GP3 Series 2011

Chad Stewarthill

Champion Elect
Hi, this is my first article even though I‘ve been on this forum about a year! Sorry it’s quite a lengthy one; I tried condensing it, and this is the best I could do.

I have to admit that I didn’t really notice this series when it was introduced in 2010 as a precursor to GP2 (perhaps due to a lack of coverage?). But this year a young British driver whose career progress I have been following with interest (you may guess who as you read on) has joined the grid of 30 cars.
The series supports the European Formula 1 Calendar from Istanbul to Monza, except Monaco due to space restrictions.
Below is a run-down of the main rules, points system, cars and some of the drivers to watch (not exhaustive by any means, mainly the Brits and some others who have looked good in pre-season testing - listed in driver number order, not my preference).
For a full driver/team list, calendar and other information visit the official website:
The first race is scheduled for 5:20pm next Saturday, 7th May as part of the Turkish Grand Prix weekend. The only television coverage, as far as I can see, is a highlights show on Motors TV if you are lucky enough to have that (I’m not).

Rules & Regulations
Two races per event with two 30 min practice sessions, one 30 min qualifying session to determine the grid for race 1. Race distance set prior to each event, chequered flag shown to leader if scheduled laps not completed after 30 minutes. Race 2 grid determined by finishing order of race 1, but with top eight reversed. No mandatory pit stops, no re-fuelling permitted during race.

Two points for race 1 pole position. Race 1 points for top eight finishers: 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Race 2 points for top six finishers: 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. One point for driver setting fastest lap in each race (providing they finish in top 10, having started from the grid).

Chassis by Dallara with carbon/aluminium honeycomb sandwich survival cell, adjustable front and rear wings, Brembo steel brakes. Overall weight with driver: 630kg
Renault 2.0l 4 cylinder turbocharged engine – 280HP. One engine rebuild per year only. 6 speed Hewland sequential gearbox, paddle shift operated. Two foot pedals, hand clutch.
Pirelli control tyres (similar mandate to F1 to provide tyres with degrading performance).

Selected Drivers & Teams to Watch

#2 Valtteri Bottas – Lotus ART
In 2008, Finnish driver Bottas entered the 2007 Formula Renault UK Winter Series, winning three out of the four races, but could not claim the title as he did not hold a MSA licence. However, in 2008 he went on to win both the Formula Renault Eurocup and the Formula Renault Northern European Cup. Valtteri joined ART in 2009 to compete in the F3 Euroseries. He failed to win a race, but set two pole positions on the way to 3rd place in the championship. He again finished 3rd in the 2010 Euroseries and won the Masters of Formula 3 title in both 2009 and 2010.

#3 James Calado – Lotus ART
Worcester born James gained extensive experience in karting, beginning as a cadet aged 8. Moving into single seaters, he became 2008 Formula Renault 2.0 UK Winter Series champion, was runner up in the 2009 Formula Renault Euro Cup championship and 2010 British F3 Vice-Champion.

The ART Grand Prix GP2 team was founded in France in 2005 by Frederic Vasseur (principal of ASM Formule 3) and Nicolas (son of FIA president Jean) Todt. The team won the championship in 2005 with Nico Rosberg, 2006 with Lewis Hamilton and 2009 with Nico Hulkenberg.
In June 2010 ART lodged a bid to become a F1 team, but withdrew the bid in early July that year, citing ‘Unfavourable economic conditions’.
They launched a GP3 team and took the inaugural title in 2010 with Esteban Guttiérrez at the wheel. Towards the end of 2010 ART entered into an agreement with Group Lotus, to become Lotus ART.

#4 Alexander Sims – Status Grand Prix
I first saw a young Lewis Hamilton a number of years ago now, in a ‘Champions of the Future’ junior kart race at Rye House. I saw then that he had something special, and knew that he would make it to the top. The next closest thing I saw to him, a year or two later, was Alex Sims whom I first saw in another junior karting event at Kimbolton. While he hasn’t quite gone on to set the motor racing world alight in the same way that Lewis did, he has nevertheless made steady and impressive progress through British Formula Renault and the Formula 3 Euroseries. He won the Mclaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year award for 2008. Alex has been consistently near the top of the time sheets in GP3 pre-season testing this year, with the fastest time on the first day of the opening test at Paul Ricard and 2nd fastest on the last day of the final test at Barcelona.

#5 Antonio Felix da Costa – Status Grand Prix
Antonio, from Portugal, won the 2006 ICA-J karting championship and competed in Formula Renault 2.0 NEC, finishing 2nd in 2008 and becoming champion in 2009, when he also finished 3rd in the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup. Performed well in 2011 GP3 pre-season testing, being the fastest on day one at Barcelona.

Status Grand Prix are the only Irish team in the GP3 series. They were originally formed in 2006 to run Team Ireland in the A1GP series and in 2009 they became champions. The team competed in GP3 in its inaugural year of 2010 and finished in 2nd place in both drivers’ and team championships.

#28 Lewis Williamson – MW Arden
Lewis, from Dundee, served a long stint in karting from 1998 to 2007. He competed in the 2008 British Formula Renault 2.0 winter Cup, finishing 6th and went on to finish 10th in the following year’s full Formula Renault 2.0 season. His best result was in 2010, when he achieved 5 race wins on the way to finishing runner-up to Tom Blomqvist by just 6 points.

MW Arden is a collaboration formed in 2010 between Arden International, founded by Christian Horner of Red bull fame as a F3000 then GP2 team, and Mark Webber to form a GP3 team of which Mark is joint team principal with Christian. The team finished 9th in the 2010 GP3 season.

#30 Michael Christensen - RSC Mücke Motorsport
Michael - a Dane, but no relation to multi Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen - raced in the Formula BMW Europe series in 2008 and 2009 (the latter season for Mücke Motorsport), finishing 6th and 4th. Drove for the Arden GP3 team in the 2010 championship, finishing 31st. Michael returns to Mücke for 2011 and has been another front-runner in pre-season testing, setting the fastest time on day two of the Barcelona test.

#31 Nigel Melker - RSC Mücke Motorsport
Dutchman Nigel served his racing apprenticeship by winning several karting championships across Europe between 2002 and 2005. He went on to compete in the Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup in 2008 and 2009, finishing 12th and 18th respectively. Competed in GP3 in 2010 with Mücke Motorsport, setting two pole positions on the way to finishing 23rd out of 37.
Set fastest time on day 3 of final 2011 pre-season test at Barcelona.

Mücke Motorsport was founded in Germany in 1998 by Peter Mücke, to run his son Stefan in the German Formula BMW ADAC series, in which they were champions. They won again in 2004 with a young Sebastien Vettel. In 2003 the team also moved into the Formula 3 Euroseries, where Christian Klien was runner up. The team expanded further in 2005, running a Mercedes DTM entry with Ralf Schumacher joining as a driver in 2009. Ralf entered into partnership with Mücke to form RSC Mücke Motorsport for the 2010 GP3 series, in which the team finished 10th overall.
At last!
One series which is at least shown on a channel I do have, even if it is just highlights.

Cheers Chad, I'll make a point of adding this to my planner :thumbsup:
I'll be watching the series closely this season, as I can see it live on TV and there are three Finns competing. Last years races were usually quite chaotic and exciting.

Bottas to the championship! :thumbsup:
In qualifying this morning, Tom Dillmann took pole with a late run to pip Alexander Sims by 3 hundreths of a second. The top eight are separated by a little over a quarter of a second, so it looks like an interesting race in prospect.

Here are the top eight on the Race 1 grid, which starts at 5:20pm today:
1 Tom Dillmann - Carlin
2 Alexander Sims – Status Grand Prix
3 Lewis Williamson – MW Arden
4 Andrea Caldarelli – Tech 1 Racing
5 Nigel Melker – RSC Mücke Motorsport
6 Valtteri Bottas - Lotus ART
7 James Calado – Lotus ART
8 Michael Christensen – RSC Mücke Motorsport
Something of a disaster for the two Brits at the front of the grid.

Alex Sims was adjudged to have left the confines of the track after making a small error at the turn 9/10 chicane during his fastest lap, going off through the second part of it. That lap time was deleted, which with the closeness of the grid put him back to 12th (seems a bit harsh, given the number of F1 drivers who have put all four wheels off the track this season during races without any penalty, and as the driver himself thought the excursion actually cost him pole rather than gave any advantage).

Lewis Williamson was also given two 3 place grid penalties for separate incidences of crossing the white line at the pit exit (rather careless that).

The race itself was won by Nigel Melker, who went from 5th to 1st place by the end of the first lap and stayed there, chased but never caught by Caldarelli and pole man Dillmann, who had bogged down off the start.

The silver lining for Sims was that he managed to get back to finish 8th, which with the reverse grid rules should put him on pole position for race 2 on Sunday morning.

No such luck for Williamson, for whom things went from bad to worse. He had an early spin which put him down the field. Midway through the race, battling with Leonardo Cordeiro, the pair touched wheels which spun both drivers off the track and out of the race. Williamson’s car rolled as he hit the gravel, bringing out the Safety Car.
Dat's ma boy! (not literally, of course)

Alex Sims took a dominant win from pole in race 2. Nigel Melker, winner of race 1, also looks strong, coming from eighth on the grid to finish on the podium in third place behind his RSC Mucke teammate Michael Christensen. Sim's Status Grand Prix teammate da Costa was fourth.
Several of Melker's overtakes were made at turn 12, where he was able to hang on and pass people on the outside, giving him the inside line into turn 13. Something to watch for in the F1 race perhaps?
I finally got a chance to watch Race 1 and thoroughly enjoyed it. That Mucke Motorsport car is a bit of a Brawn look-alike isn't it?

Lewis Williamson ended his race upside-down in the gravel trap after a near replay of the incident between Vettel and Webber last year. This time though, it was Williamson moving across the track from the outside that seemed to be the initiation of contact.

Rio Haryanto wore clean through his Pirelli's. At one time he had a train of about 10 cars behind him, and by the time 8 of them had gone through, the P-Zero was completely out of shape, rather deflated, and Rio was forced to retire.

No doubt the Pirelli's will play a part in this Championship as well.
Firstly, impressive article Chad, one of the best I've read in quite a while. Certainly detailed mate and made for good reading away from the F1 norm. Haven't got access to it, (televised coverage). but I'll go and have a little delve into it now via web. I'm a bit late commenting, lol, but I've been browsing over a good few of them over the last week Chad, and taking a breather from F1 discussions for a bit. Need to from time to time eh
Good stuff
:embarrassed:Thanks for the compliment Stevi, I was afraid it was a bit longwinded and might put people off.

I'm afraid I don't have access to Motors TV either, but I think they only show a half-hour highlights show anyway.
It's been quite a wait for the next event, what with Monaco ruled out on space grounds and the next race being outside Europe; Valencia's the next round, then Silverstone where I'll be watching them live, woohoo!
A quick update:
It seems like ages since the last race at Turkey. Things are finally about to resume now that the F1 tour is back in Europe at Valencia next weekend.
Meanwhile, at the nearby Circuit Ricardo Tormo, this Thursday and Friday saw a mid-season GP3 test. Fastest time on both days was set by Alexander Sims, with Indonesian Rio Haryanto and championship leader Nigel Melker also doing well.
I turned Eurosport 2 on to check when the GP2 race started (it's at 9.30), only to find that they were showing the GP3 race live! I didn't even know they were covering the series; they certainly weren't planning to at the start of the season, as far as I know.

Anyway, I just caught the last four or five laps of race 2 which was a good one for the Brits with James Calado getting his first win of the series, Alex Sims around 4 seconds behind in 2nd and Lewis Williamson in about 6th (I think, as he was right behind Conor Daly who made a mess of trying to pass Gabby Chaves on the last corner of the last lap, possibly landing himself with a post-race penalty).
Adrian Quaife-Hobbs was well up too, and he had an even better race 1 on Saturday, winning that one from polesitter Williamson and New Zealander Mitch Evans. Sims had been given a 10 place grid penalty for that race for colliding with Chaves in qualifying. He therefore started in 16th place, was in 11th by the end of lap one and came through the field to finish 6th just ahead of the two Lotus ART drivers Valtteri Bottas and Calado, setting up a 3rd place grid slot for race 2 under the reverse grid rules.

A bad weekend for previous championship leader Nigel Melker. He retired on lap eight of race 1, being overtaken by one point in the standings by Evans, and finished 19th in race 2, out of the points. Evans will I believe still be leading, with Calado and Sims in a tie for 4th (if Calado has the extra point for fastest lap in race 2, which the commentators were unsure about).
The Silverstone GP3 driver of the weekend for me was Alexander Sims.

In race 1, late on saturday afternoon, he was in 5th place on the grid. As the cars prepared to set off on the formation lap it started to rain. 11 cars gambled on changing to wet tyres, the highest placed of which was Nico Muller in 6th. During the formation lap the rain intensified to the point where all those on slicks had to pit for wets, leaving a grid of 11 cars headed by Muller, with the rest starting from the pit lane. Sims, effectively now starting in 12th place, drove a storming wet race to finish 2nd.

In race 2, starting in 7th due to the reverse grid rules for the top eight race 1 finishers, he again came through the field, including two superb late braking moves right in front of us into the left hander at Vale, to finish 3rd.
With those two performances he now leads the GP3 points table.

A special mention too for Lewis Williamson, who gained his first victory in race 2 in authoritative style. He made a poor start from 2nd on the grid, going into Abbey in 4th. But he recovered superbly to take the lead by Brooklands. That lead was never relinquished and Williamson won by 5 seconds from Dean Smith and Sims, giving an all-British podium. A podium which also consisted of the three most recent winners of the Mclaren Autosport BRDC Award for young drivers.

James Calado had two unspectacular but steady races finishing 4th and 5th. Having been given a ten place race 2 grid penalty for not slowing under a yellow flag in free practice, the penalty was successfully challenged as he and his team were able demonstrate that on the previous laps his times through the yellow flag sector were not representative, due to a handling problem with the car following some damage. The penalty was rescinded, Calado hearing the news 30 seconds before the start of qualifying when he then set the second fastest time.

Adrian Quaife-Hobbs had a good race 1 finishing 4th, but did not fare so well in race 2 where he could only manage 15th.
Callum Macleod, the dominant 2007 British FFord champion, is stepping up to GP3 this weekend, so I'll be interested to see how he gets on.
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