“Da Costa takes maiden GP3 victory, but Buller stars”

© GP3 Media Services.

Mitch Evans leads the 2012 GP3 Series at the halfway point, but where the Kiwi found success in Barcelona and Valencia, Silverstone was a little less forgiving.

Evans – now on 100 points following a decent haul in the Saturday event – heads Finnish rival Aaro Vainio by 11 points; however Vainio too could not make the most of the dour British summertime.

Indeed, it was new Red Bull junior driver Antonio Felix da Costa and ex-Formula 3 racer Will Buller who took the spoils, with the latter doing so in dramatic style. Both remain a long way behind the leading pair.

Yet this is only the halfway point. There are still four more rounds till to go before the close of season in September…

Television Notes
Race One
A startling opening lap from Red Bull’s latest young driver Antonio Felix da Costa played a central part in the Carlin driver’s first GP3 win of the season.
Lining up 3rd on the grid, the Portuguese runner took advantage of a poor getaway by poleman Mitch Evans, while fellow front row pilot Aaro Vainio struggled to pull away from the damp side of the grid.
Evans’ lead was short-lived. Feeling his way around dry/moist racing line, da Costa drew past the Kiwi through Village, grabbing the top spot. Initially Evans kept within sight of da Costa, but as the race aged, a super confident da Costa grafted a healthy gap to the runner-up, eventually taking the win by 7.062 seconds.

Evans was lucky to hold 2nd spot over title rival Vainio. The Finn lost out to the leading pair in the opening tours, only to reel Evans in as the race closed; however Vainio fell short – some 1.7 seconds short – of taking the MW Arden racer.
Vainio fronted a trio of Lotus machines on the lap charts, with teammates Daniel Abt (4th) and Conor Daly (5th). For Abt, the event was mostly quiet – after passing Matias Laine off the line, the German racer held his ground to take some much needed points.
Meanwhile Daly started 13th, but was already 10th by the end of lap one. Further moves on Kotaro Sakurai (lap 2), Kevin Ceccon and Alex Brundle (both lap 3), Laine (lap 5) and Tio Ellinas (lap 6) was enough to give the American a satisfactory 5th spot. A last lap error nearly lost Daly 5th to Ellinas, but the American recovered to finish 0.169 seconds up on the Manor racer.

From the fifth row, Ellinas also cut through the same pack as Daly, only to make a mistake in Woodcote to let the Lotus through. Brundle came home 7th after a near race long battle with Ceccon, Laine (rueing an early error that lost him several spots), Patric Niederhauser, Tamas Pa’l Kiss and Sakurai ended in favour of the Carlin man.

* {note 1}
Evans picked up vital points when he pipped Vainio to pole position. The Kiwi headed his Finnish rival by three-tenths, with da Costa and Laine close behind.
David Fumanelli qualified but did not start either race, while Carmon Jorda became to first driver to GP3 history to not be allowed to run after she got nowhere near the 107% cut-off during either practice or qualifying.

2012 GP3 Round of Silverstone (Rd 4, Race 1, 14 laps)
Pos  Driver                  Team          Time/Gap 
 1.  Antonio Felix da Costa  Carlin      27m14.410s 
 2.  Mitch Evans             MW Arden      + 7.062s 
 3.  Aaro Vainio             Lotus         + 8.783s 
 4.  Daniel Abt              Lotus        + 16.136s 
 5.  Conor Daly              Lotus        + 22.156s 
 6.  Tio Ellinas             Manor        + 22.325s 
 7.  Alex Brundle            Carlin       + 38.448s 
 8.  Kevin Ceccon            Ocean        + 41.719s 
 9.  Matias Laine            MW Arden     + 42.314s 
10.  Patric Niederhauser     Jenzer       + 44.489s 
11.  Tamas Pal Kiss          Atech CRS    + 53.795s 
12.  Robert Visoiu           Jenzer     + 1m00.061s 
13.  Giovanni Venturini      Trident    + 1m02.451s 
14.  Facu Regalia            Jenzer     + 1m03.081s 
15.  Kotaro Sakurai          Status     + 1m05.140s 
16.  Marlon Stockinger       Status     + 1m12.707s 
17.  Alice Powell            Status     + 1m26.048s 
18.  Vicky Piria             Trident    + 1m34.318s 
19.  Fabiano Machado         Manor      + 1m38.754s 
20.  Robert Cregan           Ocean      + 1m39.170s 
21.  Antonio Spavone         Trident    + 1m39.960s 
22.  Dmitry Suranovich       Manor      + 1m40.812s 
23.  Fabio Gamberini         Atech CRS      + 1 lap 
     Ethen Ringel            Atech CRS       2 laps 
     Will Buller             Carlin          0 laps

Race Two
Will Buller claimed a stunning race two victory at Silverstone on Sunday morning, thanks to some clever tyre strategy and a marvellous driver from last on the grid.
The Northern Ireland man was one of a few who opted to start on slicks on a still partially damp track in the hope the surface would dry out completely. Daly, Abt and Brundle also decided on the leftfield tyre choice; however early race stumbles hindered their progress.
Despite the back end of the Silverstone layout remaining gripless, Buller found just enough dry surface from Chapel Curve to Brooklands to garner some early positions. From there, Buller held steady as those around him either pitted for dries or stayed on wets, no doubt hoping for the best.
By the ninth lap of fourteen, Buller was 3rd and soon had the wet shod Robert Visoiu for 2nd place. Race leader Niederhauser – also on ageing wets – had little chance against the speedy Buller. As lap nine became ten, Buller was lapping seven seconds quicker than Niederhauser, yet only four behind his Swiss rival.
The former was still decisive and sliced by Niederhauser – and the win – as the pulled through Chapel.

Within two laps Daly had done the same; however Buller was far too far ahead to even consider challenging for the win. The American was delighted with his podium – having started 4th, the Lotus man dropped to 17th on the slick surface, eventually falling behind Buller by the one-third mark.
Niederhauser had made enough time to keep 3rd, although he could be forgiven for being disappointed considering his drive to the lead early on. With wets bolted on, Niederhauser was imperious – and did well to make them last – but as race aged, the rubber burned quickly and the grip fell away.
Come the flag, the Jenzer racer had dropped thirty seconds to the race winner.

Ellinas and Visoiu enjoyed similar races to Niederhauser – both climbed high, before dropping to 4th and 5th respectively. Indeed Ellinas led during the early stages, before being usurped by the speedy Niederhauser. Starting down in 15, Visoiu rose to 6th by lap four, but was 2nd by lap nine until Buller charged by unchallenged.
Da Costa and Ceccon both ran near the top in the opening tours before tearing through their Pirelli wet’s late on.
Hats off to Fabio Gamberini – in his first race weekend of 2012, the Brazilian jumped straight into a GP3 machine, nabbing the final point in Sunday sprint. Gamberini pitted at the end of the parade lap for dries – a tactical change that propelled the Atech CRS man to 8th come the flag.

2012 GP3 Round of Silverstone (Rd 4, Race 2, 14 laps)
Pos  Driver                  Team          Time/Gap 
 1.  Will Buller             Carlin      29m49.526s 
 2.  Conor Daly              Lotus         + 8.577s 
 3.  Patric Niederhauser     Jenzer       + 30.017s 
 4.  Tio Ellinas             Manor        + 37.529s 
 5.  Robert Visoiu           Jenzer       + 52.038s 
 6.  Antonio Felix da Costa  Carlin     + 1m03.722s 
 7.  Kevin Ceccon            Ocean      + 1m05.954s 
 8.  Fabio Gamberini         Atech CRS  + 1m06.482s 
 9.  Fabiano Machado         Manor      + 1m07.321s 
10.  Alex Brundle            Carlin     + 1m20.941s 
11.  Mitch Evans             MW Arden   + 1m22.894s 
12.  Facu Regalia            Jenzer     + 1m23.503s 
13.  Kotaro Sakurai          Status     + 1m24.283s 
14.  Tamas Pal Kiss          Atech CRS  + 1m28.143s 
15.  Robert Cregan           Ocean      + 1m44.079s 
16.  Giovanni Venturini      Trident    + 1m52.403s 
17.  Ethen Ringel            Atech CRS  + 1m54.151s 
18.  Matias Laine            Lotus          + 1 lap 
19.  Antonio Spavone         Trident        + 1 lap  
     Dmitry Suranovich       Manor          12 laps  
     Vicky Piria             Trident        12 laps 
     Daniel Abt              Lotus          11 laps 
     Marlon Stockinger       Status         11 laps 
     Aaro Vainio             Lotus          11 laps 
     Alice Powell            Status          9 laps

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