GP2

ROSSI WINS FEATURE RACE TO KEEP TITLE HOPES ALIVE

Alexander Rossi came out victorious in today’s eventful and shortened feature race at the Sochi Autodrom: the American whose goal was to finish ahead of Series leader Stoffel Vandoorne in order to keep his title hopes alive put in a skillful drive to win in spite of a red flag  period and a tricky race strategy in only 15 laps. Frenchman Pierre Gasly split the fighting pair on the podium to take second place.
It all happened at the start: when the lights went out, polesitter Alex Lynn made a perfect getaway to keep the lead. Vandoorne was slow away from the front row and bogged down to fourth as Rossi flew past him and moved up to P2. The American had to defend his position from a charging Arthur Pic at Turn 1 whilst Vandoorne lost another position to Gasly.
There was chaos further down the pack: Artem Markelov went too wide at Turn 2 and touched the wall attempting to re-join the track. Having no control of his machine, he crashed into the barrier collecting Sergio Canamasas and Marlon Stockinger on the way. Jordan King who had made contact earlier with Stockinger at Turn 2 also crashed into the wall a corner later. The safety car came out, but the race was rapidly red flagged as all four men came out of their cars unharmed.
The field returned to the pitlane while the techpro barrier was fixed. But as the daylight decreased, the race distance was reduced to a total of 15 laps instead of 28 – meaning that at the re-start behind the safety car, the drivers had only 12 laps left to observe their mandatory pitstop. Lynn remained in control of the rest of the pack and built a 3s gap to Rossi and Pic whilst Gasly was under pressure from Vandoorne. The Briton from DAMS pitted on Lap 6 for Medium tyres. His teammate did the same one lap later but this time to switch from option to prime. Rossi chose to stop on Lap 8 for Medium tyres and re-joined the track on cold tyres just a hairsbreadth ahead of Lynn who eased his way past the American.
Vandoorne who had been all over Pic, eventually got past him after the Frenchman made a small mistake and went too wide. The Belgian was then into the lead of the race but still had to pit. More drama came from Lynn who up until then looked like a sure bet for the win: the Briton ran too wide at Turn 14 and made contact with the barrier; effectively ending his race, and leaving Rossi as the net race leader.
Vandoorne pitted on lap 12 and re-joined behind the pair of Rossi and Gasly with just three laps to go. Trying to close in on the leaders, the ART driver made two small mistakes, enough to know that the win would not be his today. Still, he pushed hard on the final lap to clock in the best laptime of the day and add the bonus points to his tally.
When the chequered flag dropped, Rossi savoured his third win of the season and breathed a sigh of relief knowing his title hopes were still alive. Gasly who had matched the American’s pace throughout the race had to settle for a strong second place ahead of Vandoorne. Sergey Sirotkin finished fourth from tenth on the grid ahead of Rio Haryanto, Raffaele Marciello, Richie Stanaway, Pic, newcomer Dean Stoneman and Nobuharu Matsushita.
Following the race, half points were issued: Rossi scored 12.5 points whilst Vandoorne added 7.5 points to his tally leaving a gap of 104 points between the pair, and giving the American no option other than to repeat today’s masterclass.

GP3

OCON CLAIMS MAIDEN POLE IN SOCHI

Frenchman Esteban Ocon secured his first pole position in GP3 in a dramatic qualifying session at the Sochi Autodrom. The ART Grand Prix and Mercedes backed driver topped qualifying at various times and won the battle for pole by a mere 0.040’s over Jenzer Motorsport’s Matheo Tuscher. Kevin Ceccon (Arden International) was third whilst Series leader Luca Ghiotto will start seventh.
Following rain overnight, damp conditions greeted the 24 drivers for qualifying for Round 7 of the 2015 GP3 Series in Russia. Carlin’s Jann Mardenborough was the initial pace setter after setting the fastest time on wet Pirelli tyres with the rest of the field on slicks.
Trident’s Ghiotto then headed the timesheet as the track began to dry, with Seb Morris (Status Grand Prix) next to lead the way. Ghiotto was first to lap under the 2 minute mark, with his rookie teammate Michele Beretta an impressive second at the midway point.
Russian star Konstantin Tereshchenko was also catching everyone’s eye as he rose to P2, displacing the Italian and looked on course to take provisional time, but unfortunately he was caught in traffic after posting two purple sectors.
Tuscher climbed to the top spot, before Antonio Fuoco and then Ocon displaced the Swiss driver. Series leader Ghiotto was soon back up the sharp end, lapping in the 1m54’s as the times continued to tumble down as it was clear to  everyone that pole was going to be set at the very end of the session on a drying track.
Ocon retaliated and was back in P1 by six tenths of a second, before Ceccon found some extra pace to briefly hold command of the timesheet. However, the Frenchman looked ominous and wanted to reclaim provisional pole and dipped into the 1m53’s at the chequered flag, with a perfectly timed lap.
Ocon recorded his debut pole in the category ahead of Tuscher, whose P2 on the grid is a career best. Ceccon in third also enjoys his best qualifying of the season ahead of Alex Palou (Campos Racing), Mardenborough, Matthew Parry, Ghiotto, Emil Bernstorff, Fuoco and Morris.
Catch the forty-minute long race at the earlier than usual time of 13:30.