Alexander RossiThe Formula Renault 3.5 Series moved to Paul Ricard in France this weekend for the penultimate weekend of the 2012 championship. Alexander Rossi was in action with the Arden Caterham team, returning to the circuit on which he scored a race win in the series last year. This year proved difficult for the 21-year-old as he was hit on the opening lap of both races and suffered a problem in the pits in race two, which prevented his chances of a good race finish after two strong qualifying results.

Drivers headed out on Friday morning for the first of the weekend’s running in first practice. Alexander was immediately on the pace, setting the third fastest time. In a strong session during which he completed 15 laps of testing, he set his fastest lap in the dying moments to finish third fastest. In the afternoon’s second practice, Alexander flew to the top of the timesheets ten minutes into the session. He improved on his time several times throughout and hit the top spot again ten minutes from the end. He finished the session second quickest behind Kevin Magnussen.

Qualifying on Saturday morning was a wet affair after rain and thunderstorms hit the track before the session. It was a fast paced session with constantly changing positions as lap times dropped throughout as the track improved, until times dropped off towards the end as standing water cleared and the track became greasy. Alexander demonstrated strong pace by setting a fastest lap of 2:10.307 to line up on the third row of the grid from sixth for the afternoon’s race.

The race was also held in wet conditions. Alexander made a great start, fighting for third into the first corner. Unfortunately, he was hit from behind and the contact caused a left rear puncture. He was forced into the pits and emerged still on the lead lap, albeit at the back and well over a minute behind his nearest competitor. From thereon Alexander displayed great speed and, by the chequered flag after 21 laps, had closed to within 4.4s of Yann Cunha, who was racing ahead of him. He finished in 22nd position but recorded the fastest lap of the race by seventh tenths of a second.

Sunday’s second qualifying was held in dry conditions and Alexander was immediately on the pace. He hit the top spot ten minutes into the session and at the halfway point was third fastest. With all drivers on fresh rubber for the final seven minutes, lap times tumbled. Alex had made his way to fifth with a lap of 1:48.386, just under three tenths off pole, when there was a red flag 30 seconds before the end after Kevin Korjus stopped on track. With the session not restarted, Alex set himself up on the third row behind Jules Bianchi, Sam Bird, Nico Muller and Kevin Magnussen.

Starting on a wet track, Alexander made a solid start in race two, but was then tapped from behind into a spin on the first corner. He was able to continue but found himself in 25th spot. He set about moving up the grid and was in 13th by the time he made his compulsory pitstop on lap 11. Unfortunately in the pits he suffered a sticking front wheel, which extended his stop by around 15 seconds. Once all stops were complete, Alexander was in 16th place, demonstrating his speed, and crossed the line after 21 laps in that position.

Alexander Rossi: “This has been a tough season and this weekend was another dose of back luck, this time in the race versus qualifying in Hungary. It was great to show quick pace in all sessions over the weekend, as we knew the car was good enough to be at the front. Arden Caterham have done a great job with the car and the pace is there now, but being hit in turn one from third in both races this weekend did not allow us to translate that into a result. It’s really frustrating but we just have to go to Barcelona knowing that we have a good car and the lap time is there.”

Julian Rouse, Arden Caterham Team Manager: “It’s been a tough weekend for Alexander. Again following on from Hungary, he’s done a fantastic job all weekend and his speed has been really good in the wet and dry conditions in every session. But due to some really bad luck in both races on the opening laps meant that he was unable to capitalise on the speed that he has shown all weekend. However, we are positive going into Barcelona as the car seems to be consistently quick in all conditions and so, if the opportunity arises, Alexander will no doubt have a strong race weekend.”