Will Stevens takes first Formula Renault 3.5 victory at Monza

Will Stevens took a dominant maiden victory in the Formula Renault 3.5 season opener at Monza, as several of his frontrunning rivals hit trouble early on

Will Stevens takes first Formula Renault 3.5 victory at Monza

The Briton, who qualified fourth, led from the first corner as all three of the drivers ahead of him had dramas.

Polesitter Carlos Sainz Jr was wheeled off the grid at the start of the formation lap as his DAMS team worked on an electrical problem, while a fast-starting Stevens was then able to catapult himself into the lead as Will Buller and Luca Ghiotto struggled off the line when the lights went out.

Stevens was never headed after that, as he set about gradually increasing his lead over ex-DTM racer Roberto Merhi throughout the race.

Merhi took a relatively comfortable second ahead of Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly, who was one of several drivers placed under investigation for running straight on at the first chicane on the opening lap.

Gasly lost touch with Merhi as he battled with Nikolay Martsenko, who briefly took third place from the Frenchman before falling back on lap 17 of the 24 after an off at Lesmo 2.

That put the Russian under pressure from a recovering Buller in the closing stages, and the Briton stole fourth place on the final lap.

Their scrap came home a long way ahead of the rest of the field, as Oliver Rowland spent the majority of his race fending off attacks from Marlon Stockinger.

The rookie got some respite when his team-mate Sergey Sirotkin started challenging Stockinger, eventually getting through with a robust pass on the outside into the second chicane.

However, Stockinger got the place back when Sirotkin locked up and went off at the Ascari chicane. The Russian ran out of time to launch another bid to get ahead.

The early-race action was punctuated by a frightening accident involving Marco Sorensen and Jazeman Jaafar.

The pair clashed on the start/finish straight at the end of the opening lap, sending the Dane's Tech 1 car upside down and into the pitwall.

Sorensen, who appeared to move across on Jaafar, was able to walk away from the crash, which will be investigated by the stewards.

NEWS UPDATE: Sorensen blamed for aerial crash

Results - 24 laps:                              
                                                     
Pos  Driver               Team             Time/Gap  
 1.  Will Stevens         Strakka        42m23.207s  
 2.  Roberto Merhi        Zeta Corse        +6.870s  
 3.  Pierre Gasly         Arden            +11.760s  
 4.  Will Buller          Arden            +17.994s  
 5.  Nikolay Martsenko    Comtec Racing    +18.423s  
 6.  Oliver Rowland       Fortec           +25.440s  
 7.  Marlon Stockinger    Lotus            +25.943s  
 8.  Sergey Sirotkin      Fortec           +26.398s  
 9.  Zoel Amberg          AV Formula       +31.784s  
10.  Meindert van Buuren  Pons Racing      +32.391s  
11.  Matias Laine         Strakka          +32.599s  
12.  Pietro Fantin        Draco            +35.580s  
13.  Oliver Webb          Pons Racing      +37.675s  
14.  Roman Mavlanov       Zeta Corse       +47.549s  
15.  Norman Nato          DAMS           +1m06.012s  
16.  Luca Ghiotto         Draco              +1 lap  
17.  Matthieu Vaxiviere   Lotus             +3 laps  
18.  Carlos Sainz Jr      DAMS              +3 laps  
                                                     
Retirements:                                         
                                                     
     Beitske Visser       AV Formula        19 laps  
     Marco Sorensen       Tech 1              1 lap  
     Jazeman Jaafar       ISR                 1 lap
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Monza FR3.5: Carlos Sainz Jr takes pole for DAMS in season opener
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