Carlin’s Jazeman Jaafar has picked up points for a seventh place finish in the opening round of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series in Monza, Italy. Team mate Carlos Huertas found his race hampered while taking avoiding action following a first corner incident involving those around him however the Colombian driver recovered well throughout the race to come home in 16th.
Following two very wet collective test sessions yesterday the Carlin men took to the circuit this morning for qualifying on a slightly damp track. Considering the tricky conditions the only option was to start on wet tyres and wait for the track to develop. Jaafar and Huertas both set their fastest time of the 30 minute session on the wet tyres. Despite most of the field, including the Carlin drivers, attempting to improve in the final minutes on slick tyres the times didn’t fall and grid was set. Jaafar was to start 11th and Huertas 14th.
Lining up on the gird, the damp track from earlier had disappeared leaving a dry race in store. As the lights went out Petronas backed Jaafar moved quickly to gain position and by the end of the first lap had made his way up to ninth. Unfortunately for Huertas his start was an opposite affair – with incidents occurring around him he was caught in the first corner melee and found himself down the order in 21st.
Contact between Will Stevens and Nikolay Martsenko left the latter in the gravel and Stevens recovering in the pit lane; benefiting from this, Jaafar moved up to sixth and Huertas 19th. Closing the gap to those around him Huertas then made his way past both Emmanuel Piget and Marco Sorensen over the course of the next few laps.
Meanwhile at the front of the field a fast charging Antonio Felix da Costa was looking likely to attack race leader Stoffel Vandoorne however a sudden puncture took him out of the race and left the way clear for rookie Jaafar to move up once again to fifth.
Unfortunately for Jaafar in the closing stages of the race Nigel Melker and Arthur Pic were able to make their way through however the Carlin man came home in an impressive seventh place in his first Formula Renault 3.5 race. Team mate Huertas took the chequered flag in 16th.
Reflecting on his race Jaafar said, ‘It was a pretty good race for me. I stayed out of trouble and enjoyed the battles with Melker and Pic. It was a consistent run and I think we fought really well as a team. My goal coming in to the weekend was to score points so I’m pleased to have done that. I really enjoyed my first World Series race and it’s been very encouraging.’
Huertas added of his day, ‘Qualifying this morning went OK for us, we started on the wet tyres and then on to slicks but the conditions meant it was impossible to improve.
‘During the opening lap I had to take avoiding action in the first and second chicane so I lost a lot of time and then had to spend my race gaining back positions. However you can’t control what happens around you so obviously I’m a little disappointed because I know we could have been further up without that. But we look ahead to qualifying tomorrow now.’