Carlos Sainz Jr reclaimed the initiative in the Formula Renault 3.5 championship fight with victory in the first race of the weekend at Paul Ricard
The championship leader's advantage in the points race had been slashed to just 16 over the last few rounds by an in-form Roberto Merhi, but Sainz responded to that threat in the best way possible by winning comfortably from pole position.
He led home a one-two for the Red Bull junior programme, as Pierre Gasly converted a front row start into a second place finish, ahead of fellow Frenchman Matthieu Vaxiviere.
Behind Sergey Sirotkin in fourth, Merhi had a quiet race to complete the top five, losing 15 points to Sainz in the process.
Merhi was rarely able to put pressure on Sirotkin ahead of him, and in clear air he struggled to get within half a second of Sainz's pace out front.
Oliver Rowland, who was in the fight for pole in qualifying until a fuel pressure problem blighted his final run, suffered more heartbreak just seconds after the start.
The Briton made an outstanding getaway to climb from eighth on the grid to third at the first corner, but as he went around the outside of Vaxiviere into Turn 1 the Lotus driver locked up and clipped his left-rear tyre, giving him a puncture.
Rowland battled back to 13th in an eventful charge from the rear of the field, but his non-score means he is now out of mathematical contention for the championship.
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