27 Apr Vandoorne and Webb both qualify in top 10
27th April, Motorland Aragon – The first qualifying session of the Formula Renault 3.5 was a wet affair, with rain falling all night and only stopping just before the cars went out on track. Despite changeable conditions wearing the tyres fast, Fortec men Stoffel Vandoorne and Oliver Webb both qualified ninth and tenth respectively and feel confident for this afternoon’s race. A penalty for pole sitter, Antonio Felix Da Costa (Arden Caterham), later saw his lap times voided and Vandoorne and Webb gain a position.
Vandoorne set the first flying lap of the morning’s qualifying session, which sets the grid for race one this afternoon, and was the first driver to go under the two minute mark with a 1:59.454 on his second lap. The young Belgian continued his strong form for the next two laps and continued to improve his times in the top spot – getting down to 1:56.316 by lap four.
On the sixth lap Vandoorne had slipped into second by just 0.095 of a second. As the times kept falling Vandoorne pushed on, once again taking the top spot on the tenth lap. However as the track started to dry out the tyres started to wear and with the car sliding on the track, Stoffel slipped down the order to eventually finish the session in a credible ninth place.
For Webb the session started well as he got under the two-minute lap time mark on just his fourth lap, with a time of 1:59.065. The British driver continued to improve, consistently setting his personal best in all sectors. Coming in for new tyres Webb went back out to set another flying lap, despite going his quickest so far in the session the young racer’s tyres were wearing and overheating fast. On the last lap a small mistake of breaking too late saw Webb cross the line in tenth, a respectable position out of the large twenty-six-car grid.
Race one will start today at 14.30 local time, after Da Costa’s penalty Vandoorne will start eighth on the grid and Webb ninth.
Commenting after the session Vandoorne said: “At the beginning we were really quick, always battling for top positions and the car felt good. However when we got the second set of tyres on, the track ended up drying out quicker than we thought and I was sliding about a lot – which is where I lost some time. Ninth isn’t the ideal position to start from but I’ll make the most of it and try and get as many points as possible. I raced here in the Formula Renault 1.6 and Eurocup so I know the track pretty well.”
Webb commented: “The Eurocup boys helped us by clearing up any water on track in their session, so the visibility wasn’t too bad after one lap. It was just a case of managing the tyres but, as the track was in-between wet and dry, there was no standing water to grip onto and we were just sliding around. When we came in for the next set of tyres the track dried quicker than we thought and the tyres started overheating on the last lap. Unfortunately I lost half a second in the last corner as I braked a bit late. We should have been higher up the positions but I’m going to be pushing hard for the race.”