01 Jun Rowland takes another podium finish in Spa
The Formula Renault 3.5 series moved to the challenging circuit of Spa-Francorchamps this weekend, just five days after the prestigious Monaco round. For Fortec drivers, Sergey Sirotkin and Oliver Rowland, the weekend begun with a series of unfortunate events that saw them both retire from race one on Saturday. However Sunday bought with it better luck, resulting in Rowland finishing on the podium in third.
In Friday’s qualifying session both drivers showed great pace. For Sauber F1 Team reserve driver Sirotkin, changes made on the car over the past week saw him set the best time of the morning. He then went on to then set the second fastest time in the afternoon session. Rowland also put in some good lap times and was confident going into the weekend.
“It felt really good to be back among the leaders.” Commented Sirotkin. “Everything went well and we were able to test different set-ups and one of them worked well in the drying conditions.”
Going into Saturday’s first qualifying session, Rowland and Sirotkin were feeling confident on the back of the previous day’s practice sessions. Sirotkin was soon at the top of the time sheets, narrowly missing out on pole and taking third, whilst Rowland was to line up tenth on the grid.
Following an aborted start due to light failure, the morning’s race did not go to plan. Matias Laine (Strakka Racing) and Pietro Fantin (International Draco Racing) made contact, collecting Sirotkin in a multi-car crash and calling out the safety car. On lap ten Rowland was also out of the race due to debris in the fuel system.
Sunday’s second qualifying saw Sirotkin and Rowland recover well from the previous day’s race events, once again setting consistent lap times at the top of the time sheets. Towards the end of the session Rowland set a time of 1:58.679, putting him second on the grid for race two. Sirotkin set the seventh fastest time of the session.
The start of the race saw Rowland attack Carlos Sainz (DAMS) in pole as soon as the lights went out, however he was also careful to defend from Will Stevens (Strakka Racing) and maintained his position.
As the race continued Rowland held his own, but whilst the majority of the group made their pit stops both Sainz and Rowland opted for a later stop. A clutch problem saw Rowland stall entering the pits and he lost some time, allowing Stevens and Stanaway to gain a position whilst he rejoined the race and slotted in behind in fourth. The Racing Steps Foundation backed driver kept his pace throughout and, after Stanaway received a 20-second penalty for making his pit-stop outside the pit window, crossed the line in a well deserved third place.
Commenting after the race Rowland said: “I have to thank the team for the brilliant work they did, the car was really competitive and it showed. We had high hopes but I had a problem during my pit-stop which lost me some time.”
For Sirotkin the race did not go to plan and the Russian retired on lap six.
Rowland currently sits third in the championship with 74 points. The next round will take place in Moscow on the 28th – 29th June.