Sainz Dominates Paul Ricard Opener to Extend Championship Lead

Red Bull Junior driver Carlos Sainz Jr took his sixth victory of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series season to extend his championship lead and take back some initiative from Roberto Merhi in the race for the title.

Sainz’s win coupled with Merhi finishing down in fifth means the DAMS driver has extended his lead over the Zeta Corse driver by fifteen points to thirty-one, with three races of the season remaining.

Pierre Gasly made it a Red Bull Junior one-two in France, with the Arden Motorsport driver finishing a comfortable second, while Matthieu Vaxiviere continued a great run of form with his second podium finish of the season in third for Lotus.

Sergey Sirotkin finished fourth for Fortec Motorsports ahead of Merhi, who was unable to challenge the Russian ahead of him and was instead forced to hold off the close challenge of Marlon Stockinger in the second Lotus, who finished right on the young Spaniard’s tail.

Luca Ghiotto scored his first points since the first race at Spa-Francorchamps with seventh for International Draco Racing, with Tech 1 Racing’s Marco Sorensen taking eighth ahead of Strakka Racing’s Matias Lainé and DAMS driver Norman Nato.

Oliver Rowland’s championship challenge however is over. The Briton made a terrific start to move from eighth into third position, but as he went by Vaxiviere, the Lotus driver locked up and clipped the Fortec Motorsports driver’s rear tyre causing a puncture. Despite making up a lot of ground after his pit stop, he was unable to climb into the points, and it is now a three horse race.

Should Sainz Jr leave France after tomorrow’s second race with a lead of over fifty points over Merhi and Gasly, the Spaniard will become the 2014 series champion, but nothing is guaranteed in motorsport, and both Merhi and Gasly will want to take the championship battle to the final races in Jerez in three weeks time.

Paul Ricard Race 1 Result

1 Carlos Sainz Jr ESP DAMS 42m45.660s
2 Pierre Gasly FRA Arden Motorsport +4.568s
3 Matthieu Vaxiviere FRA Lotus +9.054s
4 Sergey Sirotkin RUS Fortec Motorsports +12.170s
5 Roberto Merhi ESP Zeta Corse +17.957s
6 Marlon Stockinger PHI Lotus +18.670s
7 Luca Ghiotto ITA International Draco Racing +28.575s
8 Marco Sorensen DEN Tech 1 Racing +32.454s
9 Matias Lainé FIN Strakka Racing +32.768s
10 Norman Nato FRA DAMS +33.433s
11 Zoel Amberg SWI AV Formula +37.474s
12 Will Stevens GBR Strakka Racing +38.632s
13 Oliver Rowland GBR Fortec Motorsports +39.260s
14 Esteban Ocon FRA Comtec Racing +40.741s
15 Beitske Visser NED AV Formula +52.779s
16 Nicholas Latifi CAN Tech 1 Racing +54.512s
17 William Buller GBR Arden Motorsport +54.661s
18 Oscar Tunjo COL Pons Racing +57.267s
19 Cameron Twynham GBR Comtec Racing +57.672s
RET Meindert van Buuren NED Pons Racing 12 Laps
RET Pietro Fantin BRZ International Draco Racing 0 Laps
RET Jazeman Jaafar MAL ISR Racing 0 Laps