Mitch Evans briefly led this weekend’s opening GP3 Series race, nosing ahead of rivals on the run to the first corner, but eventually slipped back to third during a tumultuous opening lap. The championship-leading Kiwi spent the balance of the race trying to wrest second place from Daniel Abt (Lotus GP), but eventually had to settle for third – a good result, with closest title rival Aaro Vainio (Lotus GP) finishing only fifth.
Team-mates Matias Laine and David Fumanelli ran strongly, too, crossing the line in seventh and eighth places – a result that puts them on the front row of the grid for race two.
Mitch Evans :
“Free practice was a bit average, if I’m honest, because I struggled to find a balance and the tyres went off pretty quickly. The car was hard to drive, so we made a few changes and it felt pretty good in qualifying. My first run wasn’t bad and I was provisionally on pole at that point, but I hit traffic on my second. I backed off, to cool the tyres, and my final lap looked pretty good, too, until I ran wide at the final corner. This wasn’t out strongest track last season, though, so I was happy with third. “I made an absolutely fantastic start, but Aaro Vainio was slow away from pole and edged me towards the grass. The cost me a bit of momentum and without that I’m fairly sure I could have taken the lead and held it. As it was I reached Turn One in second place, then lost a position or two when I was forced wide. I recovered those pretty quickly, but then Daniel appeared from nowhere and passed me at Turn Five. I let him go, because I didn’t want to take any risks, but it’s very difficult to overtake here and after that I was stuck. I think we had as fast a car as anyone today, even if the result doesn’t reflect as much. I’m happy with that and look forward to another strong race tomorrow.”
“It was clear during practice that tyre wear was going to be an issue, but we fiddled with pressures and in the end I think we found a decent compromise between speed, balance and durability. Even so, my first qualifying run wasn’t so good, but the second was much improved and I felt confident that i could do a good job from ninth on the grid. “I made a good start, passed a few cars and was really happy with the way everything felt. I’m sure I had top-three potential today, but passing was very difficult. I spent most of the race behind Conor Daly – so much so that my engine eventually began to overheat and I had to drop back a little. I’m on the front row tomorrow, though, so I’m hoping to pass David at the start and finish the weekend with a win!”
David Fumanelli :
“I have driven here before, but the last time was three years ago so my circuit knowledge is a little sketchy. In practice I set out to relearn the circuit, but pushed a bit too hard on soft tyres and destroyed the rears. That compromised my balance for the rest of the session, but I still felt confident about qualifying. If nothing else, I knew how not to treat the tyres! The session proved to be hard work, because you could really do only one flying lap on the softer compound and it was tricky trying to find gaps in the traffic. My last lap was good, though, and I was pleased to be so close to the pace. In the end I lost fifth place because I was given a penalty for impeding others, but I dropped only three places so I knew I could still have a good race. “I reacted well to the start lights, but got a bit too much wheelspin and found myself boxed in a little at Turn One. That’s when Matias passed me. I was ninth at that point, but managed to overtake Marlon Stockinger to get back to eighth. The first lap wasn’t wholly comfortable, because I ran wide at Turn Three and picked up a lot of dust. That affected my front tyres for a couple of laps, but after that I was able to stay with Matias. I couldn’t get too close, for fear of losing downforce, but it was a decent race and I’m looking forward to starting from pole tomorrow.”
Source: MW Arden