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Vainio stays in GP3 with Koiranen alongside Kujala, Korjus

by Peter Allen

Photo: Koiranen GP

Aaro Vainio will remain in the GP3 Series for a third season after signing with category newcomers Koiranen GP for 2013. The?team have also signed fellow Finn Patrick Kujala, joining Kevin Korjus in their GP3 lineup.

Vainio finished fourth in the GP3 standings last year driving for Lotus GP, having earlier led the championship following a win from pole position in Monaco. Despite also making a podium-scoring step up to Formula Renault 3.5 at the end of the year, manager Nicolas Todt has stopped working with Vainio, forcing him to return to GP3.

“I was disappointed with the development shown by Aaro, and the motivation to invest money in him disappeared,” Todt was quoted as saying by Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat last week.

Despite only being 16, Spanish-born Finn Kujala already has two years in cars under his belt. In 2011 he finished fifth in the French F4 Championship in 2011 and in 2012 raced in Formula Renault 2.0 for Koiranen, coming sixth in the Alps series and 23rd in the Eurocup.

20-year-old Estonian Korjus had previously confirmed he will switch from Formula Renault 3.5 Series to race for Koiranen, who took him to the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 title in 2010. He won three FR3.5 races for Tech 1 in his rookie season in 2011 before a disappointing 2012 campaign led to a reduction in support from his management, Eric Boullier’s Gravity Sports Management.

?Entering GP3 series is a major challenge for us, but we are confident we can do the job,? said Koiranen team manager Afa Heikkinen. ?We have the right people and good drivers, I believe we can challenge front runners in the course of the season. However, we have no illusions, we know it won?t be easy.?

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By Peter Allen

In Aaro Vainio and Kevin Korjus, Koiranen have hired two highly promising drivers for their first crack at GP3 but there are some sad parallels between the pair’s circumstances that have led them to signing with the Finnish squad.

Neither driver will have been looking to race in GP3 this year, but both – to differing degrees – failed to hit the high standards set by their backers last year. Subsequently, they’ve both lost the investment of their high-profile management firms – Nicolas Todt’s All Road Management and Eric Boullier’s Gravity Sports Management respectively.

Vainio, who was signed by Todt Jr ahead of his graduation from a highly successful karting career, looked very good early last year, taking the GP3 standings lead when he won from pole position in Monaco. He kept the fight up against pre-season favourite Mitch Evans over the following rounds but tailed off towards the end of the year. Meanwhile, his teammate at the Lotus GP team co-owned by Todt, Daniel Abt, made a late surge for the title and finished just three points shy of the title in his first GP3 season. He’s now been promoted to Lotus’ GP2 squad and is seemingly on the verge of announcing a role with an F1 team.

But while Vainio becomes the first driver to ever commit to a third full season in GP3, this year that isn’t the career standstill it previously would have been. An upgraded, more powerful car will provide him with that next step and bring him closer towards GP2. Whether he’ll have the funding to make that next step is another matter. It should be remembered though that Antonio Felix da Costa had also been forced to stay in GP3 against his wishes 12 months ago.

Like Korjus, Vainio’s biggest issue however may be proving his worth with a team new to GP3. In recruiting the drivers they have though, Koiranen have at least avoided the mistake made by other teams who joined GP3 in the past like Trident and Ocean of signing inexperienced drivers. They also have the benefit of all the teams having to get to grips with a new car, so it may actually be that they start on a level playing field.