Home Featured PaddockScout Roundup: GP2/GP3 Sochi, F3/F4 Imola

PaddockScout Roundup: GP2/GP3 Sochi, F3/F4 Imola

by Peter Allen

GP2: Palmer secures title with victory, Sorensen gets first win

GP2 Sochi

Photo: Glenn Dunbar/GP2 Series Media Service

Jolyon Palmer claimed the GP2 title with three races to spare as everything fell his way in the Sochi feature race. Starting fourth, he did a good job to climb to second on a frantic opening lap, and would later benefit from the timing of a safety car to claim the win – the only result that would secure him the title. He also needed rival Felipe Nasr to not score; the Brazilian went from 12th to seventh on the first lap but stewards deemed he did that by going off track, handing him a penalty that meant he didn’t score.

Title secured, Palmer failed to score points for the first time in the sprint race when he was hit on the first lap, dropping him to the rear before fighting back to tenth. Nasr meanwhile did too little too late, soaring from 17th to third to retain second place in the standings.

That position had been under pressure from Stoffel Vandoorne, who had claimed his third straight pole and was on his way to victory when the timing of the safety car stopped him from pitting. On worn soft tyres he proceeded to open up a massive gap over the field before pitting late on, rejoining in seventh and finishing in fifth. He would just fall short of the victory he deserved on Sunday, settling for second.

Marco Sorensen was the man who beat Vandoorne to the sprint victory after starting on pole – a suitable reward for a part season that has seen him take ten top-ten finishes from 12 races. Completing Saturday’s podium meanwhile were Mitch Evans on home ground for his Russian Time team, and Raffaele Marciello bringing something to celebrate for the Ferrari Driver Academy in a difficult week.

GP2 Series Round 10/11 ? Sochi, Russia
Race 1
Report: Palmer claims Sochi feature race win required to claim early title
1st: Jolyon Palmer 2nd: Mitch Evans 3rd: Raffaele Marciello
Race 2
Report: Marco Sorensen celebrates maiden GP2 win in Russia
1st: Marco Sorensen 2nd: Stoffel Vandoorne 3rd: Felipe Nasr
Championship standings
1 Jolyon Palmer 256 pts
2 Felipe Nasr 200 pts
3 Stoffel Vandoorne 192 pts
4 Mitch Evans 151 pts
5 Johnny Cecotto 128 pts
6 Stefano Coletti 115 pts
Next round: Yas Marina (22-23 November)

GP3: Stoneman comes close to double win after team switch

Dean Stoneman

Photo: Alastair Staley/GP3 Series Media Service

Dean Stoneman enjoyed a stunning weekend in Sochi, which ended with him forcing the title fight down to the wire, having begun with a chance of teams when Marussia Manor withdrew due to commercial issues. Returning to the Koiranen team with which he made an impressive debut last year, he took a dominant pole and a comfortable race one win. He then came through to second in race two, almost stealing the win on the last lap.

That result meant that he prevented Alex Lynn from wrapping up the title ahead of the final round. The Red Bull Junior just needed to maintain his points advantage over the rest during the Sochi event – and seventh on Saturday was enough to add two points to his margin with erstwhile rival Richie Stanaway restricted to 12th after a qualifying exclusion. But Lynn failed to capitalise on a front row start for race two, slipping back to fifth. With a 47-point lead and only 48 points left to collect, Lynn will be out of reach if Stoneman fails to take pole in Abu Dhabi.

Marvin Kirchhofer had also looked like he could keep himself in contention, taking second in race one and briefly taking the lead of race two on the final lap, only to fall to third behind Stoneman and pole-sitter Patric Niederhauser – who took his second win of the year. Jimmy Eriksson also cut his gap to Lynn with fourth on Saturday, but was penalised for triggering a first-corner pile-up in race two that led to a red flag, dropping him to 16th.

Alex Fontana had scored his second podium of the year in race one, but was eliminated in that race two collision when he was squeezed between Eriksson and Stoneman. Stanaway was an innocent bystander to now be three races without points, falling from second to fifth in the standings.

GP3 Series Round 8/9 ? Sochi, Russia
Race 1
Report: Dean Stoneman claims Sochi victory in first race after team switch
1st: Dean Stoneman 2nd: Marvin Kirchhofer 3rd: Alex Fontana
Race 2
Report: Niederhauser holds on to win thrilling second Sochi race
1st: Patric Niederhauser 2nd: Dean Stoneman 3rd: Marvin Kirchhofer
Championship standings
1 Alex Lynn 185 pts
2 Dean Stoneman 138 pts
3 Marvin Kirchhofer 137 pts
4 Jimmy Eriksson 127 pts
5 Richie Stanaway 123 pts
6 Emil Bernstorff 112 pts
Next round: Yas Marina (22-23 November)

FIA F3 European Championship: Ocon gets over the line as top trio all win

F3 Imola

Photo: FIA F3 European Championship

Esteban Ocon wrapped up the FIA F3 European Championship as he and his two main rivals all took a win each at Imola. Ocon’s victory came in the opening race from pole position, and a fourth and a third in the following races were enough to put him out of reach before next weekend’s final round.

Max Verstappen‘s first F3 race since being named as an F1 driver for 2015 was an eventful one. Starting 15th following a slightly below-par qualifying and a ten-place grid drop for his Nurburgring engine change, he made strong progress into the points early on but would go on to have three collisions before retiring, earning himself a suspended race ban. Claiming a double pole that afternoon but starting 11th from race two due to the last of his three penalties, he produced a magnificent fightback to second place before winning race three.

Tom Blomqvist had become Ocon’s closest rival after Verstappen’s race one woes, as the Briton finished in third place. He would then win race two to keep himself in contention, but fifth in race three was not enough – and saw him fall two points behind Verstappen in the fight for P2. Carlin team-mate Jordan King was second to Ocon in race one, before a poor 19th and 11th in the remaining races, while Antonio Giovinazzi scored a fifth, a second and a non-finish.

On home soil, Antonio Fuoco had a tough weekend after yet more contact with Verstappen in race one and a podium-denying puncture in race two. He shot into the lead ahead of Verstappen and Ocon in race three, but would then succumb to Verstappen and have to settle for second.

FIA F3 European Championship Round 10/11 ? Imola, Italy
Race 1
Report: Ocon controls first Imola race to close in on title
1st: Esteban Ocon 2nd: Jordan King 3rd: Tom Blomqvist
Race 2
Report: Blomqvist wins ahead of Verstappen as the duo stay in title contention
1st: Tom Blomqvist 2nd: Max Verstappen 3rd: Antonio Giovinazzi
Race 3
Report: Verstappen claims ninth win as Ocon is crowned champion
1st: Max Verstappen 2nd: Antonio Fuoco 3rd: Esteban Ocon
Championship standings
1 Esteban Ocon 454 pts
2 Max Verstappen 368 pts
3 Tom Blomqvist 365 pts
4 Lucas Auer 305 pts
5 Antonio Fuoco 255 pts
6 Antonio Giovinazzi 198 pts
Next round: Hockenheim (18-19 October)

Italian F4: Maisano gets two wins in Stroll’s absence

Brandon Maisano

Photo: ACI Sport

Italian F4 champion Lance Stroll was forced to miss the final round at Imola due to injury, allowing usual team-mate Brandon Maisano to dominate the weekend despite working on his own at Prema. The Frenchman won the first race by 13 seconds, went from tenth to third in race two and then won the finale by seven seconds – no doubt dedicating his success to compatriot and former Ferrari Driver Academy stable-mate Jules Bianchi.

Sennan Fielding impressed again in his second weekend in the series with Euronova. He finished second on the road in race one, but was penalised after an eventful race. Tenth did give him reverse grid pole for race two though, and he duly claimed victory. Damage saw him retire from race three.

Andrea Fontana and Matteo Desideri made the podium in race one behind Maisano, while Ivan Matveev was second to Euronova team-mate Fielding in race two. Race three saw Maisano joined on the rostrum by championship runner-up Mattia Drudi and Leonardo Pulcini.

Italian F4 Championship Round 7/7 ? Imola, Italy
Race 1
Report: Maisano cruises to victory in race one at Imola
1st: Brandon Maisano 2nd: Andrea Fontana 3rd: Matteo Desideri
Race 2
Report: Fielding takes maiden Italian F4 victory at Imola
1st: Sennan Fielding 2nd: Ivan Matveev 3rd: Brandon Maisano
Race 3
Report: Maisano triumphs in Italian F4 finale at Imola
1st: Brandon Maisano 2nd: Mattia Drudi 3rd: Leonardo Pulcini
Championship standings
1 Lance Stroll 331 pts
2 Mattia Drudi 237 pts
3 Andrea Russo 200 pts
4 Leonardo Pulcini 187 pts
5 Alain Valente 159 pts
6 Andrea Fontana 116 pts
Season completed

Formula Ford GB: Kruger is provisional champion after eventful finale

Jayde Kruger and Harrison Scott

Photo: Jakob Ebrey Phography

The resolution of the last British Formula Ford Championship will be settled in court after a controversial final round at Brands Hatch for the series that will become MSA Formula in 2015. Harrison Scott and Jayder Kruger were tied on points coming into the weekend and Scott opened up an eight-point advantage when he won the first race, with Kruger fourth.

They then made contact fighting for the lead of race two, resulting in Scott retiring and Kruger winning, giving a 22-point margin going into the final race. The clerk of the course penalised Kruger for causing an avoidable incident, but stewards rescinded that penalty after Kruger’s JTR team appealed. Falcon have in turn protested that decision to the MSA.

Kruger took a 22-point provisional lead into the finale, which Scott won. Kruger was only eighth, but that gives him a six-point advantage, making him provisional champion.

Elsewhere, Ricky Collard ended his rookie season with a second, a fifth and a third. Ashley Sutton went off from the lead in race one but was then third and second in the remaining races, securing P3 in the points. Juan Rosso beat Max Marshall to fourth place by a single point after coming on top in their fight for P4 in the final race, with both having taken a podium earlier in the weekend. An off in that race that dropped James Abbott from third to sixth also forced him to settle for P6 in the points, just 11 off Sutton.

Formula Ford GB Round 10/10 ? Brands Hatch, UK
Race 1
Report: Scott wins first Brands Hatch race to gain points advantage
1st: Harrison Scott 2nd: Ricky Collard 3rd: Juan Rosso
Race 2
Report: Kruger and Scott clash in penultimate Formula Ford race
1st: Jayde Kruger 2nd: Max Marshall 3rd: Ashley Sutton
Race 3
Report: Scott wins Formula Ford finale but Kruger is provisional champion
1st: Harrison Scott 2nd: Ashley Sutton 3rd: Ricky Collard
Provisional championship standings
1 Jayde Kruger 717 pts
2 Harrison Scott 711 pts
3 Ashley Sutton 567 pts
4 Juan Rosso 561 pts
5 Max Marshall 560 pts
6 James Abbott 556 pts
Season completed

Japanese F3: Matsushita is champion as Katsuta and Sasaki win races

Katsuta and Sasaki

Photo: Japanese Formula 3 Association

Honda Formula Dream driver Nobuharu Matsushita is the Japanese F3 champion for 2014 following the final round at Fuji supporting the FIA World Endurance Championship. A double win at the penultimate round at Sugo had given him a 17-point lead, and a fourth and a third at Fuji was enough for him to win the crown by 12 points. A move to Europe could well be on the cards for Matsushita, 21 on Monday, given Honda’s recent tie-ups with McLaren and ART.

Toyota-backed Takamoto Katsuta and Nissan driver Daiki Sasaki claimed the race victories at Fuji as they finished fourth and fifth respectively in the standings. Double pole-sitter Sasaki and championship runner-up Kenta Yamashita completed the race one podium, with Yamashita also taking P2 in race two. Yamashita will travel to the Macau Grand Prix next month, as well third-placed driver Mitsunori Takaboshi, who was fourth and fifth during the final weekend.

British driver Dan Wells made his series debut with Toda Racing ahead of his Macau entry, qualifying sixth and seventh for the two races before mechanical issues restricted him to tenth and ninth respectively.

Japanese F3 Round 7/7 ? Fuji, Japan
Race 1
1st: Takamoto Katsuta 2nd: Daiki Sasaki 3rd: Kenta Yamashita
Race 2
1st: Daiki Sasaki 2nd: Kenta Yamashita 3rd: Nobuharu Matsushita
Championship standings
1 Nobuharu Matsushita 102 pts
2 Kenta Yamashita 90 pts
3 Mitsunori Takaboshi 82 pts
4 Takamoto Katsuta 80 pts
5 Daiki Sasaki 63 pts
6 Shota Kiyohara 23 pts
Season completed

Star Driver: Dean Stoneman

Dean Stoneman

Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP3 Series Media Service

Stoneman’s Sochi performance was phenomenal, immediately on the pace on a car that had been seconds off it all season, taking pole by a comfortably margin on the new circuit and coming close to taking a double win. He jumped from eighth in the standings to second, taking a slim chance of the title to Abu Dhabi. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he kept that chance through qualifying there, either, given how good he was for Koiranen there last year.