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Second podium of 2014 for Stevens after thrilling battle in Spanish sun
Old 27 Apr 2014 20:57
Will Stevens secured, quite possibly, the hardest-earned podium of his single-seater career during a hotly contested fourth round of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series at Motorland Aragon in Spain today, Sunday, 27th April.

Following a titanic battle with championship leader Carlos Sainz Jnr and Pierre Gasly, less than a second splitting all three during the latter stages of the race, Stevens took third for Strakka Racing after a superb contest.

Starting the second of the weekend’s encounters from fourth on the grid, the Briton made a terrific start to instantly move into third. Following the mandatory pit-stops, Stevens emerged in second – thanks to great work by the Strakka Racing crew – and thereafter had to repel major pressure.

Driving immaculate lines, Stevens didn’t give his challengers the slightest opportunity but over the final two laps the intensity increased. Still holding second into the final tour, on the long drag to the chicane Gasly benefitted from the slipstream, as Stevens ran out of DRS, and managed to get past.

Also opening the door for Sainz to try and attack, Stevens used all of his nous to fend off the Spaniard by 0.2 seconds at the flag to claim his second podium of 2014.

“It’s been an up and down weekend – I’m disappointed not to have been second today but third is still a very good result”, says the Caterham Racing Academy driver, “We were very good in testing, but yesterday we didn’t hit the sweet spot in qualifying and race one was a struggle.

“We all worked really well overnight, put our heads together and the set-up was a lot better. I made a fantastic start to race two, the best one this year, we got the strategy dead right and had a really quick pit-stop too.”

Finnish team-mate Matias Laine also bagged his best result of the weekend in round four, 14th position, after a battling performance from a much lower than expected 19th on the grid.

Putting together a strong first lap, Laine steered his FR 3.5 into 16th place and after a tight midfield battle early on he was the first of the Strakka Racing drivers to pit.

When the race order had settled, Laine was in the top 15 and climbed as high as 13th at mid-distance. Having to succumb to an attack from Oli Webb on lap 17, he then held 14th position to the flag on lap 24.

Round three on Saturday, 26th April, was frustrating for Stevens and Laine with neither having the opportunity to show their true pace. Despite lapping fastest in the opening practice session on Friday, 25th April, Stevens had to settle for a baffling 15th in first qualifying.

Making an excellent launch to move into the top 12, he latched onto the tail of the top 10 but was held-up by the defensive Pietro Fantin. Stevens piled on the pressure but was elbowed back to 12th with a couple of laps to go.

Laine endured a torrid start after contact into Turn One left his FR 3.5 with a badly damaged front wing. Pitting for a new nose box at the end of lap one, he returned to the action well over half a minute down on the pack. Ending the race in 19th position, he proved his speed with the third fastest race lap.

“Testing was a good start to the weekend, we were immediately quick in the first session with the sixth fastest time and all looked very promising”, says Laine, “Qualifying for race one was our best so far and if I’d put the sectors together I would only have been two tenths off. The race was just unlucky.

“Today was a lot windier, so the changes we made overnight didn’t quite work. There wasn’t much we could do, but we had a really good strategy and a fantastic pit-stop.”

Following the second event of the 2014 Formula Renault 3.5 Series, Stevens is fourth in the driver standings on 40 points and Laine 18th with one point. In the team standings, Strakka Racing has 41 points in fourth position.
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