Daniel Ricciardo led from lights to flag at Hockenheim to claim his third Formula Renault 3.5 victory of the season
The Tech 1 driver has now closed to within two points of championship leader Mikhail Aleshin, who finished a battling fifth after locking up heavily on the opening lap and dropping two positions.
"It's a good start to the second half of the year after a such long break," said Ricciardo. "It is good to know that I still have the ability to drive a race car. Hopefully tomorrow we can grab some points and grab the lead [in the points race].
"It probably looked like I was managing the gap out there, but it was actually quite tough, definitely not as comfortable as this morning or yesterday. We have a little bit of work to do for tomorrow, but I guess the times I was doing were still quite fast."
From the dirty side of the front row, ISR's Esteban Guerrieri was unable to challenge poleman Ricciardo's lead away from the line.
Following an early safety car period, Guerrieri came under intense pressure from Jon Lancaster as his rear tyres struggled to reach optimum pressure. Fortec's Lancaster drew alongside Guerrieri on the approach to the hairpin on a number of occasions, but later backed off and settled for third after receiving a warning flag for exceeding the track limits at the Nordkurve.
The scrap for second allowed Ricciardo to break away out front. Guerrieri's car improved sufficiently over the second half of the race to set fastest lap, but Ricciardo had a comfortable 2.9 second margin of victory at the chequered flag.
"Coming back from the non-event in Hungary, to be in top three was our goal," said Guerrieri, referring to his ISR team's enforced withdrawal from the previous round. "That hurt me a little bit in the championship, so to be back on the podium is a good achievement for me and the team after such a shock."
Despite being compromised by slightly short gearing, Lancaster was understandably delighted with his first podium of the season.
"At the beginning I was pushing Esteban, but it was impossible to pass on the straight," he said. "Unfortunately, our gears were a little too short. I was on the limiter when he was changing to sixth, so it was never going to happen.
"Although he made a couple of small mistakes, it was not enough for me to capitalise. We've had a big handful of mechanical problems this year, so it's nice to get a podium. Hopefully it will be the first of many for the second half of the season."
Having survived an opening lap clash with Guerrieri's ISR team-mate Filip Salaquarda, Daniel Zampieri had a relatively lonely run to fourth for Pons. The Italian finished four seconds ahead of Aleshin (Carlin), who was kept occupied for much of the race by a three car train led by Greg Mansell running in his wheel tracks.
Mansell woud lead Comtec team-mate Stefano Coletti home for sixth. Both men made up ground during an incident packed first lap; Mansell gained five places on his grid position, Coletti six.
A multi-car accident at the back of the field on the opening tour accounted for usual frontrunner Sten Pentus. The Estonian was forced to take avoiding action after P1 Motorsport's Jan Charouz was pitched into the air by Nelson Panciatici (Junior Lotus) between Turns 2 and 3. Third in the points entering the meeting, Fortec driver Pentus has now dropped behind Guerrieri to fourth.
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Daniel Ricciardo Tech 1 46m47.111s 2. Esteban Guerrieri ISR + 2.917s 3. Jon Lancaster Fortec + 12.515s 4. Daniel Zampieri Pons + 15.116s 5. Mikhail Aleshin Carlin + 19.291s 6. Greg Mansell Comtec + 19.496s 7. Stefano Coletti Comtec + 20.454s 8. Albert Costa Epsilon Euskadi + 22.139s 9. Nathanael Berthon Draco + 24.540s 10. Anton Nebylitskiy KMP + 25.128s 11. Jean-Eric Vergne Tech 1 + 27.459s 12. Keisuke Kunimoto Epsilon Euskadi + 41.581s 13. Julian Leal Draco + 56.232s 14. Bruno Mendez FHV Interwetten + 59.065s 15. Sergio Canamasas FHV Interwetten + 1m14.388s Retirements: Federico Leo Pons 27 laps Daniil Move Junior Lotus 27 laps Jake Rosenzweig Carlin 26 laps Victor Garcia KMP 11 laps Walter Grubmuller P1 5 laps Sten Pentus Fortec 1 lap Filip Salaquarda ISR 1 lap Jan Charouz P1 0 laps Nelson Panciatici Junior Lotus 0 laps
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