For the first time since last November, the GP3 paddock yesterday convened for their first pre-season test at the Circuit Paul Ricard.
Admittedly, the runners would probably have appreciated finer weather, but regardless as the field took to circuit, the southern French track was damp and cool. The sly conditions were not enough to dampen the spirits of the collected drivers and despite a tentative start, many runners started clocking laps quickly.
Briton’s Alexander Sims was first to hit paydirt as the Status Grand Prix driver topped the morning with a quickest lap of 1:21.827 in the dying moments of the session. Track conditions remained difficult and none were capable of overtaking Sims’ time; however several did come close.
Indeed it was Sims’ Status GP teammate, Antonio Felix da Costa that came closest. The Portuguese native concluded a 34 lap early run, with a best lap that fell 0.086 shy of Sims.
Gabby Chaves was the first non-Status GP car on the timesheet, but following his 49 lap stint, the Addax driver finished a quarter-of-a-second off the ultimate pace. Next up was MW Arden’s Formula Renault graduate, Lewis Williamson, who took 4th after a half-century of laps, one-tenth ahead of GP3 “veteran” Miki Monras.
Another ex-Formula Renault driver, Tamas P’al Kiss claimed 6th spot with a best lap of 1:22.488 in his Tech-1 Racing machine – the Hungarian was the last to be within one second of Sims’ pace.
Adrian Quaife-Hobbs was 7th in his Manor racing Dallara, nudging ahead of Ivan Lukashevich (8th, Status GP), Tom Dillmann (9th Carlin) and Vittorio Ghirelli (10th, Carlin). Reigning Star Mazda Champion, Conor Daly just missed out on the top-ten by 0.098 of-a-second, but the Irish-American kept himself busy with a 40 lap turn before breaking off for lunch.
Unfortunately, while the rain held station during the break, it could no longer do so upon the afternoon. With trepidation, the clouds gathered ahead, grey and threatening, before turning their contents onto the circuit below.
Several cars got in times before sense dictated that this was no longer a session for slick tyres; however the Lotus-ART of James Calado managed one relatively quick lap, before even his times began to sink.
A number of other drivers decided to use the afternoon as a wet weather test, pushing both the Pirelli tyres and the extremes of their talents, while a few others chose to stay put with their engineers and discuss what they had learned in the morning.
Running in damp conditions can indeed be very trying, especially during testing, simply due to the lack of stability the constantly changing conditions afford. For example, Miki Monras – a top-five pacesetter in the morning – took the afternoon’s bottom slot, some 14.6 seconds shy of Calado’s quickest turn.
For the record, Lukashevich secured 2nd on the timing sheets after a 30 lap run, albeit 1.1 seconds slower than Calado, with Williamson (3rd, 18 laps), Quaife-Hobbs (4th, 33 laps) and Dillmann (5th, 35 laps)
Conor Daly was the busiest runner of the afternoon, completing a 45 lap session on the way to 6th fastest. Daly headed off Williams Formula 1 junior driver Valtteri Bottas by a mere 0.007 of-a-second, with da Costa (8th) and Sims (9th) close by. Nigel Melker clocked 41 laps on his way to 10th for RSC Mücke Motorsport – he, like everyone else, will be looking for improvements as the test continues.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Alexander Sims Status 1m21.827s 2. Antonio Felix da Costa Status 1m21.913s + 0.086s 3. Gabby Chaves Addax 1m22.067s + 0.240s 4. Lewis Williamson MW Arden 1m22.221s + 0.394s 5. Miki Monras Addax 1m22.375s + 0.548s 6. Tamas Pal Kiss Tech 1 1m22.488s + 0.661s 7. Adrian Quaife-Hobbs Manor 1m22.870s + 1.043s 8. Ivan Lukashevich Status 1m22.931s + 1.104s 9. Tom Dillmann Carlin 1m23.034s + 1.207s 10. Vittorio Ghirelli Jenzer 1m23.180s + 1.353s 11. Conor Daly Carlin 1m23.278s + 1.451s 12. Daniel Morad Addax 1m23.668s + 1.841s 13. Marlon Stockinger Atech CRS 1m23.993s + 2.166s 14. Kataro Sakurai Carlin 1m24.959s + 3.132s 15. Zoel Amberg Atech CRS 1m25.017s + 3.190s 16. Nick Yelloly Atech CRS 1m26.584s + 4.757s 17. Valtteri Bottas ART 1m27.312s + 5.485s 18. James Calado ART 1m27.779s + 5.952s 19. Aaro Vainio Tech 1 1m27.868s + 6.041s 20. Nigel Melker RSC Mucke 1m28.207s + 6.380s 21. Michael Christensen RSC Mucke 1m28.299s + 6.472s 22. Simon Trummer MW Arden 1m28.363s + 6.536s 23. Rio Haryanto Manor 1m28.520s + 6.693s 24. Maxim Zimin Jenzer 1m28.830s + 7.003s 25. Doru Sechelariu Tech 1 1m29.150s + 7.323s 26. Matias Laine Manor 1m31.104s + 9.277s 27. Nico Muller Jenzer 1m31.823s + 9.996s 28. Willi Steindl RSC Mucke 1m32.335s + 10.508s 29. Pedro Nunes ART 1m33.284s + 11.457s 30. Mitch Evans MW Arden 1m33.645s + 11.818s
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. James Calado ART 1m24.627s 2. Ivan Lukashevich Status 1m25.795s + 1.168s 3. Lewis Williamson MW Arden 1m25.798s + 1.171s 4. Adrian Quaife-Hobbs Manor 1m25.966s + 1.339s 5. Tom Dillmann Carlin 1m26.024s + 1.397s 6. Conor Daly Carlin 1m26.085s + 1.458s 7. Valtteri Bottas ART 1m26.092s + 1.465s 8. Antonio Felix da Costa Status 1m26.109s + 1.482s 9. Alexander Sims Status 1m26.198s + 1.571s 10. Nigel Melker RSC Mucke 1m26.567s + 1.940s 11. Daniel Morad Addax 1m26.632s + 2.005s 12. Nick Yelloly Atech CRS 1m26.794s + 2.167s 13. Maxim Zimin Jenzer 1m26.895s + 2.268s 14. Vittorio Ghirelli Jenzer 1m27.349s + 2.722s 15. Nico Müller Jenzer 1m27.479s + 2.852s 16. Michael Christensen RSC Mucke 1m27.679s + 3.052s 17. Marlon Stockinger Atech CRS 1m27.994s + 3.367s 18. Zoel Amberg Atech CRS 1m28.623s + 3.996s 19. Tamas Pal Kiss Tech 1 1m29.390s + 4.763s 20. Kataro Sakurai Carlin 1m29.923s + 5.296s 21. Matias Laine Manor 1m34.554s + 9.927s 22. Rio Haryanto Manor 1m35.164s + 10.537s 23. Willi Steindl RSC Mucke 1m35.203s + 10.576s 24. Mitch Evans MW Arden 1m37.480s + 12.853s 25. Gabby Chaves Addax 1m38.034s + 13.407s 26. Doru Sechelariu Tech 1 1m38.483s + 13.856s 27. Aaro Vainio Tech 1 1m38.545s + 13.918s 28. Pedro Nunes ART 1m38.654s + 14.027s 29. Simon Trummer MW Arden 1m38.870s + 14.243s 30. Miki Monras Addax 1m39.256s + 14.629s