Russian driver Egor Orudzhev clinched his maiden Formula Renault 3.5 victory at the Hungaroring on the outskirts of Budapest on Saturday, beating Manor F1 driver Roberto Merhi and series leader Oliver Rowland in a thrilling fight for the race win.
Orudzhev qualified second for the race on Saturday morning, but made a good start to seize the lead from Rowland at the start. However, the Briton quickly set his sights on regaining the position and began to reel Orudzhev in at the front.
The leading duo were joined in their fight by Merhi, Nicholas Latifi and Matthieu Vaxiviere, creating a fascinating five-way tussle for the race win.
However, it was Orudzhev who ultimately did enough to secure his first victory in Formula Renault 3.5 ahead of Merhi, who had nabbed second place from Rowland on the last corner of the last lap.
“I think that this was the hardest day of my life!” Orudzhev said after the race. “I got a great start, but throughout the race, I was being pressured by Oliver, who is an excellent driver.
“It wasn’t easy. I could see how close he was in my rear-view mirrors, there was no rest and I am completely destroyed, which is something I’ve never felt before! It is a strange feeling. We have the pace to keep this momentum going.”
Merhi has been balancing a campaign in the Formula Renault 3.5 series with his drive at Manor given that he is only on a race-by-race deal with the F1 team, and he was delighted to score his best result of the season so far in second place.
“The start of the season was difficult and all the changes we made didn’t work until now,” Merhi said. “We’ve had problems with the car, especially top speed.
“I told the team that if it continued on, I might as well just stay at home, but they’ve done a fantastic job and it has gone better this weekend.
“My start could have been better but I had wheelspin. I made the most of the smallest opportunities against Vaxiviere and Rowland to get this second place after starting sixth.”
The second race of the weekend takes place on Sunday at the Hungaroring, with the grid being determined in qualifying tomorrow morning.