WICKENS HANGS ON TO SCORE REMARKABLE MONSOON WIN Canadian Robert Wickens scored Status Grand Prix's third GP3 Series win of the season in extraordinary circumstances at Spa-Francorchamps to keep his championship challenge alive. On a dry...
WICKENS HANGS ON TO SCORE REMARKABLE MONSOON WIN
Canadian Robert Wickens scored Status Grand Prix's third GP3 Series win of the season in extraordinary circumstances at Spa-Francorchamps to keep his championship challenge alive.
On a dry track, Wickens converted his pole position into an immediate lead by beating second-place starter Adrian Quaife-Hobbs off the line, but his Status GP-team mate Daniel Morad, who had started in fourth place, fell foul of a first corner accident that caused him to retire and brought out the safety car for two laps.
Wickens re-established his lead at the restart, and after four laps had a 0.7sec advantage over the Manor Racing driver. But then on lap five it began to rain around the start-finish area, and by the time the lead duo arrived back there a lap later a downpour had left the track teeming with water. Wickens was helpless as his slick tyres aquaplaned his car on the water and he hit the inside retaining wall, damaging his nose and causing him to spin.
As the safety car was rapidly deployed again, Wickens retook the track in second place, which soon became first when new leader Roberto Merhi followed suit of most other drivers and stopped to fit wet weather tyres. Wickens and the Status GP engineers then chose a strategy that amazed onlookers but paid dividends. With the 30-minute time limit of the race approaching, Wickens stayed out in the teeming rain on slicks, even though he was struggled to even stay on the track and keep up with safety car.
In a nail-biting climax, the safety car turned off its lights to indicate it was coming in and the race would resume with only 30 seconds of the race remaining, and by the time Wickens crossed the finish line the chequered flag was already out to finish the race after only nine of the 12 scheduled laps, giving the Canadian a memorable victory. With championship leader Esteban Gutierrez failing to score points, Wickens is now trailing by 17 points with another opportunity to close the gap further in tomorrow's race.
GMH Motorsport-backed driver Morad was bitterly disappointment to have his race end so quickly after he hit the rear of the car in front at turn one and was then impacted at the rear as the pack arrived behind him, causing him to slew across the circuit and into immediate retirement.
Marussia Motors development driver Ivan Lukashevich also failed to finish after falling victim to the torrential rain conditions. After a great start from 18th, he was in the top 10 over the opening laps and showing good speed before, on lap six, he hit the same stream of water as Wickens had and also spun. But the luckless Russian slid into another car which had spun and damaged his rear suspension and retired on the spot.
The Drivers' View
Robert Wickens (CAN): (Result: 1st. 30m10.463s, 9 laps. Championship position: 2nd, 57pts).
"It's always great to win, but this was certainly an unusual one. In the dry I was strong and comfortable, and the rain didn't seem too bad until I hit the downpour - and as the leader you get no warning. Luckily the nose damage was not bad and there was little point in pitting after that - it was just better to calculate that the rain would keep the safety car out long enough for the race to run down. Even at those slow speeds for three laps I was fighting to keep the car straight on slicks, so it's a strangely satisfying result."
Ivan Lukashevich (RUS): (Result: Rtd, 6 laps. Championship position: 32nd, 0pts).
"I got a good start to make up eight positions, and then I held my own in the top 10. When the rain came and I hit this huge river across the track I was a passenger, and it was unfortunate I hit the Carlin car that had just spun in front of me."
Daniel Morad (LIB): (Result: Rtd, 0 laps. Championship position: 11th, 15pts).
"I'm very disappointed not to capitalise on a strong starting position. I was overly aggressive into the first corner and unfortunately paid the penalty."
-source: status gp