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Preview: GP3 title fight reaches conclusion

by Peter Allen

Photo: GP3 Media Service

While the end of F1’s summer break marks the start of its nine-race run-in, the next two weekends will see the destination of the GP3 title decided…

Mitch Evans began the 2012 GP3 Series as the overwhelming pre-season favourite. The New Zealander, who turned 18 in June, has scored three victories over the course of the year and heading into the final two weekends at Spa and Monza the MW Arden man leads the standings on 136 points. But Mark Webber’s protege hasn’t quite had it all his own way as many had expected.

Aaro Vainio has kept Evans honest. The Finn, also 18, claimed the championship lead with his pole position and victory in Monaco. He has failed to win a race since, but with a top seven finish in all bar one race so far this season he enters the last two weekends well in the hunt on 119 points – or 17 behind. That essentially means that a second place for Lotus GP driver Vainio and a non-score for Evans in the first race in Belgium would see Vainio retake the lead – so it’s fairly close.

The title race had looked like it would be an exclusive fight between Evans and Vainio from as early as Valencia. Antonio Felix da Costa had been expected to be one of Evans’ biggest rivals with a year of GP3 and a year of F3 behind him, but the first three race weekends did not go his way. He then threatened with victory at Silverstone, but a double non-finish in Germany seemed to have ruled him out of contention as quickly as he had got into it. But nobody had allowed for the Portuguese driver (who was recruited by Red Bull mid-season) becoming the first double winner in the history of GP3 in Hungary. As a result he’s only 34 points adrift in third place on 102. The Carlin racer, who turns 21 on Friday, has personally said that he can’t win the title – but you’d be foolish to rule him out completely.

Now on to the real mathematics. To wrap up the title in Spa, Evans needs to outscore Vainio by 32 points and Felix da Costa by 15 – if he doesn’t achieve both of these the title fight will go on to Monza. Pole position is usually quite important in any race, but could be particularly crucial here with a massive four points on offer for topping qualifying in GP3. Indeed, Esteban Gutierrez actually sealed the inaugural title in 2010 by claiming pole at Monza – and that was when only two points were on offer.

Stay tuned to PaddockScout.com and @PaddockScout on Twitter for all the latest from the GP3 title battle.