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Nurburgring FR3.5: Merhi wins as Sainz and Rowland collide

Roberto Merhi, Zeta, Nurburgring FR3.5 201

Roberto Merhi took victory in Formula Renault 3.5 at the Nurburgring on Sunday, while title contenders Carlos Sainz Jr and Oliver Rowland were caught up in a first corner crash.

As Merhi made a clean getaway from pole, Sainz and Rowland both attacked a slow-starting Oscar Tunjo on the run to the first corner for second place.

Tunjo briefly locked up as Rowland and Sainz turned in, and he clipped the Briton's car, tipping it sideways.

As that happened, Sainz and Rowland made contact, forcing Sainz into the gravel, while Rowland retired with front suspension damage after touring back to the pits.

A second multi-car incident between Turns 2 and 3 then accounted for a handful of other cars being forced to retire, leaving just 16 to take the restart.

When the racing resumed, Zeta driver Merhi led the Lotus pair of Matthieu Vaxiviere and Marlon Stockinger, and the top two were able to make a break as Stockinger was caught out at the restart.

Merhi could not shake Vaxiviere from his tail throughout the race, as the Frenchman - returning from a back injury this weekend - pushed him all the way to the chequered flag.

Stockinger resisted an attempt by Fortec to get Sergey Sirotkin ahead of him for third when the Russian pitted before him, but Lotus responded on the following lap, and after some defensive driving on cold tyres, Stockinger was able to pull away with ease to complete the podium.

Sirotkin gradually fell into the clutches of the chasing pack, and a lock-up at the final chicane allowed Zoel Amberg to attack him into Turn 1, but he was able to resist.

One of the major beneficiaries of the first lap accidents was title contender Pierre Gasly, who went from the back row of the grid to 10th in the first few corners, and finished the race in eighth to salvage three points.

That win moves Merhi up to second in the standings, 39 points behind Sainz and 15 ahead of Gasly.

Results - 23 laps:

Pos  Driver               Team          Time/Gap
 1.  Roberto Merhi        Zeta        43m22.428s
 2.  Matthieu Vaxiviere   Lotus          +1.373s
 3.  Marlon Stockinger    Lotus         +12.589s
 4.  Sergey Sirotkin      Fortec        +15.515s
 5.  Zoel Amberg          AVF           +16.422s
 6.  Norman Nato          DAMS          +16.997s
 7.  Will Stevens         Strakka       +18.024s
 8.  Pierre Gasly         Arden         +18.286s
 9.  Jazeman Jaafar       ISR           +20.817s
10.  Will Buller          Arden         +21.697s
11.  Cameron Twynham      Comtec        +25.786s
12.  Alfonso Celis        Tech 1        +26.411s
13.  Roman Mavlanov       Zeta          +30.638s
14.  Marco Sorensen       Tech 1        +35.382s
15.  Luca Ghiotto         Draco         +39.332s


     Pietro Fantin        Draco         17 laps
     Matias Laine         Strakka         1 lap
     Oliver Rowland       Fortec          1 lap
     Meindert van Buuren  Pons            1 lap
     Oscar Tunjo          Pons           0 laps
     Carlos Sainz Jr      DAMS           0 laps
     Beitske Visser       AVF            0 laps
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