WSR: Rowland extends championship lead with Silverstone victory

© Renault Sport

Oliver Rowland extended his lead at the top of the Formula Renault 3.5 drivers’ championship to 36 points by winning on home soil at Silverstone on Sunday.

Rowland started the race from second place on the grid behind title rival Matthieu Vaxiviere, who stormed to pole position earlier in the day by posting a new lap record.

Vaxiviere made a good start to build an early lead over Rowland, but this was lost thanks to a slow pit stop that left the Frenchman down in third place.

Despite fighting back to re-take second place from Pietro Fantin and then close on Rowland at the front, Vaxiviere dropped back from the Briton to give him some breathing room.

Rowland eventually crossed the line to claim his fifth win of the season and his seven successive finish on the podium, tightening his stranglehold on the Formula Renault 3.5 championship.

“I have won every track this year, except Monaco and I also wanted to do it at home, even though I didn’t think I had much of a chance to do it at the start of the weekend,” Rowland said.

“I had to battle early on because Pietro was right behind me where I couldn’t see him. I attacked as much as possible and used the DRS to pull away and try to overtake Matthieu in the pits.

“The safety car didn’t make thing easy for me, but it is an excellent point scenario even though I am still not thinking about the title.”

With six races remaining, the Briton is in a strong position to following Carlos Sainz Jr’s footsteps and win the F1 feeder series, but will remain wary of the threat posed by Vaxiviere behind.

Fantin picked up his first podium finish of the season in third, beating Red Bull junior driver Dean Stoneman. Nicholas Latifi finished fifth ahead of Egor Orudzhev and Nick Yelloly, with the latter finishing seventh in just his second Formula Renault 3.5 race of the year.

The World Series by Renault programme heads to the Nürburgring in Germany next weekend for the third to last round of the season.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

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Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.