Home Featured 2013 GP3 Series season review

2013 GP3 Series season review

by Peter Allen
GP3 Series

Photos: GP3 Media Service

GP3 entered a new era in 2013 with an upgraded, faster second-generation car. A competitive grid ensured there we ten different winners, but the bigger aerodynamics – combined with a change of tyre compound allocation after the opening round due to extremely high tyre wear – meant that the quality of the racing was poor and the race result was usually settled on the opening lap.

Consistency appeared to be key in the title race until rookie Daniil Kvyat surged to the championship towards the end of the year and landed himself a promotion to Formula 1.

Daniil Kvyat 1. Daniil Kvyat

Russia, MW Arden, age 19

168 points, 3 wins, 5 podiums, 2 pole positions, 4 fastest laps

Making the step up from Formula Renault 2.0 into a field where so many had experience at a higher level, nobody expected Kvyat to be a serious title contender but he made such progress that he was in a class of one at the end.

After he and MW Arden struggled with the extreme tyre wear in Barcelona, he then delivered a string of top five finishes at Valencia and Silverstone. A mechanical failure cost him points at the Nurburgring, and then he resumed his progress with a third place at Hungaroring. At Spa he qualified second, got a better start than team-mate Carlos Sainz and just took off, delivering three straight, dominant feature race wins – the latter two from pole.

Kvyat had already impressed Red Bull enough to land a Toro Rosso 2014 seat before Abu Dhabi. It was a move that surprised the majority, but there’s no denying he’s got the ability to be huge if he’s given time. Season rating: 9/10

Facu Regalia 2. Facu Regalia

Argentina, ART Grand Prix, age 22

138 points, 1 win, 6 podiums, 1 pole position, 2 fastest laps

If Kvyat wasn’t a title contender at the start of the year, Regalia wasn’t even on the radar. Perceived as just another well-funded South American, he contested as many championships last year as he claimed race wins.

He was quickly a match for his ART team-mates though, following Conor Daly across the line in second place in Valencia. He proved that was no fluke with a third at Silverstone and then went to the next level at the Nurburgring with a win from pole. After that, his best qualifying result was only eighth but he stayed out of trouble to score a run of five consecutive top-four finishes. That made him the leader going to Abu Dhabi, but he simply wasn’t in the same class as Kvyat.

Regalia will almost certainly race in GP2 next year – possibly for his manager Adrian Campos’ relaunched team. His 2013 performances could also help him use the deal between his father’s clothing firm and Force India to land some sort of role there for himself. Season rating: 8

Conor Daly 3. Conor Daly

United States, ART Grand Prix, age 22

126 points, 1 win, 6 podiums, 1 pole position, 1 fastest lap

While he also sampled MRF, GP2 and IndyCar machinery during 2013, a third campaign of GP3 was Daly’s main focus. Staying with ART, his experience should have counted for something but he lacked both the outright pace and the luck needed to win the title.

After a podium in Barcelona he won from pole in Valencia, but he failed to produce that kind of performance again. While a jump start and car problems hampered him at Silverstone and the Nurburgring respectively, he had to settle for second-best at the Hungaroring and Spa. He was second in the points to Regalia at that stage, but was then wiped out in a first corner pile-up at Monza.

His failure to win the title will have a negative impact on his ability to raise sponsorship from back home and gain support from teams in Europe. IndyCar therefore likely provides the best opportunity for Daly, who was Star Mazda champion before trying his luck in GP3. Season rating: 8

Tio Ellinas4. Tio Ellinas

Cyprus, Marussia Manor Racing, age 21

116 points, 2 wins, 3 podiums, 1 pole position, 1 fastest lap

Once he cobbled together the sufficient funding to remain with Marussia Manor into 2013, Ellinas began the year as a title favourite after coming close to a double win at the end of 2012 at Monza and then setting the pace in pre-season testing.

Things began as per the script with victory in the first race, and although he only took one more podium from the next three rounds, he was the only driver consistently in the points and so had built himself a decent margin. However, after a lack of pace at the Hungaroring and a stall at the start of the first Spa race, his lead was gone. Any recovery was then prevented by cruel first-corner hits in the next two races, but he did salvage a second victory in the season finale.

Funding will determine whether he can now make the next step that he deserves, but Marussia would be wise to help after being impressed by his F1 test debut at Silverstone in the summer. Season rating: 8

Jack Harvey5. Jack Harvey

United Kingdom, ART Grand Prix, age 20

114 points, 2 wins, 3 podiums, 1 fastest lap

A former runner-up in Formula BMW Europe, Harvey returned to the F1 support package needing to continue building career momentum after claiming the British F3 title last year. He moved away from Carlin to join teams’ champions ART.

He made a quiet start in the two Spanish meetings but was a winner upon returning home to Silverstone. Made decent points hauls at the Nurburgring and the Hungaroring, but blotted his record with a big crash at Spa after moving across on Carlos Sainz. He recovered from that to claim another win in the Monza sprint race, but would have to make do with fifth in the final standings.

He could have stayed in GP3 or moved up to GP2, but he and the Racing Steps Foundation have taken the wise decision to switch to the United States and Indy Lights for next year. If he can make the most of his natural ability there, he’ll be huge. Season rating: 8

Nick Yelloly6. Nick Yelloly

United Kingdom, Carlin, age 23

107 points, 4 podiums, 1 fastest lap

After something of a breakthrough season with two wins in Formula Renault 3.5 last year, funding constraints prompted Yelloly to take a bit of a backwards step to GP3. He was in a good team at Carlin, but a little on his own to begin with alongside inexperienced team-mates.

There was plenty of pace early on, finishing fourth in the first race and then running third in the second until being taken out by another driver. Then qualified third at Valencia, but excluded for a technical infringement and raced brilliantly but with no reward. His best chance of a win then came at Silverstone, but the difficulty of overtaking forced him to settle for second. He continued to score podiums in all but one of the remaining weekends, and would have had a higher points total with more luck earlier on.

He will now likely be plotting a return to FR3.5 having tested for Carlin and his old team Comtec in post-season. Season rating: 7

Kevin Korjus7. Kevin Korjus

Estonia, Koiranen GP, age 20

107 points, 4 podiums, 1 pole position, 1 fastest lap

The above stats are not a mistake – Korjus had plenty of parallels with Yelloly this season. Also forced from FR3.5 to GP3 – after Gravity backing was pulled following a poor 2012 – he was fast, consistent and a regular podium visitor but also failed to grab that race win.

Rejoining the Koiranen team he won the Eurocup title with in 2010, he was remarkably fastest in their first GP3 qualifying session in Barcelona – only to lose the pole for a practice misdemeanour. Podiums followed in race two and in Valencia, before he landed a pole for real at Silverstone but had to settle for second behind Harvey in the race. After a low patch, he was again a consistent points scorer in the second half of the year but fell from third to seventh in the standings after stalling in Abu Dhabi.

Without a large budget, the future is uncertain for Korjus, which is a shame after looking so promising when he won three times in his rookie FR3.5 season. Season rating: 7

Alexander Sims8. Alexander Sims

United Kingdom, Status Grand Prix/Carlin, age 24

77 points, 1 win, 3 podiums, 1 fastest lap (8/16 races)

Sims had switched to GT racing with McLaren after failure to win the 2011 GP3 title cost him funding from Gravity, but he returned at the Nurburgring when Status and Adderly Fong chose him to fill in when Fong had a clashing commitment in Asia.

With the team struggling to the degree that they only scored two other points all year, Sims claimed a second place finish in the reverse grid race. When Eric Lichtenstein’s backers pulled their funding on the eve of Spa, Carlin called Sims up and he promptly won the sprint race. Twice a top-six finisher at Monza, he then put a pass on Yelloly in race one in Abu Dhabi to finish second and win the non-Kvyat class.

While he still deserves a chance in GP2 or FR3.5, any continued presence in single-seaters next year is likely to come with the T-Sport F3 team that he also produced some great stand-in performances for. Season rating: 8

Aaro Vainio9. Aaro Vainio

Finland, Koiranen GP, age 20

75 points, 2 wins, 3 podiums, 1 pole position, 1 fastest lap (14/16 races)

Like Korjus, Vainio lost the financial backing of his management – Nicolas Todt – after his collapse from GP3 title contention last year, and found refuge with his fellow Finns at Koiranen.

Things were always going to be harder with the series newcomers than at ART, but things began promisingly with a win in the second Barcelona race and a second place in Valencia. He then had low-key weekends at Silverstone and the Nurburgring, before winning race one in Hungary from pole – making up for last year when he also claimed pole but got a bad start – becoming the first repeat winner of 2013. Those would be his last points though, and after nightmare weekends at Spa and Monza, he was forced to make way for Dean Stoneman in Abu Dhabi.

He hasn’t lost any of the raw talent that made him a star in karting, but sadly his chances really are running out now. Season rating: 7

Carlos Sainz10. Carlos Sainz

Spain, MW Arden, age 19

66 points, 2 podiums, 1 pole position, 1 fastest lap

Quickest when the new GP3 car made its debut pre-season, Sainz began the campaign as a possible contender but ended it heavily overshadowed by fellow Red Bull Junior Kvyat. His points tally doesn’t tell the whole story, but sometimes his downfall was his own fault.

Struggling similarly to Kvyat in Barcelona, Sainz then got the car onto the podium next time out at Valencia. After another top-three in Hungary, he beat his team-mate to pole at Spa but didn’t get the best start of the pair. He lost a podium when Harvey crashed into him, and was taken out of second at Monza by the first corner smash. Excluded for a tangle with Patric Niederhauser in Abu Dhabi, although that wasn’t as bad his move on Lewis Williamson at Silverstone.

He still has tonnes of natural ability – proven by his F1 testing debut with Red Bull and Formula Renault 3.5 bow at Monaco. But in a full FR3.5 campaign next year, it’s time to turn that into some results. Season rating: 7

Robert Visoiu11. Robert Visoiu

Romania, MW Arden, age 17

44 points, 2 wins

Only Kvyat led more laps during the season than Visoiu did, as he took wins in Valencia and Hungary. Both came from reverse grid poles though, and the nature of GP3 in 2013 meant his wins were pretty much sealed once he’d kept the lead at the start.

He showed he had the pace to lead from the front, but a lack of qualifying pace otherwise let him down. He took advantage of Arden’s competitiveness at Monza to line up on the front row there, but a poor launch meant he was involved in the first corner melee. He otherwise only qualified in the top ten once, and his best race result other than his wins was eighth.

He was quiet in a parallel campaign in Auto GP, and although he’s got the money to move up next year, he’s still young and would be wise to have another season at the front in GP3. Season rating: 6

Lewis Williamson12. Lewis Williamson

United Kingdom, Bamboo Engineering, age 24

44 points, 1 podium (14/16 races)

Still in the process of trying to rebuild his career after his unfairly premature ditching by Red Bull last year, McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner Williamson landed a late deal to lead the new Bamboo team into their first GP3 season.

He and the team seriously lacked qualifying pace early on, but he defied the lack of overtaking to drag the car forwards in the races. At Silverstone he’d gone from 19th to eighth with a couple of laps left when he was wiped out by Sainz. He delivered two fourth-places at the Nurburgring, and a fourth and a third at Monza. At the other end of the scale, there was an embarrassing coming together with team-mate Melville McKee at the Hungaroring.

He proved in his rookie year in 2011 what he could do with a competitive car, but with a lack of budget and his progressing years making F1 highly unlikely, it’s time to consider a future outside of single-seaters. Season rating: 6

Patric Niederhauser13. Patric Niederhauser

Switzerland, Jenzer Motorsport, age 22

33 points, 2 podiums

Amongst the title contenders after a strong rookie season in 2012, Niederhauser chased Ellinas home in the first race of the season at Barcelona and then came through to claim third place in the second race.

Great in low-grip situations, the high tyre wear seen in Barcelona played to his strengths. Once the compound choices were quite rightly changed for round two, Niederhauser seriously lacked pace and his best qualifying result was eighth in Abu Dhabi. His chances there were ended by the collision with Sainz, meaning the only points he scored after Barcelona were a pair of eighth places.

He showed good speed in post-season testing with top squads ART and Arden, but it remains to be seen whether he’s got the budget to land a coveted seat at either. He has also been racing an LMP2 this year with promise. Season rating: 6

Melville McKee14. Melville McKee

United Kingdom, Bamboo Engineering, age 19

31 points, 1 win, 2 fastest laps (14/16 races)

After spending all winter looking the for the chance to step up to GP3 from Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, McKee found a seat with Bamboo and had a promising campaign, finishing up as second best of the true rookies at this level, behind Kvyat.

After some promising flashes during the early rounds, he capitalised on the team’s competitiveness at the Nurburgring. In the first race he went from 12th on the grid to finish seventh, and made the most of a front row start in race two to claim victory. Further points followed at Spa and Monza, but he threw away a podium at the former when he slammed into Ellinas at the start of race two and ended both their races.

Like Williamson, he was forced out before Abu Dhabi when the team sold up for next season. Budget constraints could again make his off-season uncertain, but hopefully he can get a 2014 deal with Marussia Manor after testing with them. Season rating: 7

Giovanni Venturini15. Giovanni Venturini

Italy, Trident Racing, age 22

26 points, 1 win

After two podiums in a part-season last year, Venturini continued at Trident into 2013. The team failed to repeat their promising pre-season form however, and Venturini would score the majority of their points.

He claimed their only podium of the campaign with a win from the reverse grid pole at Silverstone, keeping Yelloly at bay. His and the team’s only points in the remainder of the season came with a decent double haul at the Hungaroring. He came pretty close to adding to his tally before the year was out, managing a run of four 11th place finishes from the next five races! His best qualifying result of the year was only tenth, at Spa.

He demonstrated his ability with the second quickest time in GP2 testing with Trident, but budget will determine whether he gets the chance to make the step up. Season rating: 6

Dean Stoneman16. Dean Stoneman

United Kingdom, Koiranen GP, age 23

20 points, 1 podium (2/16 races)

At the end of 2010, Stoneman won the Formula Two title, undertook a prize Williams test and secured a Formula Renault 3.5 seat alongside Daniel Ricciardo for the next season. Then he was diagnosed with cancer.

After successful treatment, he made his full racing return in 2013 in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB, winning five times. At the end of the year, he made his single-seater comeback with Koiranen in Abu Dhabi and shone. After qualifying ninth, he raced to sixth in race one. In race two he finished second, right on the tail of the winner Ellinas.

He set the pace on the first day of the post-season test that followed. He’s also sampled FR3.5 with Carlin, and will hopefully make a fully-fledged return to the single-seater scene next year. Season rating: N/A

Alex Fontana17. Alex Fontana

Switzerland, Jenzer Motorsport, age 21

18 points, 1 podium

Fontana made a full-time move into GP3 this year after promising stand-in performances with Jenzer in the previous two campaigns. But like team-mate Niederhauser, the 2011 F3 Open champion struggled for pace all too often.

He did manage a couple of competitive showings in the middle of the year. At Silverstone he qualified fourth, and although he slipped back to seventh in the first race, he was able to convert that into a podium finish in race two. He qualified an even-better third at the Nurburgring, but got a poor start and lost his rear wing on the first lap.

The Lotus F1 Team has seen something in him and gave him a first F1 test at Paul Ricard. He spent all three days of the post-season test with ART, which would be a wise move for both parties for 2014. Season rating: 6

Dino Zamparelli18. Dino Zamparelli

United Kingdom, Marussia Manor Racing, age 21

13 points

Perennially underfunded, ex-F2 racer Zamparelli secured investment from his native Bristol over the winter which allowed him to sign with Marussia Manor in time for a full schedule of pre-season testing – a novelty for him.

There was good pace from the off – he was pushing for eighth in the season opener when he went off. As the season went on he picked up points in half of the 16 races. Unfortunately a lack of standout results prevented him being any higher in the final ranking, with seventh being his best when 17 other drivers scored podiums. Qualifying didn’t help here – he was in the top ten for the first two weekends but not again all season. His whole campaign though was overshadowed by his error that caused the Monza start crash, which dented the title hopes of team-mate Ellinas as well as Daly, and got him suspended for Sunday’s race.

His backers should keep faith with him for another year and allow him to build upon the promise he showed. Season rating: 6

David Fumanelli19. David Fumanelli

Italy, Trident Racing, age 21

6 points (14/16 races)

Fumanelli was let go by Arden over the winter but landed a seat as part of an all-Italian assault at Trident. He was among the pace-setters in pre-season, but ended up scoring points just once in a disastrous campaign.

Those points came with a seventh place in the first race of the season – decent progress after qualifying back in 11th. That put him on the front row for race two, but he ruined his chances when he needlessly ran into the back of Yelloly at the chicane, picking up a penalty. Three straight retirements followed, and although he qualified ninth at Spa, his best otherwise from Nurburgring to Monza was 19th.

He was another driver to lose his seat for Abu Dhabi, but he did at least test with Jenzer the following week. Returning for a third year in the series will depend on raising the necessary budget. Season rating: 5

Patrick Kujala20. Patrick Kujala

Finland, Koiranen GP, age 17

5 points

Turning 17 just before the first race weekend, Kujala was the youngest driver in the field but wasn’t out of his depth and progressed well as the year went on. He had two great team-mates to learn from in Korjus and Vainio, who his sponsors had helped paid for.

His inexperience maybe caused his tough start to the year, culminating in a spectacular roll at Silverstone when he ran into the back of Fumanelli at Becketts, landing him a ban for the second race. He progressed after this though, and bagged his first point with tenth at Monza. He followed that with an eighth place at Abu Dhabi from 17th on the grid. He began race two from reverse grid pole, but plummeted on worn tyres.

It would be a surprise not to see Kujala return next year with Koiranen, even if he was absent from the post-season test. Season rating: 6

Adderly Fong21. Adderly Fong

Hong Kong, Status Grand Prix, age 23

2 points (14/16 races)

After three years in British F3, Fong used that experience to have a decent campaign in GP3, but results were limited as the Status team struggled badly with the revised car. Fong was the only one of the team’s regular three drivers to score points.

Those points courtesy of a ninth place at Silverstone, off the back of a 12th place in qualifying. While he was the only Status driver to regularly qualify inside the top 20, he might have improved his chances without some needless collisions. He missed the Nurburgring round – allowing Sims to step in – to concentrate on the Audi R8 LMS Cup in China, where he finished the year as the champion from a field with a number of well-known drivers.

Given that, he might be wise to focus on something in the GT arena next year but may also fancy a GP3 return with a different team. Season rating: 6

The rest

After making the big step up from Formula Ford after an impressive winning run last year, Eric Lichtenstein showed promise for Carlin including a tenth-place finish on his first weekend and again at Silverstone, but sadly his backers pulled the plug prior to Spa, even though better performances were ambitious given his inexperience. Team-mate Luis Sa Silva had more experience having switched from European F3, but he failed to score points despite some strong races in Barcelona and carelessly took himself and Lichtenstein out on the first lap at the Nurburgring.

German F3 champion Jimmy Eriksson struggled woefully at Status, managing a best finish of 12th. Josh Webster also found the going tough with the team as he jumped up from Formula Renault BARC, and will switch to the Porsche Carrera Cup GB next year after winning a scholarship prize.

Similarly, Emanuele Zonzini struggled to make his mark with Trident but has tested with ART for two consecutive winters now, so could move up the order next year. Fellow Formula Abarth graduate Samin Gomez showed flashes of pace with Jenzer but also made the occasional on-track move typical of a Venezuelan driver.

Ryan Cullen had a tough season for Marussia Manor after making the huge leap from a single year of Formula Ford, but was still always found ahead of the vastly more experienced Carmen Jorda, who failed to show any noticeable improvement from last year with Bamboo.

2012 regulars Robert Cregan and Alice Powell returned for Abu Dhabi with Trident and Bamboo respectively.