Photo: GP3 Media Service
German was an outsider entering Monza finale, but troubles for his rivals as he won the first race moved him right into contention. Even if he ultimately came up short, he very nearly got the double win he needed…
Coming into the last round of the championship in Italy, championship leader Mitch Evans had a 21.5 points gap over his nearest rival and, while three drivers besides him had mathematical chances to win the title, he was the obvious candidate. In the end, the championship was indeed his, but it was a closer call than anybody could have expected.
On Friday, it didn’t look like Evans was going to have much trouble this weekend, as he posted the quickest time in practice, albeit by a fairly small margin. The pattern continued on Saturday when Evans stormed to pole position, beating his nearest rival Antonio Felix da Costa by 0.02s for the 4 points that proved so incredibly crucial in the end. In the race, however, it was Daniel Abt who set the world alight with his performance, taking his second GP3 win in another feature race. Having started from 7th, Abt avoided all the mayhem that unfolded before him and took the checkered flag first, 3 tenths ahead of Tio Ellinas. Championship contender Aaro Vainio finished third on the road but didn’t get to go onto the podium as the stewards added 20 seconds to his time for ignoring yellow flags. As such, it was Matias Laine who finished third. The rest of the top 10 was completed by Conor Daly, Patric Niederhauser, David Fumanelli, Marlon Stockinger, Giovanni Venturini, Tamas Pal Kiss and William Buller. Evans was the first man out of the race, bouncing over some kerbs whilst missing a turn which damaged his vehicle severely. Yet luck was on his side, as Felix da Costa dropped out of contention for the lead after his car ended up stuck in gear.
Coming into the second race only Abt still had mathematical chances of taking the title from Evans, 14 points behind him with 15 awarded for the win. The race proved an absolute spectacle, though, because Abt very nearly did what was required of him, leading the majority of the race but losing out to Ellinas during the last laps, which cost him the title. It was Evans, however, who could’ve made his own luck, storming through the field after starting in 25th and ending up as high as ninth, but, just as last time, he got it all wrong while fighting for positions and the bumps destroyed his race once again, giving him a puncture. Venturini, who started from reverse grid pole, finished third in his home race. Stockinger, Felix da Costa, Laine, Robert Visoiu and Alice Powell completed the top eight, with Powell scoring her first and only point of the season.
With Evans champion, Abt had to do with being the best rookie and the series vice-champion, while Felix da Costa finished the season in third. However, Abt’s team, Lotus GP, can definitely take solace in the fact that they have won the Teams’ Championship for a third time in a row.
Main title contenders Luiz Razia and Davide Valsecchi arrived into the penultimate round at Monza equal on points, yet a clear favourite for the title emerged before the final round. While Razia failed to score in both races, his Italian rival netted 25 points and a sprint race win to put himself in a very comfortable position in the standings.
It wasn’t just them two who made news however, as Max Chilton posted the quickest time in practice and then went on to claim his second pole position of the season, with Dutch series veteran Giedo van der Garde lined up alongside him on the front row. Neither of them were to stand on the podium this weekend, though. Instead, it was veteran Luca Filippi who won the feature race on his return to GP2 after taking the lead early on. Johnny Cecotto, Jr. finished second after making the most out of a fairly unconventional strategy while Marcus Ericsson completed the top three. Chilton was fourth, ahead of Fabio Leimer, Valsecchi, Jolyon Palmer, Stefano Coletti, Esteban Gutierrez and Julian Leal. Unlucky van der Garde had to retire almost immediately after the start with a car failure, while Razia collided with Leimer and ended his race by beaching his car on a kerb. Leimer also took part in another collision, which ruined the race for Felipe Nasr, but would later be found the not guilty side in both accidents, as Nasr and Razia picked up their ineffective grid penalties.
Coletti and Palmer sat on the front row for the sprint race, yet it was Valsecchi who led into the first corner after managing an amazing getaway off the line. Though under constant pressure from Leimer, who was always within a second, Valsecchi led every lap of the race and crossed the finish line in first, picking up the fastest lap bonus points along the way. Leimer and Palmer completed the podium, while Coletti did a spectacular job of keeping fourth on shot tyres. Ericsson, who ran in fourth for a big chunk of the race, had to contend with seventh after a mistake on the last lap. Ahead of him, Cecotto and Chilton grabbed decent points in fifth and sixth, while Leal finished in eighth.
In two weeks, the GP2 Series will follow F1 to Singapore, where the last round of 2012 will be held. Valsecchi leads Razia by 25 points, the two drivers being the only ones who have a mathematical shot at the title, after a terrible weekend for the Lotus GP pairing of James Calado and Gutierrez. Calado, despite not scoring, remains in third, but Gutierrez, Chilton and van der Garde are all within 20 points of him.
British rising star Jack Harvey went into the penultimate round of the 2012 British F3 season as the championship leader. However, a Silverstone weekend straight from his nightmares has severely hurt Harvey’s title hopes and allowed Felix Serralles and Jazeman Jaafar to jump him in the standings, with Jaafar regaining the lead in the standings that he lost a few rounds ago.
The qualifying didn’t look too ominous for Harvey as he put himself into third on the grids for race one and three. Ahead of him both times were Jaafar and Alex Lynn, who scored a spectacular double pole. Serralles, meanwhile, lined up in seventh for both races.
As such, Lynn was set to take his first British F3 win, which he did by quite some margin, only to have it taken away from him after the race when the stewards judged that he jumped the start. The post-race penalty put Lynn in fourth, behind Jaafar, Carlos Sainz, Jr. and Harry Tincknell. Serralles was awarded seventh place while Harvey was stripped of a podium with a post-race penalty for being out of position on the grid.
Pipo Derani started the second race from reverse grid pole but didn’t get much use out of it as he and Harvey were involved in an accident that ruined Derani’s race. The accident allowed Serralles into the lead but he didn’t have an easy time keeping it as he was pressured by Lynn for the majority of the race. During the last lap, Lynn lost it while fighting for the lead which gifted second place to Harvey. He didn’t keep it for long, though, as the stewards penalised him again with 30 seconds added to his time and with a five-place grid penalty. As such Jaafar, Pietro Fantin, Rupert Svendsen-Cook and the unlucky Lynn completed the top five.
Lynn made his own luck in race three, though, as he started from pole but lost the lead to Jaafar early on, only to regain it with 3 laps to go. Jaafar managed second ahead of Tincknell, Hannes van Asseldonk and Sainz while Serralles and Harvey finished seventh and eighth respectively.
Entering this round Jaafar was in third, yet now he’s leading the championship with 282 points. Serralles is second with 276 points while Harvey is third with 258. The final round will take place at Donington on 28-30 September.
JK Racing Asia Series
With Aston Hare absent due to allegedly breaking his leg during a football match, it was up to championship leader Nabil Jeffri to build up a points gap during the round at Silverstone. In race number one, he finished second behind Afiq Ikhwan, while Danial Hidzir completed the podium. In race two, Ikhwan took another victory ahead of Akhil Khushlani and Jeffri.
As such, Jeffri extended his lead over Hare from 12 to 42 points ahead of the six remaining races. Funnily enough, all of those will be raced at the Buddh International Circuit, with the closest two coming up on 27th and 28th October in support of the Indian Grand Prix.
British Formula Ford
Eric Lichtenstein won all three of the weekend’s races at Silverstone, with championship leader Antti Buri finishing second in the first two races and retiring from the third where the second podium spot went to Luke Williams. Lichtenstein has closed the gap to Buri to 84, with 93 available at the season finale at Donington. Dropped scores will be taken into account.
The penultimate round of the championship took place at Hungaroring this weekend. Both practice sessions were dominated by Alex Fontana, yet it was Kevin Mirocha who put himself on pole for the first race. Markus Pommer lined up alongside him with Matheo Tuscher and Fontana on the second row. Championship leader Luciano Bacheta only managed seventh on the grid.
The first race, however, went entirely Bacheta’s way, as Pommer retired right away with mechanical problems and Tuscher was collected by Mihai Marinescu. With his main rivals out of the way, Bacheta finished in third behind Fontana and Mirocha, Alex having overtaken Kevin into the first corner which allowed him to win the race. Daniel McKenzie and championship contender Christopher Zanella completed the top five.
The second race saw Pommer start from pole with Fontana alongside him, Tuscher in fourth and Bacheta in eighth. Pommer carried that excellent form into the race and ended up winning it by more than 16 seconds. Tuscher finished second to put himself in position as the main challenger to take the fight to Bacheta in the final round. Dino Zamparelli, Mirocha and Fontana completed the top five with Bacheta only in eighth.
The final round of the championship will take place at Monza on 28-30 September. Bacheta has a 33.5 point lead over Tuscher with Pommer and Zanella 10 and 14 points behind respectively. As such, Bacheta’s title chances are looking grand, but after this week’s GP3 round you can never tell.
Canadian Gianmarco Raimondo continued running away from his rivals in the title hunt, winning both races in Hungary this weekend.? He started the first race from pole and led every single lap on the way to victory, while also scoring the bonus point for the fastest lap. In the second race, similarly dominated by Facu Regalia, he finished third. However, Niccolo Schiro, second in the championship, has not let Raimondo gain too many points on him, finishing second and fourth respectively. Noel Jammal completed the podium for the first race, while Sam Dejonghe was second in race two. An unfortunate performance from Mans Grenhagen saw him retire from the first race and only finish fifth in the second, which means Raimondo and Schiro have pulled away from him even further in the standings.
With two rounds to go, Raimondo is leading the championship with 233 points to Schiro’s 196 and Grenhagen’s 165. The penultimate round of the season will take place at Monza on 28-30 September.
The French championship continued to be an obvious one-horse race as Alex Baron added another two victories to his tally at Navarra. Despite missing out on the pole for race one, he beat poleman Simon Tirman to the checkered flag by three seconds. In third, Nicolas Jamin took his first podium of the season.
Baron started the second race from pole and lead every lap , securing another victory, while Tirman and Jamin completed the podium yet again.
The next round will take place at Le Mans on 28-30 September and will be the penultimate round of the championship. With 4 races to go, the maximum amount of points up for grabs is 108. After Navarra, Baron leads Tirman by 107. The top 5 of the championship is completed by Enzo Guibbert, Simon Gachet and Victor Sendin.
PaddockScout Driver of the Weekend: Daniel Abt – an absolutely marvellous performance from Abt that allowed him to go from an outside shot at the title to being three laps away from becoming the series champion. The crowning moment of awesome for him came when he was defending for the title against Ellinas. Despite the stakes, Abt was meticulously clean in his racing and that is simply commendable.
Next weekend: The main focus will be on the Hungaroring and the Formula Renault 3.5 title battle between Robin Frijns, Sam Bird and Jules Bianchi. Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 will be back in action in support, while Italian F3 and German F3 have their penultimate rounds at Vallelunga and the Nurburgring respectively.