GP2 passes midway point with Nurburgring round as Ericsson finally converts qualifying pace into a race win, while Leimer and Calado come back into the title fight…
Marcus Ericsson and Jon Lancaster triumph as series leaders struggle for consistency
The sixth round of the GP2 Series’ 2013 season, taking place at Nurburgring just one week after the Silverstone races, saw yet another DAMS pole. This time, however, it was Stephane Richelmi, who beat out his more experienced teammate in qualifying as the French team locked out the front row.
However, while Richelmi leaves Germany with a maiden pole, it was his teammate Marcus Ericsson who finally had a breakthrough weekend. The Swede, who’s had two pole position starts up to this point but shockingly managed only one top-ten finish in the actual races, beat his Monegasque teammate off the line to take the lead. An ensuing safety car allowed Ericsson to settle down in first and, after the restart, his lead was never under much threat, with Marcus taking the race win for the first time this year. Richelmi himself, albeit using a slightly unorthodox strategy, only managed fifth. The sprint race was one to forget for the DAMS boys ? Stephane did not make it to the finish, while Ericsson’s valiant efforts to defend his position on severely worn prime tyres ended up for naught, as he found himself a passenger for the closing stages of the race, losing several seconds per lap.
The drivers at the top of the standings all had rather tough weekends. Championship leader Stefano Coletti qualified in 13th, but a prime-prime strategy for race one coupled with some very impressive overtakes allowed him to fight his way up to the final podium position in race one, as he overtook Hilmer’s Robin Frijns in the very last corner to come out on top in a four-way fight for third. It came at a price, though ? with Coletti having absolutely no tyres for race two and thus forfeiting any chance he had of adding to his points tally.
Felipe Nasr, Coletti’s main rival, didn’t manage to make the best of the Monegasque’s struggles. He qualified well, but lost all pace early on in the first race, tumbling down the field to finish in ninth. A good recovery drive in the sprint race netted him fourth, but the Brazilian still finds himself noticeably off the series lead ? trailing Coletti by 27 points.
Sam Bird and Russian Time as a whole also had a tough time. The Briton had pace but found himself involved in lots of wheel-to-wheel action and was involved in a couple of incidents, leaving the weekend with only a point from the sprint race added to his championship hopes. His teammate, Tom Dillmann, was a podium contender in race one due to a Coletti-like prime-prime strategy, but stalled in the pits, recovering to eighth and reverse-grid pole. The Frenchman had no tyres left for a Sunday effort and, although he defended well on severely worn primes in the beginning of race two, he shortly but predictably began falling down the order before retiring with an issue.
While for some title contenders Nurburgring was a weekend to forget, it will surely serve as a confidence boost for two other title favorites. Fabio Leimer, who struggled immensely ever since picking up two wins in the beginning of the year, was back on the right track, taking fourth in race one and securing a podium finish in the reverse-grid race.
Meanwhile, ART’s James Calado, who struggled for pace all season, was finally back in contention. Having qualified in eighth, Calado made one of his trademark good starts and, after the pitstops were done, slotted into second, achieving his best finish since the season opener at Sepang. He did the same trick in the reverse-grid race, going from seventh on the grid to third into turn one, passing Russian Time’s Dillmann a couple of laps later and taking another second place. With Leimer two points behind third-placed Bird and Calado another four off, the duo are back with an outside shot at the title with five rounds to go.
Finally, a special acknowledgement should go out to Jon Lancaster‘s performance, who continued to produce stunning drives for Hilmer. A good race one saw him take seventh and he made the most out of a reverse-grid front row by leading into turn one. He was helped out by Dillmann holding up the pack but, even with Calado passing the Frenchman and in pursuit, Lancaster masterfully controlled the gap until the checkered flag, taking his second win of the season.
Next round: Hungaroring, 26-28 July
Regalia and McKee pick up maiden wins while Ellinas continues to pull away in the standings
GP3 points leader Tio Ellinas continued to be the very definition of consistent in the 2013 season of the series, putting in another solid performance at Nurburgring. The Cypriot narrowly missed out on pole in qualifying and then drove a calm, solid race one, holding off pressure to take second at the finish. In the reverse-grid affair, he was one of the very few drivers to manage successful overtaking moves, fighting his way up to sixth after a bad start. In the standings, the Marussia Manor driver increased his points lead, with a 21-point gap to second at the season’s halfway point.
It was Argentinian youngster Facu Regalia who denied Ellinas the pole in qualifying and then successfully converted that into a very dominant maiden race win. The Argentinian was in a league of his own over Saturday and, while his Sunday wasn’t at all up to par, with him stalling on the warmup lap due to a gearbox problem and subsequently failing to complete the race, the overall quality of the weekend’s performance promoted him to second in the standings.
Another ART driver, Brit Jack Harvey, also showed some immense pace, continuing a streak of strong appearances that recently included his maiden win at Silverstone. Harvey was in contention for pole on Saturday and was pressuring Ellinas throughout the entire first race, eventually settling in for third. Contact at the start of race two saw him tumble down the field and miss out on additional points, but, thanks to an overall strong showing, he sits in fourth in the championship, potentially establishing himself as a contender for the second half.
The Carlin team brought a noticeably quick car to Nurburgring and team leader Nick Yelloly managed to put it to good use. The Briton was fifth in the first race of the weekend and got off to a fantastic start in race two, taking second on lap one. Eventually, he was overtaken for third, where he finished, picking up his second podium of the season and establishing himself in sixth in the standings.
The second race saw two other Britons make their first GP3 podium appearances in 2013. Alexander Sims, doing a one-off round in the series with Status, took eighth in race one (after topping Friday practice on his return) and started from reverse-grid pole. He had a slow getaway and fell back to third, eventually taking second back from Yelloly, but the race wasn’t quite long enough for him to get the lead back.
Meanwhile, Bamboo’s Melville McKee scored his first points in GP3 at Nurburgring in remarkable fashion ? taking seventh in race one and then running away with the win in the reverse-grid race. McKee did very well to establish a decent gap early on on Sunday, and, even though Sims had the pace on him, the early advantage was enough to give Melville his maiden win. McKee’s teammate and countryman Lewis Williamson also achieved the best performance of his season, finishing both races in fourth.
Finally, many of the big names struggled immensely during the round. MW Arden only managed some points courtesy of Carlos Sainz, Jr., with Daniil Kvyat hampered by an early retirement in race one and Robert Visoiu lacking the outright pace during the weekend. Koiranen didn’t score anything, with Kevin Korjus ruining his weekend ambitions by putting Alex Fontana into the wall at the start of race one (which ended the race for the Swiss driver, who was third on the grid, and resulted in a penalty for the Estonian) and Aaro Vainio completely lacking speed. Meanwhile, Patric Niederhauser continued to struggle, qualifying down the order and having to fight his way up the field in both races (eventually picking up eighth in race two ? his first point since the season opener at Barcelona), while Conor Daly had another weekend to forget, also scoring only one point.
Next round: Hungaroring, 26-28 July
Felix Rosenqvist eases to his second Masters of F3 victory
In the absence of Raffaele Marciello, Felix Rosenqvist entered the yearly standalone non-championship Masters of F3 race at Zandvoort as the obvious favorite, having won the latest three European F3 races and taken the event victory in 2011. The Swede fully lived up to expectations ? he easily topped both qualifying sessions to start the race from pole and then led lights-to-flag to take the 2013 Masters of F3 victory. The Mucke driver got off to a good start and was soon leading by a few seconds, setting the tone for the 25-lap affair. He encountered some trouble when a service vehicle impeded his on-track progress but still managed to cross the finish line six seconds ahead of the rest of the field.
In the absence of Marciello, the other Prema drivers did a good job contesting the event win, though in the end were no match for Rosenqvist’s pace and experience. Alex Lynn started the race in third place after a good performance in the first qualifying session and drove a rather lonely race to end up on his first Masters podium in second place. Marciello’s substitute ? Emil Bernstorff ? followed Lynn home in third, the German F3 regular massively impressing on his event debut.
Two other potential podium contenders ? Lucas Auer and Sven Muller ? didn’t manage to finish, their races ending when an overtaking attempt around the outside from the Austrian ended with an incident between the two, spelling early retirement for both cars.
Carlin’s Harry Tincknell started the race on the front row but had a slow getaway off the line, losing out to two Prema cars. He spent the entirety of his race in fourth, unable to catch up to the final podium place. His teammate, Jordan King, finished right behind. Out of the smaller teams, Double R’s Antonio Giovinazzi impressed, with a fighting drive that saw him take the final spot in the top ten.
The main European F3 championship will also visit Zandvoort this year, on 27-29 of September.
Formula Renault 2.0 Alps
Italians Fuoco and Ghiotto win at Monza with the Prema trio all remaining in the title hunt
The Italian squad Prema has ruled the Formula Renault Alps series with an iron first so far this year and the pattern saw no sign of changing at Monza. Championship leader and Ferrari junior Antonio Fuoco kicked off the weekend with his third pole in the championship and calmly converted it into his fourth win, increasing his lead in the championship. Race two was a whole different story as Fuoco was involved in an early accident and fell to the lower half of the of the field, staging a recovery drive that saw him ultimately take sixth and minimize the damage to the points gap he has over his teammates.
The incident that ruled Fuoco out of contention for a race two podium also involved Brazilian Bruno Bonifacio. After taking second in race one, Prema’s number 33 got off to a quick start in race two but ultimately missed his braking point, crashing into his teammate’s vehicle. The collision ended Bonifacio’s race but he remains in second in the standings, 28 points behind Fuoco.
A further four points down, another Prema man Luca Ghiotto has gotten closer to the two of his teammates in the standngs. After a low-key qualifying and third place in race one, he took full advantage of the incident between his teammates to take his second victory in the Alps series and get himself a bit closer to the leader with three events of the championship to go.
Egor Orudzhev was the only driver to manage a dent in Prema’s dominance by putting his car on pole for race two. He drove the Sunday outing well, albeit unable to keep Fuoco behind at the start or hold Ghiotto back after the safety car, but his finish in second was marred by a 25-second penalty post-race for disrespect of safety car restart procedures. Thus, he was out of the points in race two, his weekend salvaged by the fact that race one yielded him 12 points for fourth place.
The incident between the two Premas and Orudzhev’s penalty meant that Monza would see some new faces on the podium for the Alps series. That’s where the ARTA drivers came into play. Joffrey De Narda crossed the finish line in third in race two, narrowly beating out his teammate Simon Tirman, who missed out on the podium at first, but was promoted alongside Joffrey post-race. Meanwhile, Koiranen’s Hans Villemi finally had a weekend where things went right, taking two solid finishes in fifth and fourth, while Euronova’s Gregor Ramsay managed his career best finish in the series by taking fifth in race two.
Next round: Misano, 26-28 July
Protyre Formula Renault
Middlehurst increases lead but it’s Tan who steals the show
The Croft round of the Protyre series marked the first occasion in 2013 where Chris Middlehurst missed out on the win in all three races. In races one and three he stood on the podium, whilst race two saw him finish all the way down in seventh. It’s a safe bet the Brit won’t be losing much sleep over this, though, as he managed to increase his championship lead, now topping the standings by 98 points. There’s only two rounds to go in the championship, making it a very good chance that Middlehurst will clinch it at the next outing at Rockingham.
It was Caterham junior Weiron Tan who denied Middlehurst, or anyone else in the field for that matter, a visit to the top step of the podium, as he completely swept up the Croft weekend. In a stunningly dominant performance, Tan managed three wins in a row in a weekend complete with overtakes, massive pace and very clean, cautious driving from the youngster. He now sits in second and, while challenging Middlehurst for the title doesn’t look like much of a possibility, Tan certainly made his mark on the championship.
Despite Tan’s dominance, there were some other standout performers. Martin Cao was the polesitter for races one and three, narrowly losing out on the win in the first outing and being taken out from the lead in race three. Podium regulars Samuel MacLeod and Jorge Cevallos added to their tally, with Joe Ghanem recording his maiden appearance in the top three in Protyre Formula Renault.
Next round: Rockingham, 9-11 August
Hubert increases victory count to nine while Amweg wins the reverse-grid affair
The 2013 French F4 season is still very much Anthoine Hubert‘s turf as the French youngster is yet to lose a feature race four rounds in. The Val de Vienne round of the series saw another demonstration of Hubert’s dominance, as he took double pole in convincing fashion and converted both into race wins. He could probably have made it three for three yet again but an incident with Marco de Peretti meant that Hubert’s reverse-grid race two was over prematurely – but that will hardly have an impact on the man’s title ambitions.
Hubert’s countryman Tom le Coq emerged as, perhaps, his main rival for the Val de Vienne round. He was closest to Hubert in qualifying and picked up a podium finish in race one, while, in race three, he managed to get the jump on the series leader off the line. Le Coq didn’t hold the lead for more than half a halp but still picked up second place.
Tristan Viidas and Dennis Anoschin had similar weekends, picking up a podium finish each and comfortably making it into the top ten in the two other races, with Viidas holding on to third in the overall standings. The man in second, Simo Muhonen, massively struggled for consistency, with a sixth-place finish being his best result of the weekend. Matevos Isaakyan had an impressive weekend, picking up three strong finishes (among which, a podium) but having one of them taken away for a collision with Jules Gounon.
Out of the midfielders, Ivan Kostyukov, who hasn’t been in the points apart from one podium finish at the season opener, made two visits to the top ten, one of which was yet another top three result. Meanwhile, Severin Amweg, who picked up his first points last round (also scoring his first podium finish in the reverse-grid race), managed to leave Val de Vienne with his first race win, holding off opponents to reach the checkered flag in first for race two.
Next round: Magny-Cours, 6-8 September
Wins from Barlow, Bell and Gunn set up a stunningly close six-car fight for the series lead
A favorite is still yet to emerge in the new BRDC F4 series with the Oulton Park round seeing yet another lead change in the standings. Jake Dalton returned to the top of the series with a solid if unspectacular weekend that yielded two top ten finishes and a podium, while previous series leader Charlie Robertson dropped to fourth, not helped by an incident in race one that forced him into retirement. However, in a rollercoaster weekend, Robertson managed a bit of a recovery, taking third in the final race of the weekend.
A very solid weekend saw Jack Barlow enter the pack of the frontrunners, with his second series win in race one helping him ascend to sixth as the result of the weekend. Privateer Matt Bell has won his third race in BRDC F4 but two other fairly low-key finishes mean he remains in fifth. Established frontrunners Jake Hughes and Seb Morris showed good consistency, with Hughes picking up two podiums and Morris scoring one top three finish – with neither missing out on the top ten once throughout three races.
Finally, 16-year-old youngster Ross Gunn left Oulton Park with his first series victory, achieved with an overtake for the lead in race three, while Raoul Hyman enjoyed a very strong, consistent showing, picking up a podium and two fifth places.
In the standings at halfway point of the series, the championship sees the leader Dalton and sixth-placed Barlow separated by a measly 29 points – with 30 given in the series for a single race win.
Next round: Brands Hatch, 26-28 July
Formula Masters China
Ikhwan loses out in qualifying, emerges with two victories in two races
Championship leader Afiq Ikhwan could not outqualify Akash Nandy for either race one or three of the Formula Masters China round at Ordos, but still managed to prevail in the races, increasing his championship lead. Ikhwan, having started the first race from front row, narrowly beat Nandy to take his fourth win of the season. He turned that stat into five wins later, where a fastest lap in race one allowed him to start race two from pole, which he took the utmost advantage of, leading the race lights-to-flag. The third race, where Nandy would be the poleman again, simply did not happen due to poor track condition.
Apart from the duo, there were podium finishes for Raj Bharath, Ren Nagabuchi and series guest Tanart Sathienthirakul. Ikhwan leads the standings by 23 points, with lots of drivers in contention for the spot of his main rival.
Next round: Inje, 9-11 August
Championship leader Rodolfo Camarillo took over the lead of the Panam GP series with a dominant performance at Puebla.? He qualified on pole and proceeded to ease to race one victory, establishing enough of a gap to keep a charging Alfonso Celis at bay, with Giancarlo Vecchi coming in third place to complete an all-Mexican podium.
In the reverse-grid race two, Camarillo took full advantage of an incident-heavy affair to pick up another win, with Celis coming in a second behind to secure another podium finish. Sebastian Ordonez rounded out the top three this time.
In the standings, Camarillo leads nearest rival Vecchi by 23 points, with three drivers within another 14 points down, including former series leader Pablo Sanchez, Jorge Bas and Celis.
Next round: Queretaro, 17-18 August
PaddockScout Driver of the Weekend
He’s still looking for that elusive first win of 2013, but Calado’s Nurburgring performance was a truly inspired showcase of immense racecraft. He couldn’t run with the best in qualifying, but made up for a less than perfect starting position in both races with spectacular starts and subsequent wheel-to-wheel prowess. Add to that the fact that he seemed to severely outperform the car, with his rather quick teammate Abt continuing to struggle for pace even on home turf, and you get the kind of weekend that can easily turn a title campaign around. In another two weeks and a half, we’ll see if it has.