GP3

PALOU TAKES MAIDEN WIN AS OCON IS CROWNED 2015 GP3 CHAMPION

On top of the world! ART Grand Prix and Mercedes junior Esteban Ocon clinched the GP3 crown today at the season finale in Abu Dhabi by finishing in third place, to take the title by eight points from Trident’s Luca Ghiotto. It was also celebration time for Campos Racing rookie Alex Palou who pocketed his debut GP3 win ahead of Carlin and Ferrari Academy Driver Antonio Fuoco.
Palou started from reverse pole alongside Fuoco, but all eyes were on fourth and fifth place on the grid, with Ghiotto starting one position ahead of his title challenger. Ocon had a six point advantage in the Drivers’ Standings with the Italian knowing a win was a must if Ocon was on the rostrum.

It was a clean getaway from the 24 drivers: Palou retained the lead ahead of Fuoco and it was Ocon who made one his traditional good starts. The Frenchman was in the middle of Ghiotto and Koiranen GP’s Matthew Parry (the Brit making a lightning getaway) and made brief contact with them both down the straight and into T1. The trio continued as the fight was on with so much to play for…

Ghiotto quickly passed Parry and set after Ocon knowing he had to finish ahead of him to keep his title hopes alive. Meanwhile at the front Palou was driving a calm and confident race and increasing the deficit back to Fuoco in P2.

On lap six, Jimmy Eriksson joined the fun and he was on the rear of Ghiotto’s Trident machine. At this point, Ghiotto began to fall away ever so slightly from Ocon and more into the clutches of the eager Swede. Palou began to increase his pace up front, while Ghiotto appeared not to be able to match the pace of Ocon in third.
On lap 10 of 14, Ghiotto was almost seven seconds behind race leader Palou and was busy holding off the advances of Eriksson for fourth. Arden International’s Emil Bernstorff also joined the fray in the closing laps as he was hot on the tail of the Koiranen GP star; but he was unable to clear him before the chequered flag.
A jubilant Palou crossed the line for not only his maiden podium in the category, but also his first victory which he achieved by over 4s. It was also the first win for Campos Racing in their debut season – queue smiles all round! Fuoco in second was pleased to return to the rostrum, with the biggest round of applause going to the newly crowned Champion, Ocon, in third who literally bounced his way onto the podium in front of his overjoyed ART Grand Prix crew.
2015 GP3 Series runner-up Ghiotto finished in fourth ahead of Eriksson, Bernstorff, Marvin Kirchhöfer and Pal Varhaug. Kirchhöfer edged Bernstorff in the Drivers’ Standings to finish third overall this season by six points.
ART GP did the double with both the Drivers’ and Teams’ titles wrapped up; and it was Trident who finished runner-up, just ahead of Arden International.
After a superb nine rounds of yet another enthralling GP3 Series season, the action resumes next week on the 02-03-04 December for post-season testing at the Yas Marina Circuit.

GP3

KIRCHHÖFER WINS AS TITLE BATTLE GOES TO THE WIRE

The fight for the GP3 crown will be decided tomorrow at the season finale in Yas Marina! ART Grand Prix’s Esteban Ocon led the race from start to finish but the Frenchman was given a five second time penalty for exceeding track limits and gaining and advantage on lap one. His teammate Marvin Kirchhöfer therefore won the race, with Arden International’s Emil Bernstorff hot on his tails in second. Koiranen GP’s Jimmy Eriksson was third. Ocon thus finished in P4, one place ahead of his fellow title contender Luca Ghiotto from Trident. The Mercedes junior now holds a six point advantage over the Italian.
Ocon started from pole and he maintained the lead ahead of Kevin Ceccon. But Ocon ran wide, exceeding track limits. Meanwhile Ghiotto dropped two places at the start to run P6 knowing his title rival was out front leading the race. At this point, Ocon had done enough to claim the GP3 crown if the positions remained the same. Kevin Ceccon, Kirchhöfer, Eriksson and Bernstorff were second to fifth before a safety car was deployed after Carlin’s Adderly Fong and Alfonso Celis. Jr made contact at Turn 6. The Mexican retired in the pitlane.
Once the race resumed, Ocon found himself under investigation for gaining an advantage on the opening lap and very significantly in the fight for the GP3 crown he received a five second time penalty. At this point he held a 4.9s lead back to Ghiotto in P6.
On lap four, Bernstorff passed Eriksson for fifth, with Ocon 1.3s ahead of “net” race leader Ceccon. Ghiotto knew he had to claw back points and in doing so he ran wide several times through-out the race, locking the brakes up and losing valuable time.
There was heartbreak from Ceccon who saw his chances of victory dashed after he retired with technical gremlins. Therefore the action between Kirchhöfer and Bernstorff became the duel to watch as they were fighting for the lead; unless Ocon managed to pull a 5s advantage over his teammate.
The Virtual Safety Car was deployed on lap 9 after Trident’s Michele Beretta made contact with Campos Racing’s Zaid Ashkanani. The Italian was later penalised. Ocon’s advantage at the front remained 1.3s with a 6s deficit back to Ghiotto. On lap 15, Ghiotto ran wide again, which left him vulnerable and in the clutches of a chasing Matthew Parry.
In the final few laps Bernstorff was on the attack and was glued to the rear of Kirchhöfer ART GP machine, as he could sniff a potential win. But at the chequered flag, it was Ocon who crossed the line first – but his time penalty dropped him to fourth place. Kirchhöfer claimed his fifth win of the season ahead of Bernstorff and Eriksson – the trio completing the podium. The battle between Kirchhöfer and Bernstorff had more than just a victory at stake – the two were separated by just one point coming into this event for third place in the Drivers’ Standings, with the German now edging the Brit by eight points.
Ocon posted the fastest lap of the race, earning himself a further two points which may prove pivotal in who becomes 2015 GP3 Series Champion. Ocon, Ghiotto, Parry, Antonio Fuoco, Alex Palou, Matevos Isaakyan and Artur Janosz rounded out the top ten.
Race 2 will commence at 10.00 am local time tomorrow with Palou starting from reverse pole. All eyes will be on Ghiotto starting in P4, one place ahead of Ocon – with them both knowing a champion will be crowned tomorrow. Ocon has the six point advantage but anything can happen…!

GP2

GASLY LIGHTS UP ABU DHABI QUALIFYING

Pierre Gasly repeated his storming free practice performance by dominating this evening’s qualifying session in Abu Dhabi, denying 2015 champion Stoffel Vandoorne a final pole position for the season as the pair topped the timesheets ahead of Mitch Evans.
The Red Bull test driver annexed the top spot with a lap of 1:47.769, although Vandoorne closed to within a tenth in a frenetic session which saw the top four drivers bring home times under the McLaren tester’s 2014 pole as the weekend hangs onto the cooler than usual temperatures.
The session started with the usual jockeying for position when the lights went green, but Gasly ignored them all and set the pace right from the start: Vandoorne, Evans and Alexander Rossi all briefly put themselves on top but the Frenchman broke their hearts with a 48.0 lap at the seven minute mark, to take the lead back to the pits, and then went faster again when he returned to the track to drive the point home.
His rivals were still determined to put up a challenge: teammate Alex Lynn jumped Vandoorne for P2 on his first flyer on his second set, but the Belgian stole it back a minute later to at least start from the front row. The pair (and Gasly) returned to the pits with a minute remaining: Rossi tried to push forward but made a small mistake in sector 1 to put paid to his efforts, while Evans’ last ditch attempt paid off with P3 for tomorrow.
Lynn leads the rest of the field, ahead of Raffaele Marciello, Rio Haryanto (who will be delighted to outqualify his rival Sergey Sirotkin for third in championship), Rossi, Jordan King, Nobuharu Matsushita and Artem Markelov, who all qualified within a second of pole and will be looking for more rewards in tomorrow’s feature race.

GP3

Ocon pips Ceccon to pole in Yas Marina

ART Grand Prix’s Esteban Ocon made an important step in his fight for this season’s title: The Frenchman came into the final round of the year with a two point deficit; but following an epic qualifying session, Ocon edged out Arden International’s Kevin Ceccon by just 0.016s. Pole was even more meaningful for the Mercedes junior as the four points pocketed means he re-takes the lead in the standings by two points. Marvin Kirchhöfer finished third with title contender Luca Ghiotto in fourth.
Ocon set the early pace in the session with Ceccon in P2. Ghiotto was on a mission and was first to lap in the 1m55’s, lapping four tenths rival than his main rival. The Trident ace tried to improve on his next run, but he was 0.089s off his best time after running slightly wide.
At the midway point, everyone returned to the pitlane for new Pirelli tyres. On their second run, it was Ceccon who took provisional pole, with Carlin’s Antonio Fuoco demoting Ocon to fourth. The Frenchman retaliated but could only manage P3 at that point, before his teammate Kirchhöfer shot into second – a mere 0.042s off Ceccon.
As the clock ticked down, Ghiotto was doing all he could to reclaim back P1: He was fastest in sector two but again lost time in the final sector of the track. With several minutes remaining, Ocon lit the timing screen in purple as he was quickest in sector one. The ART Grand Prix rookie clocked the best lap of the session to take pole position and mark his claim in a titanic tussle for this year’s title.

Ghiotto was one of the last to cross the line to take the chequered flag: The Italian’s lap wasn’t enough to challenge Ocon with the Trident star having to start from the second row tomorrow. At the flag, Ocon held on to take his third consecutive pole position, ahead of Ceccon who clocked his personal best qualifying of the campaign. Kirchhöfer joins Ghiotto on the second row ahead of Jimmy Eriksson, Emil Bernstorff, Fuoco, Alex Palou, Matthew Parry and Artur Janosz.

The top five drivers were separated by just 0.188s with the top 16 drivers covered by less than one second, underlining the fierce competition amongst the pack of talented youngsters…
Race 1 takes place tomorrow at 12:25 local time (GMT+4). With two races to go, every lap will count in the duel between Ocon and Ghiotto for the coveted GP3 title! A Champion could be crowned tomorrow…don’t miss it!

DUBAI INTERNATIONAL RALLY

KHALID AL QASSIMI WINS DUBAI RALLY

SHK-KHALID-AL-QASSIMI-0922

 

  • Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson win Dubaï International Rally in a DS 3 RRC.
  • The Abu Dhabi driver won the home event with a lead of 57 seconds over second place finisher.
  • Mohammed Al Mutawaa wins the 2WD class ahead of teammates Belhelei and Bintouq.

 

After achieving a comfortable lead on day one, Sheikh Khalid bin Faisal Al Qassimi and Co-driver Chris Patterson decided to keep a steady pace and maintain the lead until the chequered flag at the end of the Dubai International Rally.

Al Qassimi’s strategy on the final day payed off and he won the home event with a lead of 57 sec. over 2nd place finisher AbdulAziz Al Kuwari while 3rd place went to Khalid Al Suwaidi.

“My initial strategy was to push hard till the end but after achieving a comfortable lead on day one we changed our strategy from full attack to balanced pace to defend our lead.” Al Qassimi said.

“On Day 2, we used hard tires that have low grip but longer durability which paid off because the some of the stages were very rough particularly SS8. Everything went well and I’m really happy to win my home Rally.”

In the 2WD class, the Abu Dhabi Racing junior drivers finished inside the top 10. Mohamed Al Mutawaa/Stephen McAuley won the event posting some impressive times, some even faster than the group N cars! The 2nd place was constantly changing between Saeed Bintowq/Allan Harryman and Mansour Belhelei/Khalid Al Kendi. Eventually, it was Belhelei who had the final word taking P2 and his teammate Bintouq taking P3.

 

FORMULA 1

SAHARA FORCE INDIA’ ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX PREVIEW

Team Principal, Dr Vijay Mallya, toasts the team’s most successful season ahead of the final race and a special milestone for the team.
 
VJM: “Heading to Abu Dhabi with fifth place in the championship already secured feels pretty good. It means we can approach the last weekend of the season free from pressure and with nothing to lose. Our focus is simply on enjoying the race and ending the season in style. Abu Dhabi will be a special race for us as it marks the 150th of our history as Force India, and we will aim to celebrate it with a strong performance on the track.
“All season I’ve been saying how proud I am of my team – particularly our development curve in the second half of the season. With 81 points from the last eight races we’ve enjoyed our best ever strike rate and we have been competitive at every race. With stable regulations for 2016, there is every reason to believe we can carry this form through the winter and into the new season. There is plenty to be excited about and a lot of positive energy in the team.
“This weekend’s race is simply another chance to demonstrate how far we have come. Our aim will be to qualify in the top ten and add a final helping of points to our tally.”
 
 
Sergio on Abu Dhabi
Sergio Perez savours his best ever season and looks ahead to the final race of the year.
 
Sergio: “The 2015 season has gone by so quickly, but I have lots of great memories and I’m very proud of what we have achieved. I think it’s probably been my best season in Formula One in terms of results and also the most enjoyable. We have grown a lot during the course of the year and we have had some special days, with a highlight being my podium in Russia and my home race in Mexico.
“I think Abu Dhabi is the perfect place to end the season, especially with a race under the lights. The whole venue is impressive and the track is quite a challenge from a set-up point of view. You need a car that works through the fast corners in the first sector, as well as through the slow final sector, which feels more like a twisty street circuit.
“I think we have the potential for a big result in Abu Dhabi. Things didn’t work out for me in Brazil so I’m determined to get back in the points this weekend and finish this great season on a positive note.”
 
Nico on Abu Dhabi
Nico Hülkenberg hopes to end the season with another strong performance in Abu Dhabi.
 
Nico: “The final race of the season is always important because you want to finish the season well and carry the momentum into the winter months. We have already secured fifth in the championship but I want to make sure I end the season in the top ten of the drivers’ championship so there is still a lot to play for.
“Abu Dhabi is a fun place for the season finale: the venue is great and the twilight racing helps create a special atmosphere. As a track, it’s not easy to get a good lap as the layout is very technical, especially in the final sector. It’s quite easy to come into a corner too hot and make a mistake, and finding a good flow is a big challenge.
“Brazil was a very enjoyable weekend for me: the car felt great and we maximised every session to come away with a well-deserved result. I think we can realistically aim for a similar performance this weekend. It’s been a great year for everyone in the team and we deserve to finish on a high.

The Premiere Motorsport Podcast