Costa Wins the Race, Wickens Takes the Championship
Canadian Robert Wickens may not have finished the race in Barcelona on Sunday, but he nevertheless won the Formula Renault 3.5 Championship on points. Starting the last race of the season with a nine-point lead over Jean Eric Vergne of France, it initially appeared that Wickens may have lost the title due to an accident on the first lap with his Carlin Motorsports teammate. Vergne had tried to pass Wickens on the inside of the track, but his car’s front left wheel made contact with Wickens’ side pod. This incident was followed up at the next corner with the right front of Wickens’ car hitting the left rear of Vergne, breaking Wickens’ steering and putting him out of the race as he collided with Nathanel Berthon.
Vergne tried to continue, but damage to his car’s steering and rear suspension, along with contact by Mofaz racer Fairuz Fauzy, eventually put him out of the race. Vergne would have had to finish fifth or higher in order to take the Formula Renault 3.5 Championship from Wickens, but with both drivers out of the race, the victory went to Wickens.
In an interview following the race, Wickens noted that while it was not how he had wanted to end the day, nor how he expected to be crowned champion, but was nevertheless pleased with the result. He pointed out that he and Vergne had enjoyed being teammates, they had raced hard and fair all year and it was a pity the last race of the season ended with contact at the first corner. He also thanked the Carlin team, describing them as being flawless all year, and thanked Marussia for making his championship win possible.
One of the rewards for winning the Formula Renault 3.5 championship is a half-day of test-driving a Lotus Renault on a full F1 track in Abu Dhabi next month, which Wickens describes as a “fantastic” prize. Having finished second in the 2009 F2 series and second in the GP3 series in 2010, and now claiming the Renault 3.5 championship, as well as being named Marussia Virgin F1 team reserve driver this year, Wickens appears to be well on his way to fulfilling his hopes of becoming the first Canadian driver to achieve in auto racing’s top series since Jacques Villeneuve – the 1997 F1 World Champion.
While the championship results may have outshone the actual victory of the day, it should not be overlooked that Albert Costa of Epic Racing took the checkered flag in Barcelona, having started in pole position, with Wickens second on the grid and Vergne starting from fifth.