GP3 Pre-season Testing (Paul Ricard, March 3rd)

Circuit Paul Ricard in southern France.

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.

Morning Session:

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

Afternoon Session:

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

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