GP3: Sims opens the season with a victory
By Andy Darley
Sunday, May 8th, 2011
Alexander Sims shrugged off an opening race spoiled by a qualifying penalty to dominate the second contest of GP3’s season-launching weekend in Istanbul Park, winning by more than seven seconds.
The former McLaren Autosport BRDC Award-winner has now established himself in third place in the championship, which is in its second year as a 30-car support series to Formula One and GP2.
Sunday’s victory followed disappointment the previous day, when a qualifying lap that would have put him on the front row was disallowed because he ran wide off the track while setting it. Despite gaining no advantage from the mistake he was penalised for failing to respect the track limits and started the opening race from 12th on the grid.
As RSC Mucke’s Nigel Melker raced to the win, Sims battled his way as high as fifth before tyre wear slowed him. He eventually finished eighth, earning a championship point and pole position for the second race.
This went more according to the script, and he was never seriously challenged for the win after making a strong getaway at the start and setting the fastest lap of the race early on.
He told the post-race press conference: “I think looking at the weekend as a whole we are a little bit disappointed with what happened in qualifying, but fair play I did have all four wheel off the track. It was a recovery weekend and I think in the end it was pretty strong. We showed our pre-season pace was justified and I think we should be able to carry on through the year.”
Later he added: “Today we had a perfect day; leading the race from the lights to the flag, as well as setting the fastest lap of the race. It’s fantastic to get a race win so early on in the season.
“We were strong throughout winter testing and the team has worked incredibly hard to give me a brilliant car so I want to say a big thank you to everyone at Status GP. We now look ahead to the next race in Barcelona where we will be looking to build on the points we are taking from Turkey and climb up the Championship standings.”
Elsewhere in the field Sims’ successors as winners of the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award, Dean Smith and Lewis Williamson, also made their mark on the weekend.
Smith, a late signing for the Addax squad, scrapped for the minor points in both races, losing out to Sims in the first but making a late pass on Arden’s Mitch Evans in the second.
Williamson had qualified third for the opening race but, like Sims, was penalised – in his case for twice crossing the pit exit line.
Starting ninth, an early spin gave him further problems before his recovery drive came to an abrupt end thanks to contact with Leonardo Cordeiro. His car slid sideways into a gravel trap at slow speed, dug in, and sedately rolled over leaving the Scot to crawl out unharmed. In the second race he finished 20th.
Other British drivers in the field were unable to mount a significant challenge in either race, with Nick Yelloly’s 13th and 11th places representing the best finishes among them, as well as a creditable outcome for the unfancied Atech CRS team.
ART’s James Calado was 17th and 13th, Manor’s Adrian Quaife-Hobbs 24th and 16th, while RSC Mucke’s Essex-born driver Luciano Bacheta finished 19th in the first race and retired on lap eight of the second.