Guerrieri takes victory in Belgian rain
2 May 2010 – Rain disrupted the second race of the weekend for the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. ISR's Esteban Guerrieri battled the elements and handed the ISR team its first win in the category. Pons Racing's Daniel Zampieri, along with nine other drivers, was handed a drive through penalty, but finished second, ahead of Comtec Racing's Stefano Coletti.
It was a wet start in the Belgian Ardennes on Sunday morning. Qualifying took place in conditions of reduced grip which saw spins for International Draco Racing's Julian Leal and Fortec Motorsport's Sten Pentus. The Rookies, Carlin's Jake Rosenzweig, and Daniel Zampieri and Daniel Ricciardo managed to make an impression during the session, the American claiming his first pole position to lead the Italian and Australian drivers.
By the start of the race, the track had dried out and the Formula Renault 3.5 drivers opted to come out on slicks. Meanwhile, a few drops of rain were signaled just as the cars prepared to line up on the starting grid. All the drivers then changed to wet tyres, with the exception of Epsilon Euskadi's Albert Costa, Carlin's Mikhail Aleshin, and Junior Lotus Racing's Daniil Move and Nelson Panciatici. But the rain increased in intensity during the formation lap, particularly on the Stavelot and Blanchimont sections of the circuit, where hail was signaled. The start was subsequently delayed.
When the rain had eased off, the green light was finally given with the Safety Car, while Albert Costa and Pons Racing's Federico Leo started from the pits. At the green flag, after two laps behind the Safety Car, Jake Rosenzweig held first place in front of Zampieri, Ricciardo, Comtec Racing's Jon Lancaster and KMP Racing's Anton Nebylistkiy.
The conditions on track were still tricky, with reduced visibility due to spray. Rosenzweig took advantage of conditions to build up a lead on Zampieri and Ricciardo, while Nebilitskiy snatched fourth place from Jon Lancaster. In the chasing pack, there was no shortage of action, with an impressive maneuver by Aleshin, who overtook P1 Motorsport's Jan Charouz at the Bus Stop to claim 8th. By this time, the first of the mandatory pit-stops were being made.
Zampieri was the first of the front-runners to enter the pits. As the drivers were entering the pits, the Race Directors announced that Rosenzweig, Hartley, Coletti, Nebylitskiy, Lancaster, Zampieri, Ricciardo, International Draco Racing's Nathanaël Berthon, Comtec Racing's Greg Mansell, and Charouz would all be given a drive through penalty for having changed tyres on the starting grid after the authorized deadline.
After the tyre changes, mandatory stops and the acrobatics by certain drivers, Esteban Guerrieri performed an classy maneuver to claim the lead with more than ten seconds lead. In third, Mikhail Aleshin was some way behind the two leaders, closely followed by Ricciardo, Coletti and Hartley. The Argentinian now led the race ahead of Zampieri and Coletti. Having overtaken twice in the first lap, the driver from Monaco snatched Aleshin for third place right at the line. Aleshin nevertheless leaves Spa leading the Championship.
"It was a really tough race, you had to stay totally focussed. I was happy, and when they announced that 10 cars had to make a Drive Through, I pushed it to the limit", said Guerrieri. "I was surprised, but I was happy to see the P1 pit-board. It's great news for ISR, we're a new team and we really deserve this win."