DOUBLE PODIUM JOY FOR ATECH CRS GP IN SPAIN In just its third race weekend, the new Atech CRS Grand Prix team took its first podium of the GP3 season with a superb third place by Roberto Merhi in Valencia on Saturday. The Spaniard followed that...
DOUBLE PODIUM JOY FOR ATECH CRS GP IN SPAIN
In just its third race weekend, the new Atech CRS Grand Prix team took its first podium of the GP3 season with a superb third place by Roberto Merhi in Valencia on Saturday. The Spaniard followed that up with second place in Sunday's second race, after starting sixth, and with it posted successive fastest laps to gain a vital extra point.
In Saturday morning's qualifying, Merhi set the second fastest lap to earn him a front row start for the opening race. Oli Oakes was left frustrated with a red flag situation which prevented him from repeating his superb form in testing when he was fifth quickest, the young Briton winding up 14th.
Italian Vittorio Ghirelli struggled slightly on the fast sweeping circuit around the streets of Valencia, the 16 year-old ending up 29th fastest.
In the opening race late on Saturday, Merhi made the perfect getaway but was boxed in going into the first corner, dropping from third to fourth as they exited. It wasn't long before the youngster found his way up to third however, and thereafter didn't put a wheel wrong as he went on to record his maiden podium finish in the series, first time out.
For Oakes, his chances of showing a repeat of his pre-race form took a knock, quite literally, as he was taken out at the first corner, injuring his wrist in the process. Ghirelli recovered from his low grid start to get up to 20th the pair set to start near the back for the second race on Sunday.
With the top eight reversed for the grid, Merhi took up his spot on the third row and a superb start allowed him up into fourth into the first corner with a brave move around the outside. With the battle for second place heating up, Merhi was able to close the gap to the duo, and quickly disposed of the third placed driver Rio Haryanto on lap seven.
Now running third, Merhi began applying pressure to James Jakes ahead, and when he made a mistake, the Spaniard nipped through and into second place.
Behind, the unfortunate Oakes was struggling with the wrist injury sustained in race one and around the demanding, 25-corner circuit, was unable to make much progress through the field, running just inside the top 20. Ghirelli made up several places from his grid slot and finished 22nd.
But at the front, Merhi was enjoying his first ever GP3 outing, reunited with Team Principal David Hayle, with whom he starred at the Macau Grand Prix street race two years ago, to post a string of fastest laps en route to second place.
"What a fantastic result for Roberto, on his first ever race in GP3," said David. "Oli was very unlucky in the opening race to sustain quite a serious wrist injury which ultimately cost him any chance of moving through the field on Sunday.
"Vittorio drove two more solid races and at just 16 years-old, with so little experience, he is improving every race."