It was close for Daniel Abt – far closer than anyone would have anticipated following qualifying.
Comfortable in himself, Mitch Evans took pole position and the four bonus points that come with it to lead into Saturday’s opening GP3 race.
For all intents and purposes, it should have been easier than it was. Rival apparent, Antonio Felix da Costa lingered a few rows behind, as did Aaro Vainio, while Abt had been assigned a bit part as the distant challenger.
Indeed Evans’ lead was sufficient enough for the Kiwi to not have to force the issue, but… where da Costa and Vainio fell away for various reasons; Abt rose to become the main protagonist.
The German could not overhaul Evans – he lost out by two points after trailing by 39 after qualifying, yet Abt’s spirit of determination won the weekend broadcasts.
Abt will be back, of that there is no doubt. From the teenager who threw away the lead at Macau in 2010 to the young man who took the GP3 Series to Evans, Abt has grown into an exciting young driver. And a threatening one.
An ecstatic Daniel Abt (Lotus) took his second GP3 race win in the space of a week, beating the defiant Tio Ellinas (Marussia Manor), Aaro Vainio (Lotus) and Mattias Laine (MW Arden) to the flag.
Abt’s success ensured the Lotus team secured their third successive GP3 crown.
Starting 7th, the German had already nabbed three spots before the opening tour was complete and had soon displaced David Fumanelli as well. With slipstreaming a priority at Monza, Abt drafted beyond Laine (lap 3) and then early race leader Antonio Felix da Costa
Da Costa would prove a far tougher prospect – the Portuguese racer engaged Abt in a shortlived battle, fending off the feisty German until lap seven, when the Carlin driver suffered a gearbox issue – he did continue, but finished 15th.
From there, Vainio pressed Abt hard, only for the Finn to be taken by the charging Ellinas, yet despite his obvious speed, Ellinas could not find a way past.
Ellinas continued home to 2nd – his first podium of the season; however Vainio would lose his 3rd spot immediately after the race, when stewards judged that he had ignored yellow flags on the final lap. Vainio received a 20 second penalty, dropping him to 11th and promoting Laine to the final podium position.
Conor Daly won a titanic seven-car battle to finish 4th. The American lingered in the second tier pack for much of the event, only rising to the front with Patric Niederhauser in the late stages, with Daly pipping Niederhauser by only 0.5 seconds at the flag.
The pairing still had to keep their feet to the floor right up to the death. Behind them, Fumanelli (MW Arden, 6th), Marlon Stockinger (Status GP, 7th), Giovanni Venturini (Trident, 8th), Tamas Pa’l Kiss (Atech CRS, 9th) and Will Buller (Carlin, 10th) all crossed the line covered by a mere 1.841 seconds in a classic slipstreaming battle.
Championship leader Mitch Evans retired on the second lap, after he heavily damaged his car jumping the kerbs at turn one.
2012 GP3 Round of Monza (Rd 8, Race 1, 16 laps) Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Daniel Abt Lotus 28m17.548s 2. Tio Ellinas Manor + 0.349s 3. Mattias Laine MW Arden + 1.881s 4. Conor Daly Lotus + 14.108s 5. Patric Niederhauser Jenzer + 14.602s 6. David Fumanelli MW Arden + 16.401s 7. Marlon Stockinger Status + 16.750s 8. Giovanni Venturini Trident + 16.836s 9. Tamas Pal Kiss Atech CRS + 17.712s 10. Will Buller Carlin + 18.242s 11. Aaro Vainio Lotus + 0.593s* 12. Alice Powell Status + 26.101s 13. Kevin Ceccon Ocean + 28.448s 14. Robert Visoiu Jenzer + 28.795s 15. Antonio Felix da Costa Carlin + 29.375s 16. Vicky Piria Trident + 34.411s 17. John Wartique Atech CRS + 46.207s 18. Ethan Ringel Atech CRS + 51.238s 19. Lewis Williamson Status + 1m00.707s 20. Robert Cregan Ocean + 1m01.569s 21. Carmen Jorda Ocean + 1m30.934s Retirements: Dmitry Suranovich Manor 14 laps Alex Brundle Carlin 10 laps Mitch Evans MW Arden 1 lap Fabiano Machado Manor 1 lap
*20-second post race penalty for ignoring yellow flags.
A late move by Ellinas on Abt ensured the 2012 GP3 title would be heading the way of Evans.
From the fourth row, Ellinas peeled his way through the order, initially taking Laine and Niederhauser before the one-third mark. Brief battles with Stöckinger and Fumanelli brought Ellinas to the tail of the top three and into a catfight for the lead.
The Cypriot had dispatched Venturini by the 11th tour, but the Trident racer – unwilling to give – pressed Ellinas hard.
Abt, meanwhile, only possessed a two-tenths advantage over Ellinas as they completed lap 12, with Venturini a further half-second behind and while the latter would ultimately not press for the lead, the fight between the leading pair intensified. Ellinas made his first move on lap 13, sliding by Abt at the Variante del Roggia, only for the Lotus man to respond in kind a lap later.
Entering the penultimate lap, Abt and Ellinas drew close together, almost banging wheels through the Variante Rettifilo; however Ellinas would finally nail Abt – again at the Roggia – to secure his first GP3 win.
There was little else the disconsolate Abt could do – his tyres had simply passed their best – and with 2nd place in the race, the Lotus racer settled for 2nd in the GP3 Series points standings.
Despite starting the weekend as a distant outsider, Abt came within two-points of displacing Evans at the top – Ellinas’ lap 15 move cost the German racer three points…
It was in an early battle with Venturini that Abt most likely used the best of his tyres. Lining up on pole, the Italian kept the tricky Fumanelli at bay, before engaging Abt’s rearward assault.
Venturini eventually dropped behind the determined Abt on the sixth circulation of the circuit, falling to 3rd when he succumbed to Ellinas’ charge. The Italian did close back up to Abt during the final laps, but could not demote the German racer.
The Ellinas / Abt / Venturini fight allowed Stöckinger to close in once again, but it was too little too late for the Status GP man, who crossed the line just three-tenths shy of the podium.
Da Costa took a hard fought 5th ahead of Laine (6th) and Visoiu (7th), although the Portuguese racer came close to being wiped out by a battling Vainio and Evans at the midpoint. Along with Buller, da Costa banged wheels and had a few narrow escapes as Vainio held Evans at bay.
Outbraking each other at the Roggia, Evans and Vainio pummelled the kerbs, effectively finishing their challenges – emerging unscathed, da Costa continued to a top five finish. Vainio dropped to 12th, while Evans – hammered by a puncture – took 20th place; a champion regardless.
Alice Powell claimed the final point’s place of the year, ensuring her first score and the first point for a lady in the GP3 Series. Powell, who has displayed improved race form in recent rounds, surged ahead of Kevin Ceccon (9th), Alex Brundle (10th), Conor Daly (11th – thanks to an early off) in the second half of the race to lead a group covered by only 1.741 seconds.
2012 GP3 Round of Monza (Rd 8, Race 2, 16 laps) Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Tio Ellinas Manor 28m18.541s 2. Daniel Abt Lotus + 1.003s 3. Giovanni Venturini Trident + 1.408s 4. Marlon Stockinger Status + 1.715s 5. Antonio Felix da Costa Carlin + 7.377s 6. Matias Laine MW Arden + 8.488s 7. Robert Visoiu Jenzer + 8.968s 8. Alice Powell Status + 14.383s 9. Kevin Ceccon Ocean + 14.416s 10. Alex Brundle Carlin + 15.535s 11. Conor Daly Lotus + 16.124s 12. Will Buller Carlin + 18.964s 13. David Fumanelli MW Arden + 24.392s 14. Aaro Vainio Lotus + 27.489s 15. Tamas Pal Kiss Atech CRS + 30.682s 16. Fabiano Machado Manor + 36.048s 17. Robert Cregan Ocean + 36.116s 18. John Wartique Atech CRS + 38.365s 19. Carmen Jorda Ocean + 1m08.753s 20. Mitch Evans MW Arden + 1m29.894s Retirements: Patric Niederhauser Jenzer 7 laps Vicky Piria Trident 2 laps Lewis Williamson Status 0 laps Ethan Ringel Atech CRS 0 laps Dmitry Suranovich Manor 0 laps
2012 GP3 Series (final point standings) Drivers' Championship Pos Driver Points 1. Mitch Evans 151.5 2. Daniel Abt 149.5 3. Antonio Felix da Costa 132 4. Aaro Vainio 123 5. Mattias Laine 111 6. Conor Daly 106 7. Patric Niederhauser 101 8. Tio Ellinas 97 9. Kevin Ceccon 56 10. Marlon Stockinger 55 Teams Championship Pos Team Points 1. Lotus GP 378.5 2. MW Arden 309.5 3. Carlin 171 4. Jenzer 133.5 5. Marussia Manor 97