Laine close to first ever podium at Spa

Finnish ace produces best qualifying and race performance of 2014 for Strakka Racing in opening Belgian encounter

Matias Laine delivered a superb performance during round six of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series campaign at Spa-Francorchamps today, Saturday, 31st May, to seal his best result of the year – only missing out on his first ever category podium on the very last lap. Rapid from the outset this weekend, only one week on from the Monaco Grand Prix support race, the Strakka Racing driver set the seventh fastest time in qualifying, just 0.3 seconds shy of pole.

Ahead of the race, an unfortunate problem with the lights on the gantry meant the original start had to be aborted. The encounter was, therefore, reduced from its original 40-minute plus one lap duration due to a 36-minute plus one lap outing.  When the action finally got underway, Laine made an outstanding launch to slice his way through into the top three prior to the appearance of the Safety Car for three laps. At the re-start, the Finn held position comfortably and remained very close behind Pierre Gasly in the fight for second – despite coming under pressure himself from Norman Nato and, latterly, Jazeman Jaafar.

Holding third place throughout, his maiden podium was all but in the bag, but on the final lap Jaafar was able to slipstream past to steal the final rostrum placing by 0.9 seconds.

“Qualy was the best of this year, only three tenths off around Spa is really good,” said Laine, “I made the best start I have all year and our pace was good behind [Pierre] Gasly, the top gears were just a bit too long to enable us to get past him.

“It’s a shame about losing third on the last lap but [Jazeman] Jaafar was on really low [rear] wing and could just drive past me. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow now.”

British team-mate Will Stevens started an uncharacteristic 15th on the grid but, like Laine, managed to rocket away from the line to quickly climb towards the cusp of the top 10.

Holding 11th position during the Safety Car period, the Caterham Racing Academy ace sliced his way into ninth immediately after the re-start and then moved into the top eight on lap seven.Running right on the tail of Luca Ghiotto during the second half of the race, Stevens just couldn’t quite make the breakthrough but both moved up a place on the final lap – Stevens finishing seventh. “Qualy was disappointing but the race was much better,” reflected Stevens, “Setting the second fastest lap definitely bodes really well for tomorrow’s race.”

In the drivers’ championship, Stevens remains fourth with an increased tally of 50 points while Laine moves up into 14th position on 13 points. In the team standings, Strakka Racing is fourth on 63 points.

Qualifying for round seven of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series season will get underway at 09.50 (local time) tomorrow, Sunday, 1st June, with the race itself following at 15.05 (local time).

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