ART Grand Prix began to pull away at the top of the inaugural GP3 drivers’ and teams’ championships as Esteban Gutierrez won race one at Istanbul Park and Alexander Rossi took a race two podium behind Manor Racing’s Rio Haryanto.
Of the British drivers, Haryanto’s team-mate James Jakes had the most constructive weekend, finishing second in race one and then taming an unruly car enough to finish just outside the points in race two.
Practice and qualifying: Melker takes his second pole
In practice Haryanto put in a late flying lap to position himself at the top of the timesheet, followed by Gutierrez and RSC Mucke’s Renger van der Zande during a session that saw the majority of the field on their first-ever outing round Istanbul Park. Oli Oakes was the highest-placed Brit in fifth with Jakes in seventh, Dean Smith in eighth for Carlin and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs 14th.
In qualifying RSC Mucke’s Nigel Melker reprised his Barcelona pole and won the top grid slot from Guiterrez by two tenths of a second. In a cool morning session Quaife-Hobbs set the early pace but Gutierrez and Melker came back at him, the latter battling a gear change problem.
The session was interrupted ten minutes from the end when MW Arden’s Michael Christensen lost a wheel out on track after a problem during his tyre stop. And, at close of play, Smith had relegated Quaife-Hobbs to fourth spot with Jakes in fifth. Oakes was 20th.
Smith said of his session: “Looking at [the Barcelona] race weekend we looked through the data very hard and changed the car totally for this weekend. In practice it was all good, but the throttle was sticking open at 10 per cent, so I could see quite a lot of time there that I could gain.
“Then today I just had the approach of getting pole. First set of tyres I got up into fourth and then, when I went onto the second set of tyres, there was a lot of traffic so I never pushed. I just conserved the tyres and then on the last lap I pushed pretty hard and got third.”
Race one: Guitierrez starts strongly to set up victory
Gutierrez took advantage of a poor start by Melker to grab a lead which lasted all the way to the chequered flag, assisted by an error-free drive and a string of fastest laps. He finished 10.5 seconds ahead of second-placed Jakes.
Felipe Guimaraes put in a solid drive to third while Rossi continued a run of good form to move up four spots into fifth by the end of lap one. He made up one more place during the race to finish fourth. Smith struggled at the start and by the end of lap one was down to sixth.
Jenzer Motorsport’s Nico Muller, MW Arden’s Miki Monras and Haryanto completed the top eight, with the latter claiming the last point and reversed pole for race two after a poor qualifying left him starting 16th.
Oakes was 12th, Smith eventually slipped back to 22nd and Quaife-Hobbs was classified 30th. Despite starting on pole Melker was handed a drive-through penalty for starting out of his box and eventually finished 23rd.
Jakes said of his race: “I didn’t make a great start because I had a problem with the clutch so I was quite relieved to get the race over with, to be honest. The clutch slipped and started slipping through the race. It wasn’t the fault of the car; it was my fault at the start. But it’s just nice to do some laps.
“We’ve had quite a few issues like I’m sure the other cars have in testing and all through the year so far – I did two flying laps in practice yesterday. We’ve got a two day test coming up in a few days so hopefully we can improve the car a bit more.”
Following the race Coletti was given a ten-place grid penalty for causing a collision and was thus due to start race two from 30th and last on the grid.
Race two: Haryanto keeps his cool to take victory
Reverse polesitter Haryanto managed to get off the grid with a perfect start to take a race two victory 2.2 seconds ahead of his nearest rival, Monras. He took the victory after setting the pace in practice then experiencing a difficult qualifying that left him 18th on the grid.
Rossi got bogged down at the start of the race but fought back throughout the race to take the final podium spot, eventually passing Muller into Turn 1.
Morad took fifth after losing a place at the start with the final point going to race one podium-sitter Guimaraes who had faced a tough final stint holding off Gutierrez and Jakes, who were seventh and eighth.
Tech 1’s Doru Sechelariu was ninth and in tenth was Dean Smith who fought back from 22nd on the grid following a disappointing race one. Both Oakes and Quaife-Hobbs failed to finish and were classified 28th and 29th.
• Following the weekend Gutierrez leads the driver standings with 22 points, ahead of team-mate Rossi on 17 points. In the teams’ standings ART has increased its lead to 40 points ahead of Jenzer Motorsport in second with 19 points, and Status GP in third with 17 points in third spot.
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