It was fair to say that the Spa-Francorchamps circuit suited the Strakka Racing team far better than the previous weekend’s Monaco track. Both Championship contender Will Stevens and team-mate Matias Lainé had strong weekends, with Stevens taking a podium in race two on Sunday while Lainé took his best Formula Renault 3.5 Series result with fourth during race one on Saturday.
For Stevens, Saturday’s race was not his best of the year. He was a lowly fifteenth on the grid but was able to salvage seventh position at the flag to take six points.
“Qualifying was disappointing but the race was much better,” said Stevens after the Saturday race. “Setting the second fastest lap definitely bodes really well for tomorrow’s race.”
Sunday’s race was a much better one for the Caterham Racing Academy driver, with the Briton lining up third on the grid, and converted that into a second place finish to take eighteen points home with him. It was made all the better by the fact his Strakka engineers having to change his car’s tub overnight due to an issue, a feat they achieved in little over five hours.
“The changes we made overnight were a lot better, we knew the race would be good,” said Stevens on Sunday. “The pace at the start wasn’t great because of the older tyres, but the pit-stop was good and better rear tyres then meant the pace at the end helped us hold on. Overall, it’s been a much better result today.”
Team-mate Lainé had his best event so far, not just in 2014 but in the Formula Renault 3.5 series in general. He was only 0.3 seconds shy of pole position for Saturday’s race, and was only a lap away from taking his maiden podium finish before being overtaken by the lower-downforce car of ISR’s Jazeman Jaafar. Up to that point he had been hassling the Arden Motorsport machine of Pierre Gasly ahead of him, and the three drivers finished nose-to-tail at the flag.
“Qualifying was the best of this year, only three tenths off around Spa is really good,” said Lainé on Saturday. “I made the best start I have all year and our pace was good behind Gasly, the top gears were just a bit too long to enable us to get past him.
“It’s a shame about losing third on the last lap but Jaafar was on really low wing and could just drive past me.”
Sunday’s race saw him starting eighth on the grid, he climbed into the top four at the start, but a problem with his Drag Reduction System and a delay in his mandatory pit stop saw him fall down to the lower reaches of the top ten. However he recovered to post the fastest lap of the day and ultimately the Finn took home six points for seventh position.
“My start was good but after some laps the DRS stopped working, then, after the pit-stop, I stalled which was maybe something to do with the pressure drop we had,” said Lainé after Sunday’s race. “After the stop I was pushing and trying really hard to recover, so I’m pleased to get the fastest lap and now really looking forward to Moscow.”
Stevens is now fourth in the Drivers’ championship on 68 points, six points behind compatriot Oliver Rowland of Fortec Motorsport, while Lainé has moved to fourteenth position on 19 points. Strakka Racing are sitting fourth in the Teams’ championship on 87 points and within touching distance of both Fortec and Arden ahead of them.