GP3 – The Top Three
The Flying Kiwi. Mitch Evans is driving for MW (as in Mark Webber) Arden team. Two time champion in New Zealand’s Toyota Racing Series, he currently leads the 2012 GP3 Championship.
The GP3 Series – baby sister to GP2 – came to life in 2010. Racing on the same weekend and tracks as Formula 1 attracted a flock of young talented drivers to the new series, featuring Dallara cars with Renault-turbo engines.
Norwegian driver Pal Varhaug became the first ever winner in GP3 Series with his triumph in Barcelona. While Varhaug failed to score any additional points rest of the season, the two men he shared the podium with went on to battle for the championship.
Canadian Robert Wickens pushed Mexico’s Esteban Gutierrez hard all season long, but in the end Gutierrez became the first ever GP3 Champion with Nicholas Todt and Frederic Vasseur owned ART Grand Prix team.
Wickens is now racing in DTM as a Mercedes driver, and Gutierrez is hustling in GP2 while also serving as reserve driver for Sauber F1 team.
The 2011 season saw a slow start for the next big Finn, Valtteri Bottas, but the double winner of Masters of F3 was able to sort out the issues with his car and tires and went to claim the championship. He is now on duty at F1 weekends with Williams team. An F1 drive cannot be too far with “Toto” Wolff and Mika Hakkinen guiding his career.
The future is also very bright for second place man last year; James Calado. The English driver is backed by Racing Steps Foundation and is the top rookie this season in the cut-throat world of GP2 racing.
The 2012 Crop
Like the previous two seasons, the list of talented drivers competing this year is long. Apart from drivers who made a mark last year and are back for second season, there are some very hungry and talented drivers hoping to mix it with the very best of GP3’s young veterans.
Mitch Evans from New Zealand is the championship leader going into the Hungaroring weekend. The Kiwi is a Mark Webber protégé and last year finished ninth in the championship.
His impressive CV shows second place finish in the 2008/09 National FF Championship in New Zealand and the 2009 Australian FF Championship. He then won the early season Toyota Racing Series in 2010 & ’11.
Evans started the 2012 GP3 season on a high note by winning the opening race in Barcelona. In the series maiden appearance on the streets of Monte Carlo he was able to collect valuable points by finishing in the top five in both races.
Valencia was the scene of his second victory of the season. Silverstone saw him finish second on Saturday while the young Kiwi failed to score any points in race two.
Third win of the season at Hockenheimring puts him in the championship lead with 121 points, eighteen points ahead of his nearest rival.
Fast Finn. After a somewhat sleepy 2011 season, Aaro Vainio won in Monte Carlo and is now a serious championship contender. Shares the same manager as Massa and Maldonado; Nicholas Todt.
Aaro Vainio. After an extensive karting career, Vainio moved into single seater racing in 2010. He was fourth in the Formula Renault Euro Cup. The Nicholas Todt managed Finn stepped up to GP3 last year. Vainio has put the difficult season, where he was classified 15th in the championship, behind him and is now a strong title contender.
He was on the podium in the first race and placed fourth in the second race in Barcelona. The day of days of his young career came in the opening race of the Monaco weekend, where he won the race in a close finish over Hungarian Tamas Pal Kiss.
The Valencia round saw him finish second in race one and seventh in the race two. This was followed by another podium finish at Silverstone; where he was third in the opening race of the weekend.
The last round at Hockenheimring was the first where Vainio did not step on the podium during the weekend. He was fifth in race one and sixth in race two. Currently second in the championship on 103 points, Vainio will be determined to close the gap to Evans after the drive by the Danube this weekend.
Strike a pose. With racing in his blood and Abt Sportsline, Daniel is the leading rookie and third in the championship. Another talented German driver who will soon be knocking on the door of Formula 1.
Daniel Abt. Driving the # 1 car is the number one rookie of the year so far. The 19-year old German comes from the Abt racing family; famously associated with Audi in DTM.
Five years of karting led to 2008 ADAC Formel Masters in his native land and the following year won the championship. In 2010, he was second in the German F3 Championship, and last year finished fourth in the Formula 3 International Trophy, and seventh in the F3 Euro Series.
Abt started the season with a 13th place finish in race one and collected some useful points from his seventh place finish in race two at Barcelona. In Monaco he made it to the podium in third after finishing sixth in the opening race of the weekend.
Valencia saw him finish less than a second behind race winner, Patric Niederhauser, in race two after a sixth place finish in race one. At Silverstone Abt was fourth in race one and did not finish the second race.
Last weekend at Hockenheimring he qualified on pole for his home race but was caught out by the changing conditions, and salvaged seventh place finish. In the second race he was second behind Evans; unable to mount a challenge for the lead due to yellow flag and safety car period in the closing laps.
Abt is currently third in the championship with 76 points. While he is looking ahead to moving up the championship ladder he also has to keep an eye on the rear view mirror. Niederhauser and teammate Conor Daly are both just a single point behind the young German.
Spa and Monza are the only rounds remaining in the GP3 circus after Hungaroring.
As always, F1Weekly is pleased to bring you all the race reports and news from the world of GP3. We also invite you to visit their website www.gp3series.com for more information and driver profiles.
– Nasir Hameed
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