GP2 and GP3’s respective points leaders fail to score at Hungaroring, meaning the championships enter the summer break with uncertainty and intrigue in the fight for the title…
Championship leader Coletti leaves Hungaroring empty-handed as two experienced drivers secure their first victories of 2013
If Monegasque driver and current GP2 series leader Stefano Coletti ends up missing out on the championship title, the weekend at Hungaroring will probably be named as the one that cost him that title. The Rapax driver hasn’t been on the best run of form before the Hungary outing, having scored only once in the four preceding races, and the trend continued. He was nowhere in qualifying and couldn’t make any ground up in race one due to early front wing damage after contact with series returnee Dani Clos, finishing a lowly 16th. Race two yielded no points as well.
The slump in Coletti’s form is rather hard to explain as his teammate Simon Trummer actually experienced his best-scoring weekend at Hungaroring. But, whatever the case, Coletti’s lead is now down to six points, and in the remaining four rounds he simply cannot afford another weekend like this.
Coletti’s closest rival throughout the year, Felipe Nasr, had a very consistent weekend. Despite crashing in practice, he did well in qualifying and was a surefire race win contender on Saturday, losing out mostly on strategy to take third. Race two was solid, as he finished fifth and, now only six points behind Coletti, Nasr looks like the title favorite.
Russian Time in general and third-placed, prior to the weekend, driver Sam Bird in particular had a very difficult time at Hungaroring, struggling with tyrewear. The pace was there – Tom Dillmann managed to take his first pole in the series in qualifying, while Sam took second, albeit ended up dropped three places post-race. Come Saturday, however, both struggled immensely and finished 11th and tenth respectively. The second race was hardly an improvement, with Bird picking up only one point on Sunday that sees him in fourth, 43 points behind the series leader.
On the other hand, Fabio Leimer finally seems to have found some much-needed consistency, delivering the same results at Hungaroring as he has the previous round. Fourth on Saturday, third on Sunday amounts to a decent points haul, and the Swiss driver now sits third in the standings – 25 points behind Coletti. Meanwhile, James Calado also put in a consistent showing, but struggled for overall pace yet again and had to make up for a distinctly average qualifying performance, ultimately scoring twice to find himself two points off of Bird.
Marcus Ericsson produced another good showing for DAMS, perhaps putting in his strongest GP2 weekend to date, with a finish in second and fourth, despite the Swede often complaining about severe tyrewear. On the rookie front, Arden’s Mitch Evans maintained a great first season record, taking his fourth GP2 podium in the reverse-grid race.
The real stars, however, were the two men who ascended the top step of the podium for the first time in this year. Jolyon Palmer scored a well-deserved feature race victory, based on a good strategic call as well as some usual clean wheel-to-wheel driving from the Brit. Meanwhile, Nathanael Berthon, who’s had no points up until the Hungaroring round, outright salvaged his 2013 campaign, securing a brilliant victory from reverse-grid pole – his first in the series as a whole.
Next round: Spa-Francorchamps, 24-25 August
Six drivers sit within 20 points of the lead after Ellinas fails to score at Hungaroring
The Hungaroring weekend on junior single-seater racing saw both leaders of participating championships leave Budapest without any additional points for their campaign – alongside GP2’s Coletti, GP3 series leader Tio Ellinas has not managed to score yet still leads the standings. The Cypriot’s worst qualifying performance of the year came at the most inopportune of times – at a track where it is notoriously difficult to overtake. But, even if that was not the case, Ellinas just didn’t seem to have the outright speed to challenge for top five finishes, and yet, finishing narrowly outside of the points altogether in both races could prove very costly by itself.
There are now five drivers that are 20 points or less behind Tio – a deficit that could be made up in one GP3 race. Facu Regalia will be the Manor driver’s chief headache, after the Argentinian put in another strong performance at Hungaroring, confidently scoring both on Saturday and Sunday to leave the track just one point behind Ellinas.
The other two ART men, Brit Jack Harvey and American Conor Daly, have also maintained their good positions in the standings via a strong, points-wealthy performance that sees Harvey in joint third and Daly in sixth, having added his third podium of the year.
Hungaroring also saw a Koiranen resurgence, with the duo of Aaro Vainio and Kevin Korjus coming back into the title fight. After a couple of off-weekends, Vainio returned to top step of the podium, securing a lights-to-flag win in race one after a stellar qualifying performance. Korjus, meanwhile, was a bit quieter, but still picked up a podium in the reverse-grid outing, placing himself in fifth to Aaro’s third in the standings.
Outside of the title fight, the championship saw a brilliant weekend for the MW Arden trio. Daniil Kvyat made a visit to the podium in race one, scoring his first finish in the top three in GP3, while fellow Red Bull junior Carlos Sainz made his second podium appearance?of the year in the reverse-grid race. Robert Visoiu, the non-Red Bull affiliated driver of the bunch, still remains the only one to win a race for MW Arden this year, however, as he added to his tally in Hungaroring, calmly taking his second win of the season from reverse-grid pole.
Next round: Spa-Francorchamps, 24-25 August
British F3 International Series
Three different winners at Spa see Buller retain the series lead
The second weekend of 2013’s British F3 at Spa-Francorchamps started out rather ominously for series leader Will Buller as both he and teammate Felipe Guimaraes looked rather slow throughout practice and qualifying, while the main rival team Carlin locked out the first three spots on the grid. However, luckily for Will, the races saw a bit of a change of weather, and the resulting, much wetter conditions favoured the Brit immensely. After storming to the lead early on in race one, he controlled the 11-lap outing, overcoming pressure due to a late safety car to take the win. In the reverse-grid race two, he was also in contention for the win, but ultimately came up a bit short, finishing second. Race three was nothing to write home about, ruined by an early drive through for the mechanics not leaving the grid in time, but overall it was a strong weekend, which now sees Buller lead the championship at halfway point.
However, it’s a bit early for Buller to relax just yet, as his two main rivals for the title have seemingly emerged after Spa. Jordan King is one of them, as the youngster seems to have firmly established himself as Carlin’s leader in British F3. He missed out on pole position to teammate Nicholas Latifi, but was quite evidently the quickest in his team, finishing on the podium in both of the feature races and taking the reverse-grid win despite severe pressure from Buller. It is fair to say that Carlin probably had the best car this round, with Latifi taking double pole and Jann Mardenborough scoring his top-three finish in British F3, but King was the one to get the most out of the machinery and now sits in second, 22 points behind Buller.
The other championship contender to emerge at Spa was Antonio Giovinazzi, the top man of Double R’s delegation to the championship. The Italian has shown his ample abilities in wet conditions previously in his career and, as such, his Spa performance came as no surprise. In race one, his race was compromised by an early penalty for a malfunctioning tail light, which only enabled him to finish fifth – last of the runners in his class. In the reverse-grid race, Giovinazzi went from fourth on the grid to first in one sector and maintained the lead for a while, ultimately falling prey to the better pace from Buller and King to finish third. Finally, come race three, everything went right for the Double R man who made another lightning start and led the entirety of the race, withstanding heavy pressure from Mardenborough to take his second win in British F3. He now occupies third in the standings, 2 points adrift of King. His teammate Sean Gelael also leaves Spa-Francorchamps with some more accomplishments added to his CV – namely, his second podium in the series in race one.
In the National Class, Sun Zheng had little trouble picking up the win on all three occasions.
Next round: Brands Hatch, August 10-11
Formula Renault 2.0 NEC
Parry takes two more steps to the title
Despite the fact that championship leader Matt Parry won the four previous races in the NEC category, the audiences at Spa were treated to a very nifty three-way fight for victories, which unfolded between Parry, his teammate Jack Aitken and Lotus junior and series guest Oscar Tunjo.
In qualifying, Parry ended up in the same group as Tunjo and, in what ended up a seemingly straightforward duel for pole position, narrowly lost out, allowing the Josef Kaufmann Racing driver to take double pole. Jack was more fortunate – with neither of his main rivals in the group, he dominantly secured a front row spot.
Aitken’s good form continued as he got the jump on Tunjo off the line and slotted into the race lead, with the trio pulling away from the rest of the field. However, Tunjo prevailed in retaking the top spot and had little trouble converting his lead into his first NEC victory afterwards, as the Fortec duo behind were too busy fighting amongst themselves. On the final lap, Parry managed to accomplish the same task, passing Aitken to take second. In race two, Tunjo and Aitken collided on lap one and were both effectively out of contention, allowing the championship leader to cruise to his fifth victory of the year.
Amongst the rest of the field, Andrea Pizzitola was easily the quickest and could, perhaps, mix it with the leaders if he wasn’t in the same qualifying group as Parry and Tunjo. The matters weren’t helped by an incident that ended race one for him, but in the second race, he looked very much on the pace and finished just two seconds off of Parry.
Finally, it was a lovely weekend for Raoul Owens, who suddenly found himself in contention for podiums, finishing fourth in race one and taking a very strong third in race two.
In the standings, Parry leads Aitken and Dennis Olsen by 91 and 93 points respectively and, with nine races to go, the title seems to be safely in his hands.
Next round: Assen, August 3-4
Formula Renault 2.0 Alps
Prema continues to dominate but the two wins are marred by another collision between teammates
There was little surprise that, at the Misano round of Formula Renault Alps, Prema would once again find themselves in a league of their own. Indeed, that’s exactly what happened and, as usual, all the Prema drivers found that their biggest rivals were racing cars under the same livery.
Bruno Bonifacio took double pole in his third perfect qualifying of the year. He withstood pressure from the back to take the win in race one, but, alas, in race two, Bonifacio found himself out of the race before the checkered flag for the third time this year, missing out on the opportunity to further lower the points deficit to the championship leader.
Then again, it’s not like series leader Antonio Fuoco ended up scoring in that race – colliding with him was what caused Bonifacio to be out of the race. Fuoco was out, too, yet, having previously managed second place in race one, he still remains as the championship leader.
Luca Ghiotto also decided to stick to patterns. He ended up retiring in race one, seemingly letting his teammates out of his reach in the standings, but, as they eliminated each other on Sunday, Ghiotto was there to pick up the win. As such, with his 134 points to Fuoco’s 159 and Bonifacio’s 138, the status quo was pretty much restored.
Among the rest, Kevin Jorg and Egor Orudzhev looked the most capable, often finding themselves in lengthy fights for position just behind whoever was left racing for Prema. In race one, Jorg came out on top to claim third. In race two, it was Orudzhev’s turn, and the Russian secured his first podium in Alps, finishing second.
Next round: Mugello, September 8
Hughes builds up a gap in the standings with crucial race three win at Brands
16 points might not sound like much of a gap in a championship where first yields you 30, but, for a series as close as BRDC F4, its new leader Jake Hughes can be fairly happy with that. Having entered the Brands Hatch round second, he showed why consistency is the key this year, taking two fourth-place finishes in the first two races and then rounding the weekend out with a stellar win – his second this year – as he finished two seconds ahead of maiden podium finisher Diego Menchaca. It could’ve been a bigger gap in the standings, too, but a tech issue denied him the race win in the opening race of the round.
However, apart from the breathing room gained by Hughes, the Brands weekend continued to be a prime example of the fields’ competitiveness. After fifteen races, there have now been ten different winners, with that list being joined by Pietro Fittipaldi in race one and Matthew Graham in race two. Fittipaldi was the beneficiary of the leader’s mechanical problems but should be applauded for managing to win in a field where he is not a regular driver. Meanwhile, Graham made the most out of a front row start to overtake poleman Raoul Hyman for the race two lead.
Previous series leader Jake Dalton didn’t have the best weekend of the race, missing out on the podium on all three occassions, although placing solidly in the points. A retirement for Matt Bell meant that he was another driver to leave Brands with a significant points deficit to the lead. In fact, all the title contenders apart from Hughes struggled for consistency – his new chief rival Seb Morris, as well as Jack Barlow and Charlie Robertson, managed only one podium.
In the standings, Hughes leads Morris with 272 to 256. Dalton has falled down to third, seven points behind Morris, while Barlow sits in fourth, a further ten points down.
Next round: Silverstone, August 17-18
PaddockScout Driver of the Weekend
In a weekend where most everyone struggled to be consistent, it was tough to pick out the winner, with those who did demonstrate that characteristic ending up at the front of the list. After careful deliberation, among the likes Ericsson, Hughes and the trio of British F3 race winners, who all had very good weekends, it was indeed Giovinazzi who perhaps impressed the most. The machinery that the Italian has at his disposal is not supposed to rival Carlin and Fortec, but that’s the feat that Giovinazzi has consistently performed at Spa. His first race was marred by a tech issue out of his control and Antonio more than made up for that in the other two races with brilliant starts and solid, level-headed drives.