Will StevensWill Stevens took his sixth podium finish of 2011 with third place in the opening Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 Championship race at Silverstone today. The 20 year-old Surrey racer got up to second on lap three and had race victory in his sights two laps from home, but eventually had to settle for third.

The BRDC Rising Star opened his Formula Renault Eurocup account with victory in Alicante in April and his aim to return to winning ways on his home track got off to a good start. With the 38-car grid split into two for qualifying, Stevens posted the second fastest time in his group to net him a second row start for the first of two races on the new Silverstone Arena circuit.

Before the start a rain shower threatened but despite that Stevens made a good getaway to hold third into turn one, behind his two main series rivals Robert Frijns and Carlos Sainz. With news of an impending drive through penalty for Sainz, for receiving a push start from his mechanics, Stevens wisely elected to hold station.

On lap three Sainz duly pitted for his penalty, allowing Stevens to set about closing down the gap to Frijns ahead, and was the fastest driver on track as he closed up to the back of the leader. However in typical Silverstone fashion, the rain was now falling heavily around the back of the circuit and making conditions tricky to judge.

Two laps from home Stevens saw a chance to wrest the lead from Frijns, when they closed up to lap a slower car. On an increasingly greasy track, Stevens had a tough decision to make about which side to attempt to pass Frijns, with a damp track one side and tyre debris the other.

The former British, European and Asian-Pacific kart champion chose the left but Frijns moved over, pushing Stevens towards the grass and forcing him to back out of the move. Then on the very final corner, Frijns braked early, forcing Stevens to do the same, which allowed Alex Riberas through, demoting Stevens to third.

“I made a good start and good momentum put me in a position to pass Sainz early on but didn’t want to lose time in the early stages,” Will explained. “Then I heard from my Fortec team about his drive-through penalty so it wasn’t worth taking any risks.

“As the race progressed, the track conditions became very tricky, particularly around the back of the circuit where it was quite damp and we were all sliding wide. Frijns caught a backmarker two laps from the end and got held up slightly which allowed me to close right up. I had a tough decision to make in a split second as to which side to try and pass him, it was difficult to judge because the track was damp on one side and had lots of tyre rubber on the other, but I had a go and he moved over, forcing me towards the grass, so I had to back out.

“Then at Brooklands on the final lap he braked much earlier than usual, probably in case it was slippery, and so I did too. This allowed Alex (Riberas) to get the run on me, which is a little disappointing as I really thought we could have had a win today. We had the pace so hopefully we can come back tomorrow with another strong qualifying and get that home win.”

Sunday’s qualifying session will take place at 12.00 and the lights will go green on the 25-lap race two at 15:35.