Kevin MagnussenStrong pace in the sixth round of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series led only to frustration for Carlin drivers Kevin Magnussen and Will Stevens in a chaotic day of running at the Silverstone circuit. Magnussen led race one this afternoon from pole before crashing out in treacherous conditions, with team mate Stevens doing the same after inheriting the lead several laps later. It was a race against time for the team to repair both cars for this afternoon’s qualifying session, when Stevens qualified eighth, and Magnussen 17th.

Having qualified on pole this morning, Magnussen headed the field for race one as the drivers lined up on slick tyres in dry conditions. The Carlin driver made the perfect start to maintain the lead as the lights went out and break away from the field, just as the rain started to fall around the Northamptonshire circuit. Within a lap the conditions had deteriorated, with one side of the circuit dry and the other dangerously wet.

Magnussen did well to lead the pack, who were all shod with slick tyres, and with nearly a three second gap was looking on strong form. However, as the conditions deteriorated, the young Dane was caught out and flew off track at Becketts and into the barriers. With substantial damage, Magnussen was out of the race.

Stevens meanwhile had made a lightning start and had moved up to ninth place on lap one from 15th on the grid. The British racer stayed on track as almost half the field aquaplaned off at Luffield, until the Carlin man led the race as the safety car was deployed.

With insufficient recovery vehicles to collect the several cars off track at Luffield, the race was red flagged with the much depleted field returning to the grid. Stevens made the most of the stoppage to change to wet tyres, and led the cars away behind the safety car when the race restarted. The FR3.5 rookie did well to hold the lead after the safety car pitted, but spun off after being the first car to hit standing water at Stowe just a few corners later. Despite both Carlin cars leading the race, the team were left without points from the first race of the weekend.

As support series to the FIA World Endurance Championship this weekend, it was a quick turnaround for the FR3.5 teams this afternoon, with qualifying for race two just a couple of hours after the chaotic race one. The Carlin mechanics worked against the clock to repair both cars in time for this afternoon’s qualifying session, making good the particularly heavy damage to Magnussen’s car.

The team’s efforts were rewarded early on as Stevens went quickest in the first minutes of qualifying, with Magnussen also competitive on his first set of tyres, going quickest before Nico Muller relegated the Carlin man to second.

After the field pitted for new tyres in the second half of the session, the times suddenly started to drop in the final minutes. Stevens continued to fight back and repeatedly set times in the top ten, while Magnussen struggled to make his way back to the top of the time sheets. At the chequered flag, Stevens had qualified 8th for race two, while Magnussen was 17th.

“The circuit felt completely different this afternoon,” said Magnussen. “I felt like I had both oversteer and understeer, but even so, my best lap didn’t feel like it should have been only 17th. It’s really frustrating after being on pole this morning.”

Team mate Stevens added, “There wasn’t much I could do in race one, I wasn’t even pushing that hard, I was being careful, but still aquaplaned off. I was relieved we had a dry qualifying session this afternoon, although there was oil everywhere, so it was easy to be caught out. The car felt good, but I think there is still more time to be found, which we’ll focus on before the race tomorrow.”

Team boss Trevor Carlin said, “The team should be very proud of their work so far this weekend. As well as a gearbox change last night, they had a lot of damage to repair today and did a fantastic job to get both cars – particularly Kevin’s – back out for qualifying this afternoon. It was a great team effort.”

Race two will conclude this weekend’s FR3.5 action at 9.40 tomorrow morning.