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Rossi battles to first FR3.5 win

Alexander Rossi, Robert Wickens and Nelson Panciatici on the Aragon podiumAlexander Rossi won the opening Formula Renault 3.5 race of the season at Motorland Aragon.

The Fortec driver fought an intense battle for the lead with Daniil Move, after polesitter Robert Wickens (Carlin) locked up his left-front wheel and ran wide into Turn 1 at the start.

Entering his fifth season in the category, Move (P1) used all of his experienced to offer a stiff defence of the lead. The Russian was bidding to register his first victory in the series, and determinedly covered the inside line into Motorland's Turn 1 and Turn 16 hairpin on repeated occasions.

Rossi upped the pressure on lap 10, but an exploratory run on the outside of Move into Turn 1 resulted in a spectacular sideways moment on the exit of the corner. Two laps later, Rossi beat Move in the race for the inside line onto the pit straight and grabbed the lead in dramatic fashion.

The American elected to squeeze between Move's P1 Motorsport car and the pitwall, forcing several teams to hastily withdraw their pit-boards in fear of contact.

"Well, I was really hoping they would move [the pit-boards]," said Rossi. "It was a bit dicey for a second, but Daniil hadn't made any mistakes up until then so I had to force the issue. Once I was alongside, I thought Daniil was very clean."

Wickens would force his way into second at the hairpin a lap later. The Carlin car decisively forced a recovering Move wide at the exit of Turn 17. The Russian's compromised speed onto the pit straight allowed KMP Racing's Nelson Panciatici into third, and EPIC Racing's Albert Costa to slip through into fourth.

"I made a stupid mistake at the start," said Wickens. "I had already made a good launch away from the line, but I just misjudged my braking. I expected there to be more grip, I guess."

Once up into second, Wickens was unable to make inroads into a 4.5-second deficit to Rossi, and would concede an 8.5s margin of victory at the chequered flag.

The race was disrupted briefly by a safety car period. Panciatici's KMP Racing team-mate Anton Nebylitskiy was sent into a roll after contact with Tech 1's Arthur Pic on the opening lap. Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup graduate Pic had found himself wrong-footed by Jean-Eric Vergne, and ran wide at Turn 17. On rejoining the circuit, Pic moved into Nebylitskiy's path with the resulting impact sending the KMP car flying.

British Formula 3 champion Vergne continued unaffected to finish a provisional sixth for Carlin. The Frenchman's weekend in Spain was compromised after missing practice due to Red Bull Formula 1 simulator commitments and starting from 15th on the grid.

Results - 25 laps:

Pos  Driver               Team                Time/Gap
 1.  Alexander Rossi      Fortec            46m29.465s
 2.  Robert Wickens       Carlin              + 8.521s
 3.  Nelson Panciatici    KMP                 + 9.647s
 4.  Albert Costa         EPIC               + 15.130s
 5.  Daniil Move          P1                 + 26.564s
 6.  Jean-Eric Vergne     Carlin             + 27.052s
 7.  Walter Grubmuller    P1                 + 27.536s
 8.  Chris van der Drift  Mofaz              + 27.869s
 9.  Daniel Zampieri      BVM Target         + 28.754s
10.  Sten Pentus          EPIC               + 30.042s
11.  Oliver Webb          Pons               + 34.402s
12.  Nathanael Berthon    ISR                + 36.211s
13.  Jake Rosenzweig      Mofaz              + 36.598s
14.  Andre Negrao         Draco              + 37.040s
15.  Lewis Williamson     ISR                + 38.300s
16.  Stephane Richelmi    Draco              + 39.081s
17.  Jan Charouz          Gravity-Charouz    + 40.126s
18.  Daniel McKenzie      Comtec             + 40.321s
19.  Daniel de Jong       Comtec             + 45.265s
20.  Dominic Storey       Pons               + 45.883s
21.  Brendon Hartley      Gravity-Charouz    + 48.426s
22.  Sergio Canamasas     BVM Target         + 52.307s
23.  Cesar Ramos          Fortec           + 1m05.278s


     Kevin Korjus         Tech 1               15 laps
     Arthur Pic           Tech 1                0 laps
     Anton Nebylitskiy    KMP                   0 laps
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