Tom’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix Race Notes

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Well, who saw that coming?.. The 70th Anniversary Grand Prix had a lot of work to do if it was to live up to last week’s final few laps of chaos that the British Grand Prix gave us. Did it? Well… Sort of, yeah.

Super Max

What can I say, as a Red Bull fan, I honestly do not know what to say but as the neutral as I am when it comes to the race notes, all I can say is… Formula One needed this!

Super Max Verstappen and even more to the point, super Red Bull! Starting on the hard tyre and going 29 laps on the hard tyre as well as an excellent start from Max, overtaking Nico Hulkenberg and his Racing Point to instantly move into P3, saw the Red Bull team FINALLY put pressure on Mercedes on a race day and it pays off!

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Max showed us that tyre management is his thing and while his rivals were struggling to contain tyre wear, he knew what he had to do and he very well did it. At one point, Max was informed by his race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase to push less and hold back because his tyres couldn’t possibly sustain the pressure the Dutch man was putting on them. However, Max disagreed and continued his pursuit of the Mercedes which now looks to have been a masterstroke as he claimed Red Bull’s first win at Silverstone in 8, yes, 8 years!!

Obviously, I couldn’t mention Red Bull without mentioning Alex Albon, the young driver qualified in P9 and ended up finishing in P5. That doesn’t match what his teammate achieved but Albon was first to pit and at one point found himself near dead last again. Having received a lot of criticism in the last weeks, Alex once again showed he shouldn’t be slept on. Oh, and he also held the fastest lap for a while too. Report on that one, you know who!

Mercedes tyre issues?

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Once again, tyres have proved to be an issue for Mercedes. Both cars started on the medium compound tyre and as we all know, is the equivalent of last weekend’s soft tyre and we all know what happened at the end of last week’s British Grand Prix.

Anyway, this week saw both Mercedes cars reporting issues after just lap 5. Whether it’s the heat or whether it’s an actual issue with the car, is something we are bound to find out about in the coming days but just for now and the purpose of the race notes, it certainly seems that after so long, we have possibly identified an issue with what looks like a flawless W11.

Pole sitter Valtteri Bottas didn’t look comfortable from the start and never really showed us that he was going to get one over on his Mercedes teammate, while Lewis Hamilton didn’t look himself today despite fighting all the odds to stop claim a record podium.

Today wasn’t Mercedes’ day and having to pit early due to degradation, manage a tyre that didn’t look comfortable at all on the car, as well as having a last couple of laps of ‘free to race’ action because Lewis had the fresher tyres than Valtteri isn’t what they were hoping for whatsoever.

Hats off to you Charles Leclerc

Yes, its that stage of the race notes where I award my driver of the day and this week it goes to no other than Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

For the majority of the season (ok, up until this point) when we talk Ferrari, there really hasn’t been anything positive to touch on. Nonetheless, today the Italian team and a certain driver put all that behind them and gave The Prancing Horse fans something to finally be very cheerful about!

Ferrari and Charles Leclerc, in particular, were one of only three teams to risk the one stop strategy today (other two cars/teams being, Renault (Ocon) and Alpha Romeo (Räikkönen)) and boy didn’t it pay off. Starting in P8, Leclerc managed to get himself all the way up to P4 and show that the old horse still has some power behind it and had at last, a very nice looking race pace!

Unfortunately, unlike teammate Leclerc, Sebastian Vettel’s season doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Vettel took a big spin on lap one and very nearly saw his race over had he not somehow avoid contact with Carlos Sainz’s McLaren. Vettel fought hard all the way back up to P12 but once again, its another race where Sebby’s final chapter of his Ferrari journey looks like it just isn’t going to end well.

Final Thoughts

Ok, the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix didn’t give us the madness that the final laps of last weeks British Grand Prix did BUT it did give us a lot to think over ahead of next week’s Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. It was written in the stars that Mercedes were once again going to dominate but boy didn’t this historic track have other things in mind!

Max Verstappen managed his car to perfection and Red Bull showed why they hardly ever miss when it comes to strategy as they win at Silverstone for the first time on 8 years but more importantly, they end the run of Mercedes’ wins to possibly, possibly give us a real championship battle.

Here’s to the next one, see you in a week’s time in Barcelona! I can not wait!

GP3 season review

GP3 season review 2017

 

GP3 gave us lots of close and entertaining racing, proving why it is has an ever-growing fanbase. The statistics themselves do not give it away how intense battles were. It is only when you watch the series consistently you see how skilled each driver is and how they use that to find their own driving style.

When it came to qualifying, ART took every pole and they were easily the most dominant team winning the constructors championship for the seventh time in GP3. They had 578 points to their nearest rival Tridents 286. ART also lead the way with driver championship with their four drivers of George Russell, Jack Aitken, Nerei Fukuzumi and Anthonie Hubert placing in the top 4 in that order.

Russell, a Mercedes Junior driver was a firm favourite going into the season and sealed the title with two more races today. He has 4 poles and 4 wins to his name, the most of any driver this season. By the end of the year Russell was just over 80 points clear of nearest rival Aitken. However, it was Russell’s consistent point scoring that played in his favour as eight other drivers won races during the season and some in very dominant fashion.

Before everyone knew it GP3 was back in Spain for the first round. Drivers had the new challenge of only being able to use DRS for six times each race meaning it was crucial they were tactile with DRS. Russell unfortunately went backwards in the start while team mate Fukuzumi was flying in the first lap but being kept honest by Aitken. Alessio Lorandi was one driver that nailed DRS and managed to go up the field without falling back down later on in the race. Mechanical issues struck for the first time in a heart-breaking fashion by choosing Aitken in second position as its first victim of the season. This elevated Leonardi Pulcini to second and Lorandi was rewarded third place for his effort at the start with DRS and Fukuzumi drawing the first blood for the championship battle.

Spain Race 2 was another impressive race for Jenzer’s Lorandi as he managed to get on the podium in the second race fighting with Hubert for most of it. The main fight was between Arjun Maini and Dorian Boccolacci who were locked in a tussle for first position. Maini was able to hold Boccolacci off to take Jenzer’s first victory since 2012.

Austria was a good weekend for ART who achieved a 1,2,3,4 in race 1. Russell took his first victory out of four in Austria although he had a long and hard fight with British compatriot and team mate Aitken. The virtual safety car made its first appearance when Hubert, Steijn Stothorst and Leonardi Pulcini made contact with Hubert taking the blame and a ten second time penalty for company. It was not such a good weekend for Boccolacci or Lorandi either as in race two Lorandi dropped from second to seventh and on lap eighteen made contact with Boccolacci’s trident who went into the gravel and rolled. Luckily Boccolacci was okay and after safety car period the race continued with Roaul Hyman taking his first win followed by Juliano Alesi and Fukuzumi.

Russell got off to a rough start at his home race in Silverstone by having a bad getaway which had the consequence that Hubert took the lead. Although that didn’t last long as by lap four Russell was back leading the pack. Fukuzumi and Ryan Tveter both experienced mechanical failures which took them out the race. Tveters led to a virtual safety car that worked to the advantage of Lorandi who got a good restart and found himself third in the race behind Hubert and Russell.

Silverstone race two was not so calm as Steijn Schothorst and Julien Flachero collided and brought out the safety car. Hubert and Lorandi also had contact but both were able to continue without damage and despite it being investigated it was deemed a racing incident. Pulcini and Santino Ferrucci also collided but had no further action when investigated. Russell was on the charge but had to get past the defence Maini put up. Maini was able to keep Russell back for a few laps with good defensive moves but it was not enough as Russell has superior speed. By the end of the race the ART had caught up to Niko Kari in third but the laps ran out and the brit had to settle for fourth position.

Next up was Hungary, race one started without Russell as his car had a mechanical problem on the warm up lap that appeared to be terminal. His team mates Aitken and Fukuzumi had a good old battle for first position. One that would be won by Aitken. The third ART to finish the race Hubert came third on the road as well. It was a comfortable third as Kari and Boccolacci were fighting behind for fourth position until Kari went wide and dropped down the order. Jenzer’s Lorandi stormed up through the field in the final stages to take fourth away from Boccolacci.

Race two was full of retirements from Fukuzumi and Pulcini making contact to Lorandi taking on one too many kerbs and getting a puncture. Russell’s driving was on another planet, the Brit went from starting last to running eighth in the field until he made contact with Aitken and had to retire the car. Despite all the chaos it didn’t take away from Juliano Alesi taking the lead on lap 4 and storming to victory followed by Tveter and Kevin Joerg.

Belgium, Spa was next and it was no relaxing time for anyone. Dams had a race to forget with Tatiana Calderon stalling on the grid and then tapped team mate Baptista by accident sending him into the barriers and out the race. Calderon later made contact with Hyman, both of whom were lucky to get away with little damage. Russell started on pole but was passed by Fukuzumi. However it didn’t last long before Russell was back in front and Fukuzumi had Aitken behind challenging for second. It was a battle in which Aitken would win leading to another full ART podium.

Race two at Spa wasn’t as much fun for ART as Aitken had contact with Boccolacci which was deemed to be the brits fault. Aitken’s punishment from the FIA was a ten second penalty for causing a collision. Russell was flying from eighth on the grid all the way to second to have back to back podium positions. Calderon knocked sides with Correa while battling but both came out the other side unscathed. Alesi was on pole and he maintained the lead the whole time to cross the line first for the third time this season.

Callum Illot

Italy was a strange one as they only had one race in which the grid was determined by the practice times. Fukuzumi was the lucky one to start on pole for the first time but unlucky in the fact he then had mechanical issue. Pulcini caused safety car by mounting the back of Lorandi causing them to both go out the race and Pulcini to have a hefty impact with the barriers. The safety car went in on lap 9 when Russell nailed the restart. Wasn’t long before Ticktum, Kari and Boccolacci all made contact with Ticktum getting a puncture and Boccolacci heading to the pits for a new front wing. Hubert took the lead from Russell only for Russell to get it back two laps later. However, the best move of the race came from Aitken when he went from third to first in a couple of corners, a superb move. Unfortunately, Russell had too much pace and took the win leading another ART filled podium. It was also enough to seal the team championship for ART.

It was back to Spain for the stand alone race weekend but this time in Jerez. Joerg and Siebert collided sending Joerg into the gravel but he was able to keep it going and limp back to the pits. Siebert only lasted until lap 14 before retiring due to damage. Fukuzumi had a comfortable lead with Russell right behind determined to wrap up the championship as soon as he can. Aitken had Ticktum closing in on him for third but managed to keep the Dams behind. Lorandi and Alesi fought over eighth position and reverse grid pole but Lorandi held Alesi off to put himself in the prime position for the next race.

Niko Kari

Lorandi had a good start and maintained a good gap from Boccolacci the whole race. His dominating race form was over shadowed by Russell making a late move to get past his main championship rival Aitken. The risky move paid off and Russell was ahead. Ticktum and Kari were fighting for third when they collided and ticktum went into the gravel. The safety car was brought out to deal with the stricken dams and Kari was later handed a time penalty for causing a collision. Lorandi nailed the restart when the safety car went in on the last lap. Boccolacci couldn’t do anything to challenge for the win and he was followed by Hubert for third. Russell finished fifth and it was enough to seal the championship with two races remaining.

Most of the pressure was off drivers heading into the final round in Abu Dhabi. Poor Pulcini and Siebert, neither of them finished either race. However, there was a lot to celebrate. Both races produced new race winners. Kari and Boccolacci had both fought for podiums and sometimes wins throughout the whole season and it wasn’t until the very end when they were rewarded with the top step of the podium and listening to their national anthem. After a terrible season full of DNF’s Schothorst became the last of the regular drivers to score points. Ticktum who had battled for podiums but been denied finally got his wish and finished third in the final race of the season.

Ferdinand Hapsburg.

It is fair to say ART were on form and their drivers impressed but there were lots of consistently good and skilled drivers. Lorandi, Boccolacci and Maini were all names that were constantly near the top of the leaderboard, fighting for points and wins. It is clear to see the field is closer than ever and you cannot predict a thing.

This season has been so much fun as a fan and a journalist. I cannot wait to see more young drivers come into the series and show us what they can do. Although, there is probably a fair few staying in the series for another year and they will only get stronger over the winter break. They will look at all the data, train harder, work on everything they can. Next year’s championship is going to be open for the taking. I for one cannot wait and I hope you will join me when GP3 is back next year.

Eventful GP3 series returns

After such a long break since Bahrain, the GP3 series returns to the the Red Bull Ring in Austria, to support  the Formula 1 and Formula 2 series’. The conditions were dry, but high humidity in the mountains, which could of seen rain fall at anytime. Just like Formula 2 we have two races on the Saturday and the Sunday.

Qualifying

A very hectic session took place on the Friday in Austria, the French run ART Grand Prix managed to secure the front row for the feature race on the Saturday. George Russell piped his team mate Jack Aitken by 7 hundredths of a second. He carries on his impressive form from being fastest in the test at Budapest. The field was very tight, the whole field was covered by 8 tenths of a second which laid the marker down for a fantastic weekend of racing ahead. All the cars using identical chassis, aerodynamics and engine, it is all down to driver skill in this series. Race one winner in Bahrain Fukuzimi struggled unlike his ART team mates, who will be starting down in 10th place, just like his counter part Maini who won Race 2 at Bahrain qualifying in 12th. The Britain’s in first and second in qualifying look promising for a home winner at Silverstone next weekend.

Race One

Jack Aitken got off the line very well from P2 on the grid, he had a slightly better reaction but George Russell managed to get the power down, and had the better line into turn 1. He cheekily squeezed his team mate, to prevent any attack from him. Boccolacci had a very bad start and fell back, opening a gap for the inside of turn 2, going 3 wide. Hubert very optimistic but the gap disappeared. Leonardo Pulcini was in the middle of the sandwich, he hit Arden teammate Schothorst, who got some air as a result. Pulcini pulled over with terminal damage, and a virtual safety car was deployed to clear his car.

It was almost instantaneous, but by the end of lap 2 the race was back live thanks to great work by the marshalls at turn 2. Virtual safety car can end anytime, and Russell controlled the restart, he left team mates Aitken and Hubert. Fukuzumi was caught napping and just managed to keep hold of his 5th place, albeit up from 10th, so fantastic start. Schothorst had to stop by the side of the track due to a damaged car, retiring after being hit in the turn 2 incident. Fukuzumi in the period was now up to 4th.

Aitken was piling the pressure on Russell on lap 4, whilst Fukuzumi set the fastest lap, it was a ART Grand Prix 1,2,3,4 at the current time. Hubert was then under investigation for the turn 2 incident, he was blatantly at fault for the situation. He was handed a 10 second time penalty for causing a collision. ART Grand Prix cars were pulling away from the rest of the field from the front but the fastest laps were being spread across the field. Red Bull supported driver Nico Kari spun and as a result struggling down in 14th.

Unlike Formula 2 in GP3 there are no pit stops in the race on Saturday, so tires were something to be control of, the nature of the Red Bull Ring with long sweeping corners made tyre temperatures rocket up. Aitken was still within a second of Russell albeit on lap 9 and lap 10 setting the fastest laps, very fine margins, no quicker than a tenth within the first half of the race from his team mate Russell. Fukuzimi was pulling away from 5th placed Trident driver Tveter, showing the control ART have in this series. Nico Kari had a race to forget on lap 15 he pulled aside at Turn 1, resulting in 3 Arden cars being out of the race just over half of the race to go.

The action settled down, and the limited use of DRS prevented much action, but when it was used it was great racing. Places 5th to 12th were all in the same shot going down the main straight. Lorandi held on to 7th place ahead of Hyman, continously seeing the gearbox of the Italian. Hyman had used all 6 uses of his DRS to overtake on lap 19, so would be behind Lorandi but didn’t have DRS at his disposal for the last 5 laps. DAMS drivers were both awarded 5 second penalties for overtaking under yellow flags earlier on in the race. Boccolacci tried to go for broke on Alesi, he managed to pass on him on lap 22, but on the penultimate lap, but he ran wide, dropping multiple places to 10th from 6th.

Russell eventually dropped Aitken, and finished 2 seconds in front of his team mate Aitken. Lights to flag for the Britain. Hubert finished 3rd, but as a result of his penalty and ART dominance, he only fell to 4th behind Fukuzumi. Tveter beat his team mate Alesi, Alesi just like Aitken was behind his team mate Tveter for the whole race. Lorandi secured 7th, with South African Hyman finishing 8th securing pole for the race on Sunday. Penalties for DAMS drivers Calderon and Baptista dropped them out the points, allowing Maini moved up to the points position. Maini having a very quiet race after winning the sprint race in Bahrain.

Race Two

Clean start for Hyman, a great get away for him, Lorandi who started 2nd had an awful start, dropping to 7th as a result, the ART cars started well moving up the field except for Hubert who ran wide at turn 1. Hyman lead Alesi, Tveter ahead of the ART drivers Fukuzumi, Aitken and Russell. Lorandi, Hubert and Maini being the biggest losers from start whilst Nico Kari being the biggest gainer, moving up 4 places. Hyman was the fastest driver on the track, setting fastest laps back to back, giving Hyman a considerable gap making the DRS less effective if Alesi managed to get in the 1 second zone.

Lorandi and Boccolacci were having a great fight, trying to dive down in to turn 3, but Lorandi got the switch back over the straight keeping his position. Hyman and Alesi were in a league of their own in this race, the pair pulling away from the rest of the field. Alesi managed to catch back up to Hyman, which allowed him to use his DRS, in the Sunday race, they had 4 attempts to use it successfully, albeit down to no avail as Hyman still managed to hold the lead.

Fukuzumi in 4th as now putting the pressure on American Tveter, Aitken began to put the pressure on his team mate so Tveter had two ART’s in his mirrors. It seems from the races thus far Fukuzumi has the knack of keeping his tyres in the sweet spot for longer allowing him to push for a longer. Nico Kari having horrible luck, another race for the Finnish driver without points with another mechanical issue. He is sponsored by Red Bull and not scoring points, at their home wasn’t great. Kari managed to get back going, as Arden fixed the issue.

Hyman’s rear right began to have serious wear, blisters down the middle of the rubber, Alesi had 1 use of DRS remaining, managing to gain on him, had 3 laps to go. Alesi used his last DRS and once more it was to no avail. Tveter was still holding on to 3rd place, it looked like he was on for his maiden podium position. Aitken was trying to keep up with the pair at ran wide, losing time on them. Fukuzumi on the same lap used DRS well, passing Tveter. Tveter dropped from Fukuzumi so he was under no threat for his next podium.

Boccolacci looked to attack Lorandi after following him all race long at the end of the second DRS Zone, the pair came together and the Frenchman Boccolacci went airborne before landing in the gravel, resulting in multiple rolls. He landed on his wheels the right way up, and he walked away. Lorandi managed finish in 8th with the damage, Hubert took full advantage going from 9th to 7th as a result. South African Hyman held on for victory, with Alesi in 2nd place, Hyman much like Russell converted his pole position into victory. Fukuzumi pipped Tveter and his team mates for the podium as a result he gained the championship lead.

If Hyman continues this good form and moves up the open wheeled ladder to Formula 1 could we see a return to South Africa for the first time since 1993? Too early to tell, but a very confident and controlled drive from him.

Standings

Fukuzumi who now leads the Drivers’ Championship on 54 points, 1 ahead of teammate Russell with the third ART driver Hubert on 38. Lorandi was the first non-ART driver in his Jenzer car with 32, Aitken on 28. Hyman with his victory moved up to 25 points. In the Teams’ Championship ART Grand Prix have built a big lead showing their dominance. Currently on a score of 159 points. Trident and Jenzer were very close, with Trident on 60, Jenzer on 54. Not a lot of time to prepare for Silverstone next weekend for the British Grand Prix, as practice will be taking place next Thursday, very competitive, and with two Brit’s in the thick of it, could we see a British winner at the British event?

Chris Lord

New Era of GP3

A quick overview on the GP3 2017 series, last year they introduced a new GP3 specification car. They also use Pirelli rubber and the rear tyres configuration has changed, tyre management will come into play more this year. It is a first this year they have DRS, still needing to be less than a second behind the driver in front. It is not available all the time throughout the race, they have so many amount of times to use it, for Spain they have an allocation of 6 uses.

Race One

Jack Aitken took pole for the first GP3 race of 2017. Aitken was very squirmy, lots of rear wheel spin from the get go, Nirei Fukuzimi got the jump who started second, Aitken dropped to second. A very clean first couple of corners, albeit a few drivers ran wide Dorian Boccalaci being the most notable, bit too aggressive out of turn 2, going from attempting to pass Aitken for second but dropped to fourth.

Fukuzimi and Aitken were in a league of their own, sharing fastest laps and pulling away from the field. The introduction of DRS provided some great overtakes, not everyone is a fan of the system we all do know. Alessio Lorandi and George Russell were on fire, using the DRS to good effect. Russell did start fourth but went to as low as eighth on lap one. We were robbed as Aitken came out of turn 5 and a problem for the Brit, mechanical issue slowed him. He crept around to the pits, and retired. Aitken was starting to use his own DRS usage to put the pressure on the race leader.

The TV screens then focused to the Italian drivers in second and third, Leonardo Bulcini of Arden held on to second, albeit Lorandi who finished third was all over the back of his fellow countryman. Bulcini was ecstatic, raising is hand in joy like he had won! Although Fukuzimi was the victor, he won by 7 seconds, took it easy in the last couple of laps as per mentioned due to the unfortunate end of Aitken on lap 16. Fukuzimi is in his second season, staying with ART. The Japanese driver looks strong for the season coming now knowing all the tracks unlike previous years.

Campos team mates of Raoul Hyman and Marcos Siebert were having a right battle for eighth place, as with GP3, finishing eighth seals you pole for race two. Siebert lit his rear wheels out of penultimate corner, lost eighth, giving pole to Hyman.

Race Two

Arjun Maini started second on the grid after finishing seventh on race one, and at the start he got the jump on Hyman and lead clearly into turn one. Once more there was no severe accidents in the first couple of laps, you’d think being a junior series more accidents, but a very clean weekend took place at Barcelona. Maini set fastest lap early on, the teenager looks up to Sebastian Vettel and pulled away very similiar to the German in the latter stages. Maini is a 2014 runner up for Formula 4, so he has experience in open wheel races.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, Dorian Boccalaci was extremely quick, hot on the heels of the Indian driver, on lap four/five him and Maini were side by side from the pit straight going into turn four but Maini held on. On lap six Boccalaci at turn one he passed Maini using one of his DRS allocations, but out of turn two, Maini managed to re-overtake him

Alessio Lorandi once more like race one managed to control himself and his car to get better speed the later the race goes on. The Italian had lovely outside pass around Hyman at turn one for fourth on lap 9. 5 laps to go Lorandi went up to third, and the place stayed as is. Lorandi only driver to finish on the podium for both races.

Arjun Maini came round to win in Spain, he won by 6 seconds. Maini recently signed a partnership with Haas and with former F1 driver Karun Chandhok supporting him, could see a tasty battle for the remaining events along with race one winner and Honda driver Fukuzimi.

The Standings

Race one winner Fukuzumi holds the lead going into the next round after his first and sixth race finishes. Mr consistent Lorandi in second, podium in both races this weekend, the only driver to do so, and race two winner Arjun Maini in third. British drivers Jack Aitken, who was unlucky in race one, and George Russell who has a solid weekend will look to build upon the start of the season and preparation for the British Grand Prix in two races time. GP3 has a break, a much shorter schedule than parent series of Formula 2 and Formula 1. We will next be racing in Austria at the Red Bull Ring on 9 July, gives food for thought for all drivers before they turn the wheel next.

Chris Lord