Russian driver Mikhail Aleshin made the perfect start to the new World Series by Renault season, winning the first race at Motorland Aragon after rain accounted for many of his rivals.
After a tense qualifying session, in which Aleshin battled not only the rain, but also Daniels Zampieri and Ricciardo, the Carlin driver lined up second on the grid, behind the Australian, despite bringing out the red flag when he went off. Undeterred, he then made a blistering start and surprised the poleman by making it into turn one ahead.
Zampieri kept his third place ahead of Esteban Guerrieri (ISR) and Stefano Coletti (Comtec Racing), and was in prime position to capitalise on any mistakes ahead of him. Ricciardo was wasting no time looking for openings, but Aleshin resisted all attempts to pass despite a very slippery track. Then Ricciardo made a blunder that not only allowed Zampieri to grab second place, but also let Aleshin pull away.
While Zampieri applied himself to holding off the recovering Ricciardo, Guerrieri and Coletti battled over fourth before the Italian turned some heads with an overtaking manoeuvre that eventually gained him the position. At the same time, Sten Pentus (Fortec Motorsport) and Julian Leal (International Draco Racing) fell foul of them combination of the conditions and the cars' mandatory light aero configuration, bringing out the safety car.
Aleshin was back in command at the restart, remaining ahead of Zampieri and Ricciardo, but the incidents kept on coming, with Guerrieri coming together with Coletti and, further back in the peloton, Federico Leo (Pons Racing) and Filip Salaquarda (ISR) also making contact. With fourth and fifth removed, the pecking order read Aleshin, Zampieri, Ricciardo, Jon Lancaster (Fortec Motorsport) and Nelson Panciatici (Junior Lotus Racing) while, in sixth place, Jake Rosenzweig (Carlin) contained a fightback from Albert Costa (Epsilon Euskadi), who had started the race in 21st place.
The Spanish driver, in spite of a painful right hand, eventually got the better of the American, but their reversed positions were relatively safe as the race continued to lose cars. A coming together involving Jan Charouz (P1 Motorsport), Anton Nebylitskyi (KMP Racing), Nathanael Berthon (International Draco Racing) and Victor Garcia (KMP Racing) accounted for four more runners, before Costa blotted his charge by ending his race, unassisted, in the gravel trap.
Meanwhile, in the leading group, Panciatici overtook Lancaster to move up to fourth place, but the dog-fight between them went down to the last lap, when the British driver got the better of his Junior Lotus Racing counterpart.
With the difficult conditions, Aleshin was naturally delighted to make it to the chequered flag at the head of the field, claiming his second WSbR victory.
“I hadn't won a race for Carlin since 2007, so it's just perfect to start off the season this way," the Russian admitted, "It was a fantastic race. The car was so good and I'd like to thank the team for the great job they did. It is a great start to the season, although I have to say it was probably one of the most difficult races of my life.