Abu Dhabi GP3: Leclerc champion as both title contenders crash

Abu Dhabi GP3: Leclerc champion as both title contenders crash

Charles Leclerc became the 2016 GP3 champion after both he and early leader Alex Albon retired in the Abu Dhabi feature race, which was won by Nyck de Vries.

Albon was fighting with Jack Aitken for the lead when he ran over the kerbs and hit the Arden driver, and was unable to continue due to damaged right-rear suspension.

Leclerc retired soon afterwards after he came together with Santino Ferrucci under braking.

Both Albon and Leclerc kept their grid positions, first and fifth, after the start, even though the Monegasque was temporarily ahead of the slow-starting Jake Dennis, only to drop back behind a corner later.

Moreover, Leclerc was passed by fellow Haas reserve driver Santino Ferrucci in the final sector of the track.

At the front, Albon came under pressure from Jack Aitken on Lap 1, but once he held off that attack, he gradually pulled away from the Arden driver.

His lead was up to four seconds by Lap 7 when the safety car, brought out by Tatiana Calderon stopping on track after hitting Alessio Lorandi, wrote off his lead.

The subsequent restart saw Aitken force his way past Albon for the lead on the exit of the second straight. However, Aitken had four wheels off track during his overtake and handed the lead back to Albon to avoid a penalty.

The Renault junior immediately fought back and cut to the inside at the braking point of Turn 11.

The duo went side-by-side into the chicane and, with Albon running on the kerbs, he hit Aitken, forcing both drivers off track.

While Aitken managed to rejoin in fifth, Albon's car was too damaged to continue and was forced to retire, effectively handing the title to Leclerc.

De Vries took over the lead ahead of Dennis, the Dutchman spending the rest of the race building a safe lead.

Behind the duo, Leclerc was putting pressure on Ferrucci for the final podium position.

Leclerc went alongside the American but the duo touched under braking and the former ran off the circuit, retiring as series champion.

"It was really strange to be champion and finish in the wall at the same time," Leclerc said after the race.

"When I heard on the radio we were already champions because Alex was out, then I took the risk. To be honest what Ferrucci did was completely stupid, I will have to go see him and talk to him.

"What he [Ferrucci] did already from the beginning of the race was really crazy, I already had problems [with him] this season and he kept going knowing I'm [competing for] a championship, which is really stupid.

"But it's an amazing moment. So much dedication into this season - it's amazing to finish on a high, on a low, but winning the championship."

Ferrucci could not hold on to third place after all, as he cut the Turn 11 chicane while being attacked by Aitken.

He soon gave up the position and then lost further spots because of a 10-second penalty for his incident with Leclerc.

That allowed his DAMS teammate Kevin Jorg to take fourth, his best result of the season.

Nirei Fukuzumi completed the top five, followed by Campos duo Steijn Schothorst and Konstantin Tereshchenko sandwiching Jake Hughes, the latter fighting his way up from a pitlane start.

Ferrucci dropped down to ninth, ahead of Alex Palou.

Race results:

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About this article
Series GP3
Event Yas Marina
Track Yas Marina Circuit
Drivers Nyck de Vries
Teams ART Grand Prix
Article type Race report