British racer Oliver Rowland claimed the first win of the 2015 Formula Renault 3.5 season at Motorland Aragon on Saturday, inheriting the victory from Meindert van Buuren after the Dutchman was slapped with a time penalty.
The Formula Renault 3.5 series is the headline event on the World Series by Renault (WSR) package, and is intended to be a rival to GP2 as the final step for young drivers before reaching Formula 1.
The new season kicked off in Spain on Saturday, with Lotus driver Matthieu Vaxiviere claiming pole position. However, a poor start saw him drop down to fifth by the end of the first lap, narrowly avoiding contact with his teammate, van Buuren.
Jumping from fourth to first on lap one, van Buuren looked to take control of the race and open up a lead to Rowland in second place, only to be hit with a time penalty after the stewards found that he had jumped the start. With 20 seconds to be added to his final time, the race became a case of damage limitation for the Lotus driver.
Rowland remained in a comfortable second place throughout the race, knowing that so long as he kept van Buuren in sight, he would win the race. However, he was kept honest by Fortec teammate Jazeman Jaafar in third place whilst Vaxiviere was stuck in fifth behind Red Bull junior driver Dean Stoneman.
The race was largely uneventful in the way of overtaking, with the most notable fight coming between Manor F1 driver Roberto Merhi and Bruno Bonifacio, with debutant Roy Nissany also duelling with the drivers despite being two laps down.
Van Buuren crossed the line with a 3.6 second advantage over Rowland, but dropped to fifth after his penalty was applied. Jaafar was classified in second place, 2.1 seconds behind race winner Rowland, with Stoneman completing the podium ahead of the two Lotus drivers.
“I wasn’t expecting to win,” Rowland admitted after the race. “The low downforce configuration brought so many differences and if someone told me yesterday, I wouldn’t have believed them!
“At the start, the Lotuses didn’t leave me any room and I did everything I could to avoid contact. I soon wondered if Meindert hadn’t maybe jumped the start because mine was good.
“I tried to maintain the gap between myself and Jazeman and I am very happy with this victory!”
For the complete classification of race one, click here. Race two takes place on Sunday at Motorland Aragon, with qualifying being held in the morning.