Attempting to make up a 14-point gap on championship leader Stoffel Vandoorne, Daniil Kvyat (Koiranen Motorsport) put the wet tyres on in response to a pre-race shower only to watch the men on slicks fly by him in a tense finale.
Though the point-leading Belgian retired at the start of the race, he ended it as the 2012 champion, while Josef Kaufmann Racing picked up their maiden team title.
“It’s a great win because it seals third place for me in the standings, which means I get a Formula Renault 3.5 Series test drive, which is a good move in terms of preparing for 2013," said Oliver Rowland: "I’d like to congratulate Stoffel Vandoorne. He’s been quick and consistent throughout a perfect season and he deserves this title.”
The changeable weather kept the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 field guessing during qualifying. Handling the conditions better than anyone was Kvyat, who made it pole number three of the season, the Russian’s satisfaction no doubt intensified by the sight of Vandoorne languishing on row eight, fuelling his hopes of wiping out the Belgian’s points lead.
As was the case in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series race earlier in the afternoon, a sharp shower soaked the track just before the action commenced. But while Kvyat, Jordan King (Manor MP Motorsport) and Andrea Pizzitola (R-ace GP) opted for wet tyres, most of the field – Vandoorne included – went out on slicks.
The full treads proved to be the right choice early on, as Kvyat surged into the lead from Jordan , Pizzitola, Rowland and Jake Dennis. Meanwhile, Vandoorne began his recovery mission in fine style, sweeping from 16th to sixth in a single lap. Disaster struck for the Belgian on the next lap, however, when he made contact with Steijn Schothorst (Manor MP Motorsport) in a fateful passing manoeuvre. Forced to abandon, he would watch the rest of the race from the side of the track, his title hopes hanging in the balance.
Those hopes were raised on the very next lap when Kvyat had to serve a drive-through penalty for changing his tyres after the five-minute sign had gone up on the grid. King received the same penalty for the same offence. The safety car then came out after a three-car shunt involving Esteban Ocon (Koiranen Motorsport), Melville McKee (Interwetten.com Racing) and Victor Colome (KTR).
Despite his punishment for his pre-race infringement, Kvyat was running third and would be champion by a single point if he stayed there. Not content with that, however, the Russian jumped past Ignazio d’Agosto (KTR) and into second on the restart, with only Pizzitola up ahead of him.
Kvyat then reeled in and overtook the Frenchman to take command, though his fortunes were about to change as the racers on slicks began to gain rapid ground, not least Rowland, who swept past everyone and into the lead in the space of a few turns.
His fate sealed by his fading tyres, Kvyat limped home eighth as Vandoorne celebrated behind the pitwall, the 2012 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 champion pocketing a 500,000 euro prize to fund his Formula Renault 3.5 Series drive next season. Topping the podium on the day and for the first time in the category was Rowland, with William Vermont second and Fraga third.
Vandoorne said: “It wasn’t easy watching all that after the mistake I made and the collision I had with Schothorst. I did think, though, that the drivers on slicks would get the upper hand in the end, and luckily for me that’s how it turned out. This title is an important achievement for my career, after my F4 Eurocup 1.6 win in 2010. Thanks to the 500,000 euro award, my goal for next year is to drive in Formula Renault 3.5 Series. I start testing on Wednesday with Arden Caterham.”