“Niederhauser and Evans victorious in safety car dominated GP3 round”

© GP3 Media Services.

Television notes
In a week that could define the 2012 GP3 Series season, young Kiwi Mitch Evans may have just laid his first fingers on the title trophy.

During a round utterly dominated by the safety car – both races !! – an average pair of finishes for series challenger Aaro Vainio dropped the Finn further behind, while Evans garnered a win, alongside an additional points finish.

Meanwhile Daniel Abt, Patric Niederhauser and Conor Daly continue to play themselves in as distant threats thanks to some strong results from the trio; however with the sixth of eight round coming this weekend, it may be just a little too late.

But before thoughts could go to Hungary, the field have first to travel to the Hockenheimring in Germany, for possibly the most testing race weekend since – well, the last one.

Race One (July 21st)
Patric Niederhauser claimed his second GP3 Series win of the season, just nosing ahead of Lotus-rival Conor Daly, with Giovanni Venturini assuming 3rd spot.
Niederhauser enjoyed a great delivery of luck pre-race when a pre-race weather change fell into his lap. Unlike front row men Daniel Abt and Mitch Evans, Niederhauser took to the grid wearing Pirelli wet tyres rubber; however just as it appeared the as if the race would start in the dry, the skies opened up.
Having changed to slicks on the dummy grid, nine drivers would have no choice but to pit for wets as soon as possible.

It was a decision that would leave Abt fuming. The initial race distance was two laps – both behind the safety car – before the red flag was thrown. Abt reasoned that had he stayed on slicks while behind the safety car, he would have been able to take a “free” pitstop under red flag conditions.
Too late. As Abt and Evans withdrew to the pits at the end of the opening lap, Daly sailed – almost literally – into an unchallenged lead, before the race was brought to a halt and a ten-minute delay.

Once restarted, there would be a further seven laps under the safety car left the track, setting Niederhauser free to attack Daly. It was to be a short lived battle, with the Swiss racer creeping to Daly’s rear along the Parabolika and dicing past at the hairpin.
From there, the Jenzer Motorsport racer was swift in his craft, but Daly held close; however not even the American’s best efforts were enough to break Niederhauser – the Swiss pilot took the spoils by just seven-tenths after fourteen tours.
Daly, meanwhile, took the fastest on the final tour.

After a quiet event, Kevin Ceccon initially finished 3rd, only to take a 30-second post-race penalty for having a tyre change after the three-minute pre-race warning. The penalty dropped the Italian to 17th in the classifications, while also promoting Venturini to his maiden podium result.
Alex Brundle and Robert Visoiu were penalised for the same offence while running 6th and 7th; however they were excluded due to taking their respective drive through’s under safety car conditions.
Matias Laine held off a forceful Aaro Vainio and Tamas Pa’l Kiss to the flag for 4th, 5th and 6th respectively. Abt and Evans drove well to recover to 7th and 8th, while some stellar late race pace from Will Buller and Tio Ellinas gave them the final points places.

* {note 1}
Abt nabbed his first GP3 Series pole in emphatic style on Saturday morning. Indeed, the German national logged two lap times good enough for top spot. Abt led the early running, before being pipped by Daly and Evans; however the Lotus driver struck just prior to the chequered flag to secure pole. Evans registered 2nd, with Daly and Vainio on row two.
Marussia Manor pair Ellinas and Dmitry Suranovich both had their times deleted after failing a technical inspection dropping Ellinas from 4th to 23rd and Suranovich from 19th to 24th.

** {note 2}
Ellinas topped a free practice session disrupted by a power cut on Friday evening. The session, which had started wet, dried during the delay allowing drivers to set fairly representative times upon restart.
David Fumanelli, Vainio, Antonio Felix da Costa and Niederhauser made up the rest of the top five.

2012 GP3 Round of the Hockenheimring (Rd 5, Race 1, 14 laps)
Pos  Driver                  Team         Time/Gap
 1.  Patric Niederhauser     Jenzer     45m51.078s
 2.  Conor Daly              Lotus        + 0.693s
 3.  Giovanni Venturini      Trident      + 8.841s
 4.  Matias Laine            MW Arden    + 11.353s
 5.  Aaro Vainio             Lotus       + 11.983s
 6.  Tamas Pal Kiss          Atech CRS   + 12.555s
 7.  Daniel Abt              Lotus       + 13.415s
 8.  Mitch Evans             MW Arden    + 13.983s
 9.  Will Buller             Carlin      + 14.205s
10.  Tio Ellinas             Manor       + 18.564s
11.  Robert Cregan           Ocean       + 22.297s
12.  David Fumanelli         MW Arden    + 22.889s
13.  Lewis Williamson        Status      + 24.264s
14.  Vicky Piria             Trident     + 29.081s
15.  Dmitry Suranovich       Manor       + 29.696s
16.  Marlon Stockinger       Status      + 31.067s
17.  Kevin Ceccon            Ocean        + 5.361s+
18.  Ethan Ringel            Atech CRS   + 38.233s
19.  Alice Powell            Status      + 42.018s
20.  Carmen Jorda            Ocean       + 56.621s
DSQ. Alex Brundle            Carlin      + 29.303s++
DSQ. Robert Visoiu           Jenzer      + 42.719s++
     Antonio Felix da Costa  Carlin         9 laps
     Fabiano Machado         Manor          8 laps

+ Post-race penalty for changing tyres after three-minute warning.
++ Excluded for changing tyres after three-minute warning and taking initial penalty under safety car conditions.

Race Two (22nd)
Evans took race two from Abt in a Sunday morning sprint marred by two long safety car periods following a pair of very serious accidents.
Just a few corners into the second event, Vicky Piria launched over the rear of Robert Cregan at the turn six hairpin, before coming down hard into the sidepod of William Buller’s Carlin machine. Another minor hit followed, when Piria’s destroyed Trident car hit the ground and slid into the awaiting tyre barrier.

In the melee, Alice Powell collided with Status GP teammate Lewis Williamson, while Suranovich took the long way around the run off area to avoid flying cars, parts and miscellaneous debris. Kevin Ceccon, who entered corner alongside Piria way too fast, spun into the hairpin, narrowly missing the in flight Piria.
There were some tense minutes as Piria was extracted from her machine and taken to the medical unit.

After a nine lap safety car period, the restarted – albeit briefly. As the field entered its tenth tour, Fabiano Machado fell off the track at the Nordkurve, clumping a lump of grass as he returned to the circuit.
The clash with the green stuff sent the front of Machado’s Marussia Manor car airborne, eventually coming down hard near the pit exit. In some pain from the landing Machado was unable to climb from his chassis, with the Brazilian eventually needing assistance from the medical crew.
Neither suffered breaks, both were in great pain, with Piria staying in hospital overnight. Thankfully both have been cleared to race at the Hungaroring this weekend, despite their accidents.

There was a race for approximately two-and-a-half laps. Up front, Abt snatched the lead on the opening tour, just as Piria’s accident was unfolding in the lower rear of the pack. Evans to his credit took the lead back at the restart; however the action was cut short not long after due to Machado’s stranded machine.
A superb start from Conor Daly saw him jump from 6th to 3rd, ahead of Tamas Pa’l Kiss, Laine and Vainio. Ellinas made a terrific start from the fifth row to claim 7th, while a poor getaway dropped Venturini from 6th to 8th before the first safety car.
Race one victor Niederhauser missed out on the points, when Ellinas drew passed off the line.

*** {note 3}
The GP3 Series driver merry-go-round continued just prior to Hockenheim, with Williamson replacing Kotaro Sakurai at Status GP. After being dropped by the Red Bull junior driver programme last month, the Scot lost his Formula Renault 3.5 to GP3 regular da Costa.
Meanwhile, da Costa – who replaces Williamson in the cut-throat Red Bull programme – is set to continue in GP3 for the remainder of the season.

2012 GP3 Round of the Hockenheimring (Rd 5, Race 2, 15 laps)
Pos  Driver                  Team         Time/Gap
 1.  Mitch Evans             MW Arden   30m14.349s
 2.  Daniel Abt              Lotus        + 0.428s
 3.  Conor Daly              Lotus        + 0.987s
 4.  Tamas Pal Kiss          Atech CRS    + 1.342s
 5.  Matias Laine            MW Arden     + 2.737s
 6.  Aaro Vainio             Lotus        + 2.917s
 7.  Tio Ellinas             Manor        + 3.086s
 8.  Giovanni Venturini      Trident      + 4.020s
 9.  Patric Niederhauser     Jenzer       + 5.553s
10.  David Fumanelli         MW Arden     + 6.602s
11.  Marlon Stockinger       Status       + 6.784s
12.  Robert Visoiu           Jenzer       + 8.972s
13.  Alex Brundle            Carlin       + 9.201s
14.  Dmitry Suranovich       Manor       + 10.306s
15.  Kevin Ceccon            Ocean       + 11.715s
16.  Ethan Ringel            Atech CRS   + 12.218s
     Carmen Jorda            Ocean         10 laps
     Fabiano Machado         Manor          8 laps
     Robert Cregan           Ocean          5 laps
     Alice Powell            Status         0 laps
     Will Buller             Carlin         0 laps
     Lewis Williamson        Status         0 laps
     Antonio Felix da Costa  Carlin         0 laps
     Vicky Piria             Trident        0 laps
2012 GP3 Series points standings (Rd 5)
Drivers' Championship
Pos Driver Points
 1. Mitch Evans             121
 2. Aaro Vainio             103
 3. Daniel Abt               76
 4. Patric Niederhauser      75
 5. Conor Daly               75
 6. Matias Laine             60
 7. Antonio Felix da Costa   58
 8. Tio Ellinas              50
 9. Kevin Ceccon             43
10. Marlon Stockinger        39

Teams' Championship
Pos Team Points
 1. Lotus GP                254
 2. MW Arden                216
 3. Jenzer Motorsport        97
 4. Carlin                   85
 5. Marussia Manor           50

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