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“Esteban Ocon”

A podium was enough for Ocon to secure the FIA F3 title. © FIA F3 Media.

A podium was enough for Ocon to secure the FIA F3 title. © FIA F3 Media.

There was something poignant about Esteban Ocon, Max Verstappen and Tom Blomqvist all nabbing a victory each at the penultimate FIA European Formula 3 round at Imola this weekend.

The trio have been at the top of the championship for virtually its entire run this year, but it was Ocon who would be crowned champion.

And rightly so.

The French teenager has excelled this season and while Verstappen may be about the grab the headlines as Red Bull’s latest protégé in Formula One, there is little doubt that he and Ocon will have a rivalry that will endure for many years to come.

With Formula Renault 3.5 on the horizon for Ocon, it only remains to see whom he will be driving for in the Renault Word Series category. A couple of rounds with Comtec whetted his appetite, but it is unlikely that they will be his ultimate destination.

Blomqvist too has shun bright, but a lack of funding meaning his future is somewhat less clear.

Soon we will know all their futures and declarations of intent, but first there is the matter of the FIA European F3 finale at Hockenheim next week and then the Macau F3 Grand Prix in November and that will be one stellar battleground for these fabulous talents.

Ocon's Prema Powerteam team boss René Rosin celebrated... © FIA F3 Media.

Ocon’s Prema Powerteam team boss René Rosin celebrated… © FIA F3 Media.

...as did the rest of the Prema Powerteam squad. © FIA F3 Media.

…as did the rest of the Prema Powerteam squad. © FIA F3 Media.

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“FIA F3: Verstappen wins, but Ocon champion”

Ocon is teh 2014 FIA F3 champion. © FIA F3 Media.

Ocon is teh 2014 FIA F3 champion. © FIA F3 Media.

Max Verstappen won the final FIA European F3 race of the weekend at Imola today, but Esteban Ocon’s 3rd place was enough to secure the championship title.

Verstappen started from pole, but a sluggish getaway after nearly stalling on the grid allowed Prema Powerteam’s Antonio Fuoco to slip into the lead, while Ocon fell to 3rd having started on the outside of the front row.

Thereafter it became a race stuttered by safety car periods, as the Alfa Romeo 4C was needed on three separate occasions.
Fuoco bravely held the lead following two restarts, but there was little he could do to stay ahead of the feisty Verstappen when the race went green on lap nine, with the Dutch racer pushing Fuoco to the limits and passing on the approach to Tamburello.

Verstappen led with ease for two laps, until the race was neutralised for a final time on lap eleven when Felix Rosenqvist locked wheels with Jordan King, pitching the Swede hard and backwards into an exposed section of wall at Tamburello.
Rosenqvist was fine, but it would take a further three laps before the race could restart, at which point Verstappen pulled away from the chasing Fuoco, to win by 2.1s in front of the Fuoco’s band of travelling supporters.

Ocon held his nerve to maintain a gap over Nicholas Latifi and Tom Blomqvist – a result that puts him too far ahead of Verstappen and Blomqvist to be caught. Verstappen’s victory puts him back into 2nd in the standings ahead of Blomqvist and into a fight that will be settled next week at Hockenheim.

Latifi jumped from 6th to 4th at the start and maintained that position from there, while Blomqvist could do no better than 5th, although the Carlin racer did spend some time fending off Will Buller after the final green flag.
Buller had a time defending against Jake Dennis and briefly lost the position on lap 11 when Dennis tried for a move into Villeneuve; however Buller forced his Signature machine back ahead.

Dennis would keep 7th, but only just ahead of Lucas Auer, with the Austrian attacking the Englishman having already passed Felix Serralles on the third lap. Serralles continued onward to 9th place, with Gustavo Menezes just one second adrift.
The American Menezes fought a brave race – having started 17th, the van Amersfoort man took five places off the line, before sweeping by Roy Nissany (lap 3) and King (lap 15). Menezes did have a brief battle and position swap with Rosenqvist at the halfway point in the race, prior to the Swede clashing with King.

The two other safety car periods came early on. As the field ran through the exit on Tamburello and on the way to Villeneuve on the opening lap, Ed Jones and King touched, which pitched the latter into Antonio Giovinazzi, shredding Giovinazzi’s right rear tyre and stranding him on the circuit.
The second safety car was called on lap five Sandro Zeller suffered a high speed spin on the entry into Tamburello which briefly pitched his Zeller Racing machine airbourne.
A lap later Tatiana Calderon retired with a broken right front suspension arm.

“FIA F3: Blomqvist takes dominant victory”

Blomqvist took another FIA F3 win at Imola. © FIA F3 Media.

Blomqvist took another FIA F3 win at Imola. © FIA F3 Media.

Carlin’s Tom Blomqvist took a dominant fifth FIA European F3 victory of the season at Imola this morning.

In the distance, Max Verstappen nabbed a last moment 2nd place from Antonio Giovinazzi when the latter lifted off just before the line.

The 20-year-old Blomqvist led from the start with relative ease, making easy work of the gap to the hard working Giovinazzi.

Immediately, the race was in the hands of the Anglo-Kiwi driver, who had built a 2.01s lead after the opening pair of laps – a lead that extended to 3.8s after seven tours, at which point the race was neutralised under the safety car when Alexander Toril spun and stalled on the lead into Acque Minerali.

When the race resumed on lap eleven, so too did Blomqvist’s dominance, with Jagonya Ayam Carlin racer building a lead of 4.26s over the course of the next nine laps.

For Giovinazzi, while not in Blomqvist’s league today, the Italian did deserve the runner-up spot at least, only to be denied at the final possible moment.
Under pressure from Verstappen from lap fifteen onward, Giovinazzi drove a measured race, until a touch a wheelspin exiting the second part of the Rivazza on the final tour dropped the Carlin man back toward Verstappen as they drew toward the flag.
Whereas Verstappen kept his foot on the throttle, Giovinazzi defended hard initially and then lifted off slightly as they approached the line, with the Italian assuming the finish was earlier on the straight.

As the crossed the actual timing beam, Verstappen had edged ahead of Giovinazzi by just 0.019s of-a-second, leaving the Carlin team somewhat dumbstruck on the pitwall.
It had been a stellar drive from Verstappen, who, despite setting the fastest lap in qualifying, was relegated to 11th on the grid following an engine change penalty left over from the Nürburgring round in August.
From the start, Verstappen took one place, before sweeping by Roy Nissany and Lucas Auer during the opening tour. Thereafter the Dutch teenager took Jake Dennis (lap 3), Will Buller (lap 5), Nicholas Latifi (lap 11) and Esteban Ocon (lap 12) before a pitting Antonio Fuoco gifted Verstappen another position.

Championship leader Ocon drove a quiet race to 4th. As he edges close to the title, the Frenchman peddled around near front, but was passed by Giovinazzi on lap three and then by Verstappen later.
Lucas Auer rounded out the top five. The Austrian made hard work it however – having started 9th, Auer made hard and aggressive moves of Dennis, Buller and Latifi to slot into the lead group.
Latifi could do better than 6th ahead of the Dennis and the quiet Felix Serralles, with Felix Rosenqvist (9th) and Gustavo Menezes (10th) rounding out the points finishes.

With only four races left in the season, Ocon continues to lead by a long way and now has an 84 point lead over Blomqvist and a 96 point advantage over Verstappen.
Only 100 points are left on the table.

© FIA F3 Media.

© FIA F3 Media.

“Jolyon Palmer: A champion, but what next?”

Jolyon Palmer took the GP2 Series title in emphatic style at Sochi Autodrom on Saturday, to the delight of his DAMS team and former F1 racer father Jonathan.

For Palmer, this title was suitable reward for a year of hard work, consistency and dedication.

Whereas in previous seasons, Palmer’s form had been patchy, the Englishman pulled the year together to firmly beat chief rival Felipe Nasr.
“We fought for every pole and every feature race win,” said Palmer after the race. “We barely made any mistake. It’s been an absolute dream season and to be Champion at the earliest opportunity for me is the icing on the cake.”

Naturally some will look to this champion and comment that after four years in GP2, he should be at the top by sheer virtue of experience, but that would do some disservice to the Briton, whose work ethic has improved greatly since joining the DAMS team.
Palmer continued: “We tested with DAMS and they were very keen to sign me for the year. We went for that option and straight away, on the first day with the team, I realised that the hunger was there for them as well.”

Irrespective of DAMS’ obvious qualities, Palmer was initially wary, but any fears were quickly set aside by the team’s level of performance. “Going to a new team, you never know how that’s going to pan out. The first day of testing in Abu Dhabi, we topped and from there we never looked back really. We took the first pole in Bahrain and we took a win that weekend as well. I’ve gotten so well with the team. They’ve done a really good job all year. The mechanics, the engineers…
“I think the only mistake all year was Monza qualifying. Even so, that weekend turned out great as well. I love working with the team and together we’ve done a very good job.”

Yet lingering doubts do persist as to Palmer’s ultimate quality. As a driver, he has matured greatly in the past eighteen months, starting with an upturn in form in the second-half of last season and while Palmer rightly deserves his GP2 Series success, it will be interesting to see where the Briton goes next; however Formula One is, quite obviously, high on the agenda.
“I feel ready for it,” says the new champion. “I’m driving at the top of my game right now. I know the tyres thanks to GP2. It is the perfect Series to feed into Formula One: it is the same tyres, the same tracks, the cars are even now a similar speed especially into the corners. I feel absolutely ready for it and I am confident it can happen.”

However it has taken several seasons for the 23-year-old to get to this stage and in that time, his promotion to F1 has not been a subject discussed greatly and has not been part of any junior driver programme.
As the likes of Daniil Kvyat, Kevin Magnussen, Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas have already moved ahead, one wonders if the Formula One paddock has already looked beyond Palmer.
If he is looked over, the DAMS racer will become third consecutive GP2 champion and the fourth since 2008 not to obtain an F1 seat the following season, but Palmer is convinced this title will help his push to the top level. “The first priority was to win GP2 and I was always confident that if I did win GP2 I was going to be in Formula One. Now that’s done and I’m confident I’ll be in Formula One. I’m not saying it is going to be easy, but this title is a big help. We’re going to have to wait for a few weeks and see what happens.”

Palmer’s main rival Felipe Nasr has been rather ineffective at times this season and – this is not a sly remark upon Palmer’s efforts – the Brazilian far too often let his English rival take too many easy points.
Despite holding the position of Williams F1 reserve driver, the former British F3 champion was overlooked – an indication from the famed team that maybe Nasr has not done enough.

Whether the F1 paddock believe Palmer is deserving of a seat is another question and if he does make an appearance, it may prove to be an expensive move for the GP2 Champion.

“FIA F3: Ocon closes in on title”

Ocon took another victory at Imola. © FIA F3

Ocon took another victory at Imola. © FIA F3

Lotus junior driver Esteban Ocon took one step closer to the FIA European Formula 3 Championship crown this morning.

The French teenager took a lights-to-flag victory ahead of Jordan King (Carlin) and Tom Blomqvist (Jagonya Ayam Carlin) at Imola to extend his lead to 97 points over the championship’s new 2nd place man Blomqvist.

With five races remaining, 125 points remain to play for.

Ocon eased away at the start to lead from pole, while fellow front row man Antonio Giovinazzi endured a horror start to fall to 5th, allowing King, Blomqvist and Felix Rosenqvist to skip ahead.

Thereafter the Prema Powerteam racer kept a narrow lead over King throughout, with the gap consistently hovering between 1.2s and 1.8s.

Whereas King struggled to pressure Ocon, Blomqvist could do little about the Englishman ahead.
Late set-up changes to his car meant Blomqvist took time to feel his way into the machine; however as the race aged, the car came toward the Anglo-Kiwi racer, allowing Blomqvist to close in on King, but not enough to make a difference.

Rosenqvist’s topsy-turvy season continued with a drive to 4th. Although initially involved in a fight for position with King, Blomqvist and the attacking Giovinazzi, the Swede drew away from the 5th place, but lost pace with the podium sitters in the process.

Lucas Auer assumed 6th place, after he aggressively took Jake Dennis on lap 14. On the backfoot from a clash with Max Verstappen several laps earlier, Dennis could do little about the charging Austrian when their battle eventually came to blows.
Auer also fought with an aggressive Verstappen on the sixth lap, when the Dutch teenager barged his way past Auer’s Mücke machine in the Rivazza, following the latter’s attempt to intimidate Verstappen toward the back end of the circuit.

Dennis held a solid 7th over the Indy Lights-bound Felix Serralles (8th) and the ever more consistent Tatiana Calderon (9th), while Sean Gelael rounded out the points scoring finishers.

Verstappen was in the wars for much of the race. Beyond his clashes with Auer and Dennis, the Dutch teenager was crudely punted off by Antonio Fuoco on lap 15 in the Rivazza, only after losing two places with an unrealistic move in Villeneuve, that only served to push Verstappen into the gravel.
He then suffered another off when he made an ill-advised attempt on Roy Nissany around the outside of Tamburello toward the end of the race.

The race was interrupted by a brief safety car period, when on the opening lap Santino Ferrucci and Martin Cao collided, which also took out William Buller.

Blomqvist is now 2nd in points. © FIA F3 Media.

Blomqvist is now 2nd in points. © FIA F3 Media.

“Reflection”

Jules Bianchi scored points for Marussia in Monaco this year. © Marussia F1 Team.

Jules Bianchi scored points for Marussia in Monaco this year. © Marussia F1 Team.

Hindsight and reflection can be both beautiful and cruel things, but it can do much to lend an eye to solutions, while also exposing so many impracticalities.

Indeed hindsight and reflection have been high on the agenda this week in Formula One. Following Marussia driver Jules Bianchi’s horror shunt at the end of the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday, there inevitable noises demanding immediate action, which was to be expected.

Realistically however, quick, easy and ill-thought solutions are not the way forward, nor have they ever been. If one is expected immediate alteration in the regulations, then they may be a touch disappointed.

At the moment the FIA Institute are involved in the investigation and not only has footage been pooled from outboard, onboard and fan-shot {note 1}, but numerous pictures of the scene were collated from photographers at the scene.
The FIA also have possession of the car’s “black box”, from which information such as speed, g-force measurements and other key indicators will have been recorded. A statement was taken from Adrian Sutil; however I am unsure as to whether the marshals present were also interviewed following the session.

In yesterday’s Driver Press Conference, when asked whether drivers could contribute to help F1 to learn the lessons of what happened last Sunday, reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel said: “I think it’s very difficult right now to give you the golden answer; […] I think for now we need to first of all digest what happened and then make the right conclusions. I think it would be wrong only a couple of days after, with all the events going on, with all the happenings we’ve had since Sunday, to come out with something that hasn’t been thought through.”

Ferrari pilot Fernando Alonso added: “There is an investigation going on. We don’t have all the details. We don’t have all the information necessary to suggest any change. So we let the people work and whatever idea, whatever things come from the drivers’ point of view we will share it.”
Some may consider their answers “safe”, but realistically they are both correct, for rash action in the name of safety may leave the competitors and trackside personnel open to other risks.

This week there has been some discussion as to whether recovery vehicles can be modified to “deflect” an out of control machine, but like everything else, this requires time to be investigated.
Other elements such as race start times have also come into focus, with FOM (Formula One Management) dictating in recent seasons that Grand Prix in Japan, Australia and Malaysia start later in the afternoon local time, in order to accommodate European television schedules.

Following the investigation, there may be a reappraisal of safety car and yellow flag procedures in light of this incident – and the timing for that may be right. Although certain aspects of safety car regulations have altered through the years, they have largely remained unchanged through an era where the safety regulations of cars and circuits have changed beyond recognition.
Yesterday, Force India’s Sergio Perez commented that if “there is a tractor coming out to pick up the car we need a safety car no matter what conditions,” which is a rather reasonable assumption, but one wonders if a middle ground can be found.

Several years ago, Creventic – organisers of the 24 Hour Series – pioneered a strategy called “Code 60” (alternatively “Code Purple”), whereby races are neutralised “in the event of an accident or other safety issue, without having to put a safety car on circuit.”
The Code 60 was so named because the regulation requires drivers to stick to a speed limit of 60kph; while track workers clear whatever malady they are presented with.
It has since been adopted by the ACO for the 24 Hours of Le Mans; however the French special uses it in a slightly different manner. Under the banner of “Slow Zone”, localised areas of a circuit can be kept at a strict speed limit (80kph in the case of Le Mans), while corner workers are operating.

Whether a Slow Zone concept could be applied to Formula One is something the regulators would need to work out. Like any other potential solution or alteration, this is not as simple as it sounds.
A Slow Zone would require a high enough speed limit to help keep tyre pressures high, but also low enough to make the environment as safe as possible, while deceleration zones might require additional analysis to accommodate individual circuits and corners.

As always, thoughts are with Bianchi, his family, friends and colleagues.

For now, the investigation continues. Let it do so.

{note 1}
As an aside, claims of the FIA’s attempts to avoid culpability, because FOM are sending takedown notices pretty much ignores the fact that FOM always send out takedown notices for everything F1 (from 1981-onward). It’s their job.

“The Silence of it all”

Jules Bianchi scored points for Marussia in Monaco this year. © Marussia F1 Team.

Jules Bianchi scored points for Marussia in Monaco this year. © Marussia F1 Team.

Mercedes racer Lewis Hamilton may have won this morning’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, but the accident suffered by the Marussia of Jules Bianchi on lap 43 prior to Dunlop Curve rendered that mute.

Dampened celebrations – if they could be called celebrations – followed, as Hamilton with runner-up Nico Rosberg and 3rd place man Sebastian Vettel solemnly went through the motions upon a brightly lit stage.

As news spread, so did the strain upon the faces of those underneath the podium – the reality of the situation etched in line and brow.

The seriousness of Bianchi’s predicament was not immediately known; such was the positioning of the Adrian Sutil’s already stricken Sauber and location of the camera crew.
According reports from the on site media, Bianchi suffered a serious head injury when he went off track and collided with a tractor. Thereafter he was transferred to Mie General Hospital not far from the circuit, but has since come out of surgery and is breathing on his own.
Throughout his extraction, the Frenchman was said to have remained unconscious.

The reappearance of the red flag was a relief – it had already been an exhausting race by this point, but as more solid information began to filter through from the scene, a lifetime caught up with Formula One.

Such moments make a mockery of sport’s self importance, bringing to the fore the triviality of the pursuits of fast men in fast machines – these matters hold little standing of import now and amidst all of the chatter and debate, what stands out the most is the silence of it all.
Naturally there will be analysis; there will be accusations; there will theories; there may be answers, but for the moment, there is just waiting.

At this point, my only thoughts are with Jules Bianchi, his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.

“Reprieve for Carlos Sainz Jr?”

Carlos Sainz Jr. © Renault Sport Media (Antonin Grenier / DPPI)

Carlos Sainz Jr. © Renault Sport Media (Antonin Grenier / DPPI)

Saturday morning’s surprise move by Red Bull to announce Sebastian Vettel’s departure, as well as the promotion of Daniil Kvyat to the “first team” may have closed doors for one famous Spaniard.

But Vettel’s defection to Ferrari – all but shutting out Fernando Alonso – may also have saved the Formula One career of another Spaniard, who is tantalisingly close to tasting his own success in Formula Renault 3.5 Series.

At the Hungaroring a few weeks ago, Carlos Sainz Jr was far from happy. Despite attempts to disguise feelings, there was no doubt the 20-year-old was an extremely disappointed young man, having only weeks beforehand being overlooked by Red Bull for the Toro Rosso seat in favour of Formula 3 wunderkind Max Verstappen.

While he held no malice toward Verstappen, Sainz Jr gave the impression of a young man driving hard, only to be faced down by a hefty brick wall in the middle of a fast straight. That the Hungarian round ended up becoming one of the most disappointing of the season, temporarily allowing Roberto Merhi back into the FR3.5 title hunt merely added to the weight on Sainz Jr’s shoulders.

Often when speaking, his eyes were fixed downward, with deep, heavy breathes shuffling between gaps, serving merely to break sentences.
With Merhi leaning, there was only conceivable answer and two victories at the next round at Paul Ricard brightened his resolve and improved Sainz Jr’s position considerably. Yet with a 44-point lead over Merhi and only 50 on the table, Sainz Jr’s dream remained a long distance away, unless a seat at Caterham emerged.

But when Vettel informed the Red Bull team on Friday that he was moving to Ferrari, one of Sainz Jr’s major roadblocks disappeared. With Toro Rosso member Jean-Éric Vergne denied a promotion once, it was always highly unlikely that he would be receive another opportunity to join the Red Bull top team.
So it transpired that young Russian – and Sainz Jr’s former GP3 Series teammate – Daniil Kvyat has been promoted to Red Bull in place of Vettel, opening up a position for Sainz Jr at Toro Rosso.

Kvyat’s move is a highly logical from Red Bull’s point of view; however circumstances have meant the team’s hand has been played earlier than they would have originally wished.
Had Vettel hung around until the end of 2015 before moving to Ferrari – a timeframe widely accepted as the most likely – it would have at least given Kvyat an additional year’s experience, before the move up; however Vettel’s impending has inadvertently accelerated Red Bull’s entire programme.

Should he now get the call to Toro Rosso for 2015, Sainz Jr will slot in alongside Verstappen. There are other candidates in the Red Bull programme of course, but while Pierre Gasly has been impressive in his first season of FR3.5, the French teenager has not yet won a single race, despite claiming eight podiums. There is no doubt that while eight podiums is a fantastic achievement, questions relating to Gasly’s inability to turn any of those eight into a win will linger in the Red Bull offices.
Alex Lynn meanwhile is confidently leading the GP3 Series this year with Carlin, but there are no signs at this point that he will be promoted any further than FR3.5 or GP2 level.

Bringing former Red Bull junior and current BMW Team MTEK DTM racer António Félix da Costa back into the fold would be a shot from leftfield – probably too far leftfield for Red Bull to consider and when one considers da Costa has already been overlooked in favour of Kvyat, why would they look to the Portuguese driver again?
Realistically once a driver is dispatched from the junior team, Red Bull rarely look back and for a good reason. Some call that cold; for Red Bull, they are in the business of winning.

At the beginning of this year, Red Bull reduced the size of their junior driver programme, with the aim of managing a smaller team, in order to focus their efforts in a far more efficient way.
Criticism had been laid at the door of the programme, with many in the motorsport industry claiming that it was throwing away talent too readily. Admittedly from the outside, it gave the impression of a programme that was becoming unwieldy and difficult to manage, with some junior programme contracts lasting only as long as eight months to one year before being dropped altogether.

In addition, Sainz Jr confirmed to me earlier this year that his biggest relief was not just that he had joined with the successful DAMS team, but rather he had just FR3.5 to concentrate on, as opposed to competing in two series’ simultaneously as he had in previous years. For once, his own focus was completely undisturbed – until Verstappen was awarded the 2015 Toro Rosso seat just prior to the Belgian Grand Prix.

But now, that door may have creaked open once again. Nothing else has changed – Red Bull still demand success and having already broken the record for most race wins in a single FR3.5 season, at Jerez in two weeks time Sainz Jr will be just one 6th place finish away from becoming the first Red Bull junior to win the World Series by Renault.

In the eyes of this writer, Red Bull would be mad not to promote Sainz Jr to the Toro Rosso seat for the 2015 Formula One season.

Sainz Jr took two key wins at Paul Ricard. © Renault Sport Media (Photo Vincent Curutchet / DPPI)

Sainz Jr took two key wins at Paul Ricard. © Renault Sport Media (Photo Vincent Curutchet / DPPI)

“Perc Fermé, Episode 8 with Luke Smith (RichlandF1.com and NBC Sports)”

The Parc Fermé Podcast returns for the first time in almost two years with an edition that is all about Formula One.

For episode 8, I’ll be chatting to one of the category’s young, modern and up-and-coming journalists, Luke Smith.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Luke and his work, Luke is the creator, owner and editor of one of Formula One’s newer websites in recent years RichlandF1.com.

Luke is also a regular news and feature contributor for NBC Sport’s Formula One web portal – motorsportstalk.nbc.com.

In a chat recorded earlier this week, Luke and I will muse over the current F1 season, what’s happening at Mercedes and Red Bull, the driver market and all things tricky at the lower end of the championship.

“GP3 Series: Rising star Morris confirms three day session with Status GP”

Seb Morris (right) celebrates with Aurélien Panis (left). © Renault Sport Media.

Seb Morris (right) celebrates with Aurélien Panis (left). © Renault Sport Media.

Rising British racer Seb Morris has confirmed that he will make his GP3 Series test debut with Status Grand Prix following the final round at Abu Dhabi next month.

Morris, who finished 3rd in this year’s Formula Renault 2.0 NEC category this year, will step up to the GP2 feeder category for the three-day session at the Yas Marina circuit from November 27th-29th.

The 18-year-old from Wrexham is eyeing up a potential move to GP3, as he continues to shape a path up the motorsport ladder, and he wasted little time in announcing his intentions. “Now that my 2014 race season is over, our focus has immediately turned to on and off track preparations for 2015 and we are delighted to be going to Abu Dhabi with Status,” said the bouyant teenager.
He added: “The challenge of learning to drive the more complex and powerful GP3 car is one I am relishing and I aim to make a good impression.”

Following his karting days, Morris did not take the most typical route into car racing, when the then 14-year-old took to the Ginetta Junior Championship, taking the Winter Series in 2010, before claiming the overall title in 2011.
From there, Morris finally moved into Formula Renault with Fortec in 2012, taking the Winter Series crown in early that year and then 3rd overall in the BARC Championship that same year.

A switch to the BRDC Formula 4 Championship with Hillspeed followed in 2013, rewarding Morris with the runner-up position, before he returned to Formula Renault this year – this time the 2.0 NEC – again with Fortec where he claimed his 3rd overall result.

Morris’ progress in recent seasons was more than enough to interest Status GP team principal, Teddy Yip Jr. “Status has been keeping a close eye on his progress this year and, alongside his wins, his three pole positions have clearly demonstrated real speed.”
According to Yip Jr, Status are already outlining Morris’ programme for the session. “Over the three test days he will have chance to learn GP3’s Pirelli P Zero tyre, the car and the track, and then really go about setting some impressive times.”

Status GP are in the midst of a resurgence. After an awful 2013 season, where the team were bottom of the table in the Teams’ Championship, Status have bounced back with Richie Stanaway and Nick Yelloly, with the former currently 2nd in the championship having taken two wins and three podiums. Yelloly is 6th in the standings with three podiums.
Alfonso Celis Jr also drives for the team.

Meanwhile Morris is also set to undergo some intense preparations prior to the test, which include heat acclimatisation, alongside his usual fitness routines and simulator sessions. For the teenager, the goal is clear. “We aim to leave no stone unturned in maximising this opportunity and I can’t wait to get started.”

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