After fracturing a vertebra in his back during the Monaco round of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, former French F4 Champion Matthieu Vaxiviere made a welcome return to the series at the Nurburgring, and promptly was able to take home a trophy after finishing second in race two on Sunday.
He had missed the previous two events at Spa-Francorchamps and Moscow Raceway, being replaced by New Zealander Richie Stanaway, and during the collective tests on Friday in Germany, Vaxiviere took the time to get reacquainted with his Lotus car. He admitted the day went better than expected.
“On Friday, my return went off better than I expected,” said Vaxiviere. “The best possible training to make my comeback was to drive as much as possible; I didn’t think I would be so well placed straight away. I’m really happy about it.”
During the first qualifying session of the weekend on Saturday morning, the Frenchman was hampered by traffic and the fact the session had been shortened due to the weather, to qualify only eighteenth. He was pretty pleased with his fight back during the race to thirteenth but was disappointed not to have picked up any points.
“Saturday was a bit difficult,” admitted Vaxiviere. “I didn’t manage to find a clean lap in qualifying. I was delayed by traffic and I found myself in back in eighteenth place on the grid.
“My performance in the race was pretty good as I managed to fight my way up to thirteenth place without taking advantage of accidents. So although it was a pretty satisfying heat I’m not all that happy with it as I didn’t score any points.”
A wet track greeted the drivers for qualifying on Sunday, and Vaxiviere took full advantage, putting his Lotus fifth on the grid. He managed to avoid the carnage ahead of him that took out Oscar Tunjo, Oliver Rowland and Carlos Sainz Jr (the second, third and fourth place starters!), and was able to hold onto the tail of race leader and eventual winner Roberto Merhi until the flag for his maiden series podium.
“Sunday went off very well,” said a pleased Vaxiviere. “I was hoping to do a bit better in the rain. I needed just one more lap, but that’s part of the game and fifth place was a good performance.
“In the race itself fighting my way up to second was simply fantastic. It was difficult to beat Roberto. Maybe I could have improved my pit entry when we had to change tyres, but the team did a great job. In addition, my team-mate [Marlon Stockinger] finished third. I’m pleased with my overall performance and I’ve got great hopes for the rest of the season.”
Vaxiviere will have to wait until mid-September to race in the series again as the mid-season summer break is now underway. Lets hope the Frenchman can come back fighting in Hungary (September 13-14).