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20/03/2016 2016 Australian Grand Prix Review

Older stories here

GP3 Spanish Review

 

NOW 2013 has truly begun. Formula One has returned to Europe, bringing with it not only GP2 but also the inaugural round of the GP3 season – the first race for the new, more powerful second-generation chassis.

Sainz, Fontana, Korjus and Kujala all went into the first qualifying session of the year with 10-place penalties hanging over their heads as a result of ignoring yellow flags in practice.

The experienced Arden driver Robert Visoiu opened the session with a 1:38.191, some 3 tenths faster than the previous generation cars had managed ever before in similar trim. Sainz managed to beat that shortly afterwards, followed by Korjus and battle was drawn. The pattern continued as Ellinas took his turn at the top while the drivers continued to settle into the car and circuit.

David Fumanelli took the fastest time for Trident almost a third of the way into the session. 3 minutes later Niederhauser was top for the second time.

Melville McKee tested the limit of adhesion around turn 9, throwing the car onto an older version of the circuit and destroying his tyres as he pirouetted in a cloud of tyre smoke.

Sainz once again went fastest, although the best grid slot he could hope for was 11th due to his penalty. Even as I wrote that, however, Korjus took himself to the (artificial, given he too was penalised) top spot once more. Interestingly, Conor Daly – running ART car number 1 – was only 10th overall.

Jack Harvey became the second driver to have a major spin, but he got away with it and continued.

Ellinas managed a third of a second's improvement against Korjus to go top with 6 minutes remaining. In fairness he was already on a net pole position prior to that lap due to the penalties of his rivals. Behind too, Nick Yelloly went 5th.

Cullen beached the Marussia Manor in the final sector, while Fumanelli and Sainz nearly collided as the latter was cleared by Fumanelli on a fast lap, although Cullen's yellow flags also compromised Fumanelli's lap time.

Kvyat went 5th-fastest before yellow flags inexplicably returned. Fontana then went 2nd while Korjus was shattering Ellinas' time and took pole. Behind him Sainz went only 4th. Niederhauser just edged him to take 3rd, leaving Ellinas to take pole in the first race alongside Niederhauser. Behind them were Daly, Kvyat, Yelloly, Vainio, Regalia, Harvey, Zamparelli and Fumanelli.

The first corner was taken by Ellinas, Niederhauser and Daly. Amazingly when you consider the experience levels in this series, everyone made it safely through the opening phase of the race. My immediate observations was that GP3 was still yet to receive a female driver capable of racing at the sharp end as Gomez and Jorda were running down in 25th and 26th at the end of the first lap, with only Cullen sitting behind them.

That we made it onto lap 6 without any retirements proved further what we saw in Monaco last season: GP3 is a more disciplined category than GP2. The only change to the top 8 at that stage of the race, after Cullen decided to take his last-placed car for a bit of rallycross, was Harvey clearing Regalia.

Typically as soon as I wrote that, Josh Webster promptly retired from the race, his Status becoming the first casualty of the 2013 season.

Kvyat was holding up Yelloly who made a mode into the final corner to prevent Harvey and Vainio getting to the point where they could launch an attack. Kvyat dropped behind both drivers within half a lap of Yelloly's move.

Regalia lost ground after giving more space than necessary to Korjus, who in turn went into turn 10 very hot and heavily locked up.

Zamparelli rear-ended a very lucky Korjus, somehow only taking himself out of the race. He was issued a ten-place place penalty for Sunday’s grid although that only demotes him by two places.

Ultimately it was the midfield scraps that provided most of the entertainment, while Ellinas won from Niederhauser and Daly who all simply pulled out a lead over their respective trailing rivals and drove a boring race. Having said that, Niederhauser did reel Ellinas back in, but it was ultimately too late. Nick Yelloly finished 4th ahead of Vainio, Harvey and Fumanelli, while Kevin Korjus made the first reverse grid pole of the year. Visoiu and Fontana completed the top ten. Williamson led home Venturini, followed in 13th by Sa Silva who was run close by McKee. Sainz and Gomez were also only 2 tenths apart in the fight for 15th, followed home by Zonzini and Lichtenstein. Eriksson and Kvyat rounded out the top 20. Cullen, Jorda and Fong rounded out the 23 finishing cars. Regalia retired 24th although he was classified, then Zamparelli, Kujala and Webster all retired.

Rather infuriatingly, technical problems decided the start of the second race wasn’t something I should see, but I reached the race nicely on time to see the safety car pull off, on track due to McKee crashing. Visoiu was given a drive-through penalty for jumping the start while Vainio led from Korjus, Yelloly and Fumanelli. In the midfield Zamparelli was 14th after a monster first lap in which he got there from 27th.

Ellinas, Daly and Niederhauser were scrapping amongst themselves for 5th while Cullen took Kvyat out in something of an overbearing defence. In the process the Marussia driver broke his suspension, retiring himself also after the collision. The crash was investigated after the race.

Yelloly ran wide, dropping himself and Fumanelli into the clutches of Ellinas who was starting to drop Daly.

Sa Silva overtook Fong for 12th place, while Fontana took 14th briefly from a stubborn Zamparelli.

Niederhauser overtook Daly after the latter ran wide, but then Yelloly fell a long way down after contact with Fumanelli who led the mass overtake afterwards with a chunk out of his front end. This promoted Sainz to 8th behind Harvey and into the points, while Zonzini retired. The crash between Yelloly and Fumanelli was put under investigation.

Ellinas was falling into the clutches of Niederhauser as his tyres started to fade, just as they had the day before. Behind that battle Harvey lost 7th to Sainz in a lovely move. This time Ellinas was unable to hold his position and gave Niederhauser enough room once the move was inevitable. The GP2 boys could learn something here, I feel.

Sainz was closing on Daly, Daly on Fumanelli and Fumanelli on Ellinas while Koiranen looked certain to take a 1-2 finish courtesy of Vainio and Korjus in only their second ever GP3 race. What a story for the 50th GP3 race!

The Koiranen boys did indeed take that 1-2 finish followed by Niederhauser, Ellinas, Fumanelli, Daly, Sainz and Harvey. Outside the points were Williamson, Venturini, Fontana, Lichtenstein, Fong, Sa Silva, Gomez, Regalia, Zamparelli, Kujala, Visoiu and Jorda. Webster, YellolyZonzini, Eriksson, Cullen, Kvyat and McKee.

 

Fumanelli was dropped from 6th to 17th after the race for his collision with Yelloly, promoting Daly, Sainz, Harvey and Williamson into the final four points-paying positions.Visoiu was awarded a drive-through penalty for another collision. Sainz was then disqualified for running underweight, gifting the final point to Venturini.

Ellinas now leads Niederhauser by 11 points in the championship, with Vainio just 3 points further back heading into the 5-week break before the race in Valencia.

 

Tufty



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