainé faired less well in Monza, finishing eleventh on the road on Saturday before being elevated to tenth after Lotus driver Marlon Stockinger was handed a post-race time penalty for passing the Finn under safety car conditions. On Sunday he finished twelfth after taking damage after being hit by Zeta Corse driver Roberto Merhi.
“Qualifying [on Saturday] was a shame, but the race was good,” says Lainé, “I gained quite a few positions off the start but when the Safety Car was out after the big accident, Stockinger passed me. I wasn’t sure what to do so I just had to sit behind him, but in the end we got a championship point.
“Qualifying was a lot better [on Sunday] and I was happy with my lap, I didn’t manage to get a tow at all, though, which would have given me an extra two tenths – top six on the grid was possible. Anyway, in the race I was forced a bit wide at the first corner and lost time there.
“I passed a lot of cars after that before Merhi went straight through the chicane and re-joined, making contact with me. It damaged my steering so I was lucky to finish. It’s been a very promising weekend, though, with good pace.”