F1weekly podcast number 577
This weeks interview: Luis Sa Silva
Lotus GP’s Aaro Vainio takes first GP3 win in Monte Carlo
After securing pole yesterday, Finnish ace Aaro Vainio went one step better by winning the prestigious Monaco race, the first in the history of the GP3 Series. It was a debut career win in the Series for the Lotus GP driver to make a perfect start to the weekend.
With so much anticipation before the race, 26 eager drivers got their first wheel to wheel action around the famous street circuit as the race got underway in hot and sunny conditions. Vainio made the start and defended P1 but it was Atech CRS GP’s Tamas Pal Kiss who got the better of Ocean Racing Technology’s Kevin Ceccon and snuck into P2 before the first corner.
Conor Daly who had started from P8 on the grid was deemed to have made a jump start and later suffered a drive through penalty. However, after initially moving away at the start, he was unable to getaway and yellow flags were waved as miraculously all the drivers behind the American managed to avoid his Lotus GP car.
After the first lap, the Finn had already built up a 1.170s advantage over Pal Kiss and maintained his pace. With Monaco notorious as a circuit extremely hard to overtake, there were battles throughout the field, which were very intense. David Fumanelli got the jump over his MW Arden team mate Mitch Evans at the start to go P4 and then had to hold off a very determined New Zealander for the remainder of the race. There was also a titanic tussle for P6 between Daniel Abt and Antonio Felix Da Costa (Carlin), with the Portuguese star crawling all over the back of the Lotus GP star in an attempt to find a place to out-manouerve the German.
Ethan Ringel made contact with the barrier at the exit of Sainte Devote, which brought an abrupt end to his race, his Atech CRS GP was cleared under yellow flags. Meanwhile at the front of the pack, Vainio edged out his lead over his Hungarian rival and was over three seconds ahead. Marlon Stockinger (Status Grand Prix) and Tio Ellinas (Marussia Manor Racing) got into a dogfight that was too last until the chequered flag for P8, as did Alex Brundle who was defending the last points position in the top ten from Alice Powell (Status Grand Prix) and his Carlin team mate William Buller who started 15th after an imposed grid penalty from Round 1 in Barcelona.
Pal Kiss continued to try and claw back the advantage Vainio had built up and the duo pulled out a near 8 second margin over Ceccon in P3. The Finn was not going to surrender his lead and produced a lights to flag victory in Monaco to charge to the top of the Drivers Standings. Pal Kiss took P2 and Ceccon produced his best result of his GP3 career with a rostrum finish. Fumanelli maintained P4 to beat his team mate Evans home, ahead of Abt, Felix Da Costa, Stockinger, Ellinas and Brundle.
Vainio now has an 18 point lead over Evans in the Standings with Daly third. Reverse pole for Race 2 goes to Marlon Stockinger and the race will take place tomorrow – Saturday at 17.55 CET.
Cecotto powers to Monaco victory
Venezuelan on top of the world after feature win
Johnny Cecotto dominated his rivals with a seasoned performance to lead from lights to flag and claim a historic victory in this morning’s feature race in Monaco, looking untroubled by Marcus Ericsson and Giedo van der Garde as he claimed his first ever GP2 podium finish on the top step in the fabled principality.
The victory was set up when the lights went out: the Venezuelan made a strong start while fellow front row starter Max Chilton was slow off the line, handing Cecotto an easy run to Ste Devote. Ericsson squeezed by the Englishman for P2, while van der Garde had an open line around the outside to follow the Swede up the hill ahead of Chilton, Luiz Razia, Jolyon Palmer, Davide Valsecchi and Esteban Gutiérrez.
With the tight, twisty street circuit famously difficult to overtake on, the field held station while their teams weighed up pit stop strategies, but the front pair were soon swapping fastest laps as they pulled away together from their rivals. James Calado pitted on lap 11 from P14 to try and leap frog a few cars ahead of him, but the leaders took a much more conservative approach.
Ericsson and van der Garde finally pitted on lap 22, with Cecotto in a lap later: the Venezuelan edged back out ahead of the Swede, and the pair resumed their individual battle for victory, with series leader Valsecchi holding on for 2 more laps to push up to fourth place and clear air as he set the pace in an attempt to claim even more points.
Gutiérrez and Razia had lost out in the pitlane battle and were running 8th and 9th on the road as the race wound down, but they were soon in for more bad luck as they were lapping a backmarker: the Mexican ran too deep at the chicane and bounced over the kerbs and into the wall, breaking his front wing and leaving debris on the track which punctured the Brazilian’s right rear. The pair were straight into the pits and out of the points for the day.
But out in front Cecotto held on against race long pressure from Ericsson to claim his first win in an echo of countryman (and 2010 GP2 Champion) Pastor Maldonado’s fabled Monaco history, while van der Garde crossed the line 5 seconds later to close out the podium.
Valsecchi kept his point score ticking over with a fourth place finish just ahead of Chilton, with Palmer in sixth, Calado taking advantage of a sharp pitstop for seventh while local driver Stéphane Richelmi put himself on pole for tomorrow’s sprint race, with Nathanaël Berthon ninth and Stefano Coletti unable to use his pace for anything more than tenth place and the bonus for fastest lap.
Valsecchi maintains his lead in the series with 141 points, edging away from Razia on 104, while Calado and van der Garde move up to 75 ahead of Chilton on 67 and Gutierrez on 59 points, but all eyes in Monaco were on Johnny Cecotto, who claimed the biggest result of his career with victory in his former home town.