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Robert Wickens wins at Barcelona but Formula Renault 3.5 title rival Jean-Eric Vergne flies to second

Jean-Eric Vergne and Robert Wickens on the Catalunya podiumCarlin's prospective 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 champions Robert Wickens and Jean-Eric Vergne will enter Sunday's title decider on five wins apiece after Canadian Wickens dominated Saturday's opening race at Barcelona.

Starting from pole position, Wickens led every lap to record a 21-second margin of victory and increase his lead in the drivers' standings to nine points. Vergne shared the plaudits following a stunning recovery drive to second, after a troubled qualifying session left him a lowly ninth on the grid.

Progressing to sixth in the first sequence of corners, Vergne benefited from a collision between Epic Racing's Albert Costa and Mofaz racer Jake Rosenzweig to complete the first lap in fourth place.

After applying lengthy pressure, Vergne picked off Fortec's Alexander Rossi around the outside of Turn 1 on lap 17, and staged a similar manoeuvre on Daniil Move (P1 Motorsport) five laps later to secure the runner-up spot.

"I think with the pass on Rossi I was nearly screaming into my helmet, but I thought 'I will go for it,'" said Vergne. "Fortunately, the pass on Daniil wasn't as tough as the manoeuvre on Alexander."

Wickens joked: "Why did he have to finish in second? At first I thought Jean-Eric must have made a bad start, as I was looking for his car number between 10th and fifth on the scoring tower along the pits straight. It took about three laps to see that he was fourth.

"I couldn't do anything about it, though. My aim was to win the race and I have done that to extend my points lead."

Stating from fifth on the grid, Russian Move benefited from a small mistake by Costa at Turn 1 away from the lights. The Catalan ran wide, delaying Rossi and allowing Move to sneak into second place on the exit of the Elf chicane. Move then held off Rossi by less than a second to claim the final place on the podium.

On home ground, a patient Sergio Canamasas (BVM Target) was rewarded with fifth place, after spending a large part of the afternoon tucked up behind the gearbox of Tech 1 Racing's Kevin Korjus.

The Estonian led a queue of cars eager to pass impressive GP3 graduate Nick Yelloly (Pons). Korjus made a forceful attack on the Pons car for fifth at SEAT three laps from home, but in attempting to turn-in on the Briton was sent into a spin after touching wheels.

Yelloly survived to take a hard-won sixth in only his third meeting in the championship.

Brendon Hartley was unable to start after suffering damage over a kerb to his Gravity-Charouz car's tub and engine in qualifying. The Kiwi was joined as a non-starter by Adrien Tambay, who suffered a stiff neck after a heavy qualifying crash. The Draco driver's participation in tomorrow's race is in doubt.

Results - 29 laps:

Pos  Driver             Team                Time/Gap
 1.  Robert Wickens     Carlin            47m03.837s
 2.  Jean-Eric Vergne   Carlin             + 21.051s
 3.  Daniil Move        P1                 + 31.271s
 4.  Alexander Rossi    Fortec             + 32.042s
 5.  Sergio Canamasas   BVM Target         + 33.011s
 6.  Nick Yelloly       Pons               + 39.144s
 7.  Nelson Panciatici  KMP                + 39.598s
 8.  Jan Charouz        Gravity-Charouz    + 40.217s
 9.  Nathanael Berthon  ISR                + 41.366s
10.  Arthur Pic         Tech 1             + 42.334s
11.  Kevin Korjus       Tech 1             + 42.753s
12.  Daniel Zampieri    BVM Target         + 51.862s
13.  Walter Grubmuller  P1                 + 52.322s
14.  Sten Pentus        Epic               + 52.635s
15.  Fairuz Fauzy       Mofaz              + 53.518s
16.  Daniel de Jong     Comtec             + 54.521s
17.  Daniel McKenzie    Comtec             + 55.777s
18.  Lewis Williamson   ISR              + 1m01.227s
19.  Jake Rosenzweig    Mofaz            + 1m06.425s


     Cesar Ramos        Fortec               15 laps
     Stephane Richelmi  Draco                12 laps
     Anton Nebylitskiy  KMP                   2 laps
     Oliver Webb        Pons                   1 lap
     Albert Costa       Epic                  0 laps
     Brendon Hartley    Gravity-Charouz       0 laps
     Adrien Tambay      Draco                 0 laps
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