Wickens wins wet Nurburgring thriller
|By Peter Mills||Saturday, June 18th 2011, 13:14 GMT|
Robert Wickens emerged on top in a stunning battle with Daniel Ricciardo to win the opening Formula Renault 3.5 race at the Nurburgring.
In treacherous conditions, with rain affecting certain parts of the circuit, the pair showed their class by pulling 23 seconds clear of third-placed Kevin Korjus.
Wickens moves into the championship lead as a result. The Canadian's Carlin team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne will need to win tomorrow's race and rely on a non-finish from Wickens to reclaim his position at the head of the drivers' standings. A prize Renault Formula 1 demonstration run is on offer for the man leaving Germany at the top of the classification.
Heavy rain 40 minutes before the start left the track wet betweens Turns 12 and 15, and the initial laps proved fraught. From pole, Wickens led cleanly away from the lights, while front-row qualifier Alexander Rossi (Fortec) made a slightly slow getaway and was challenged on the inside by Ricciardo and on his outside by Tech 1 Racing's Korjus.
Estonian Korjus grabbed second, while Rossi opted to chance the outside at Turn 1 in an attempt to recover his position but would lose further ground at the hands of an opportunistic Ricciardo.
Puddles on the road at the Veedol chicane then caught out leader Wickens and forced the field to bunch up. Ricciardo slotted into the lead, and further back his Red Bull Junior stablemate Vergne dived inside Rossi entering the final corner.
Still wheel-to-wheel on the exit of Coca-Cola, Vergne and Rossi made contact and spun in tandem across the greasy track into the pitwall. Both were immediate retirements.
The safety car was brought out while the damaged cars were cleared, but not before Ricciardo had run wide at a wet Turn 1, allowing Wickens to reclaim the lead.
Nathanael Berthon was caught out by a damp patch while running behind the safety car. The Frenchman spun out of seventh and made gentle contact with a tyre barrier.
Ricciardo gained a strong tow on Wickens as the race was restarted on lap six, and took the lead once more on the outside of Turn 1. The duo began to eke out a big margin over Korjus. Fourth place was held by Cesar Ramos in the surviving Fortec entry ahead of Nelson Panciatici (KMP Racing) and series returnee Fairuz Fauzy (Mofaz) in sixth.
Fauzy would spin down the order when rain intensified at the last corner, while Panciatici had an incident-filled race and slipped to 18th at the chequered flag.
The decisive move of the race occurred on lap 14 when the conditions caused Ricciardo to run wide on the entry to Veedol. Wickens ran Michelin-to-Michelin with his adversary down the pit straight before finally recapturing the lead for good at Turn 1.
Behind Korjus and Ramos, Epic Racing's Albert Costa worked his way up from 16th to claim fifth. Fellow Spaniard Sergio Canamasas (BVM Target) took sixth place after an entertaining battle with his team-mate Daniel Zampieri and Draco's Andre Negrao.
Results - 23 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Robert Wickens Carlin 47m30.163s 2. Daniel Ricciardo ISR + 0.671s 3. Kevin Korjus Tech 1 + 22.951s 4. Cesar Ramos Fortec + 32.235s 5. Albert Costa Epic + 33.372s 6. Sergio Canamasas BVM Target + 33.917s 7. Andre Negrao Draco + 36.977s 8. Daniel Zampieri BVM Target + 41.200s 9. Anton Nebylitskiy KMP + 41.653s 10. Jake Rosenzweig Mofaz + 47.986s 11. Fairuz Fauzy Mofaz + 48.602s 12. Walter Grubmuller P1 + 54.982s 13. Stephane Richelmi Draco + 57.224s 14. Brendon Hartley Gravity-Charouz + 1m09.509s 15. Daniel McKenzie Comtec + 1m17.995s 16. Daniel de Jong Comtec + 1 lap 17. Daniil Move P1 + 1 lap 18. Nelson Panciatici KMP + 1 lap 19. Sten Pentus Epic + 1 lap 20. Arthur Pic Tech 1 + 1 lap 21. Jan Charouz Gravity-Charouz + 1 lap Retirements: Michael Herck Pons 19 laps Oliver Webb Pons 18 laps Nathanael Berthon ISR 3 laps Alexander Rossi Fortec 0 laps Jean-Eric Vergne Carlin 0 laps