After a lengthy break in the calendar, the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup championship kicked off again at the Red Bull Ring, Spielberg for the fifth round of the 2018 Championship.
Piastri headed the Arden charge in the opening Collective Tests, finishing inside the top-7 on both occasions. Teammates Sami Taoufik and Nikita Volegov partnered him in the sessions, completing over 100 laps for the team in the build up to the races.
Qualifying 1 saw Piastri set the 5th fastest time in Qualifying Group A, with Taoufik setting the 9th fastest time in the same group. Volegov set the 11th fastest time in Group B, before the times were merged to set the grid for the races.
The second Qualifying session saw Volegov pop in the 8th fastest time in Group B, with Piastri 3rd quickest in Group A, teammate Taoufik was less fortunate with his laps and set the 11th fastest time in his group.
Race one saw Piastri head the Arden trio from 5th on the grid, with Volegov starting from 16th and Taoufik starting from 24th.
Piastri made a good start and was battling hard with Christian Lundgaard through Turns 1-3, before slotting back into 5th position. Volegov had a difficult start and was pushed down to 19th, whilst Taoufik suffered damage on the opening lap – retiring from the race, as the Safety Car was deployed to clear a stranded car on the exit of Turn 3.
The race restarted three laps later, with Piastri battling to hold onto 5th – but was squeezed out at Turn 6, dropping him a position. Volegov managed to make up a position to 18th at the restart as the field began to settle into the race.
With 10-laps to go, the heavens opened as the rain began to fall on track. The Safety Car was deployed along with the ‘slippery surface flags’.
The downpour was so severe that the race had to be red flagged and was unable to be restarted – therefore Piastri finished the race in 6th position, securing 3rd on the Rookie Podium in the process, with Volegov in 17th position at the call of the red flag.
Race two started with Piastri 9th on the grid, Taoufik 17th and Volegov 20th on the grid. The race got underway under dry conditions, with Piastri forced down the order at Turn 1. The young Aussie hit back immediately, sending a very bold move into Turn 4 up the inside of three cars and another overtake around the outside of Turn 5 to retake 10th position.
Teammate Taoufik held 17th position amongst the first lap melee with Volegov however not so lucky – as he dropped three positions to 23rd, albeit right on the back of the pack.
Next lap around, the field was still closing bunched up, with Piastri side-by-side with fellow countryman Thomas Maxwell through Turns 5-8, completing the move on the inside of the final corner to take 9th. This the battle continued into the next lap, which however saw the pair actually drop a position – as Piastri sealed the move for good at Turn 6.
Taoufik was involved in a battle for 15th position, as a train of four cars headed into the heavy braking zone at Turn 3. He was pinched to the apex by a rival, which blunted his speed off the corner – dropping the Moroccan driver to 20th place, two ahead of Volegov.
The action for 6th position down to 13th was seriously competitive throughout the race, with 18 minutes to go, Piastri was involved in a really tight battle challenging for 9th position, going three wide into Turn 4 and Turn 5 as he battled for the points positions.
Taoufik and Volegov maintained their positions as the race headed towards half distance.
As the race reached the closing stages, Taoufik had made good progress to move up three positions to 17th, pulling off a pair of overtakes into Turn 3 to elevate himself up the grid. Volegov was just two places behind in 19th, while Piastri continued his pursuit of the points paying positions – running in 11th position.
With one minute to go, Piastri lined up a double overtake in the run between Turns 3 and 4, to move himself into 9th position. The YRDA and Arden driver crossed the line after a hard-fought race with two championship points to add to his tally.
Taoufik and Volegov gained a further position in the final laps, finishing a solid 16th and 18th respectively.
The next round of the 2018 Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup will take place in just one week’s time at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, on the 27-28 July.