ART Grand Prix’s Alexander Albon remains in title hunt after Race 1 victory
After a frustrating few rounds for Alexander Albon, the ART Grand Prix star bounced back in style to clinch his fourth victory of the 2016 GP3 Series season after making a super start and passing Series leader and teammate Charles Leclerc. The Thai added two bonus points to his tally after taking fastest lap for good measure and moves into second place in the title battle. Arden International’s Jack Aitken finished P2 ahead of Scuderia Ferrari Team Development driver Leclerc in third.
The GP3 Series made history today by racing at the Sepang International Circuit for the first time. The 19 lap race got underway in cloudy and hot conditions. ART Grand Prix’s Leclerc started from pole position but it was his teammate and title contender Albon who made the better getaway. The Thai ace passed the Monegasque at the start going into Turn 1 as the pair ran side-by-side. Nyck de Vries was hot on their tail and at Turn 4 he tagged the back of the Series leader Leclerc causing him to run wide and lose two positions. The Dutchman dropped down to P18 and he was issued with a 5s time penalty for causing a collision.
This allowed Aitken into second place with Jenzer Motorsport’s Arjun Maini into third. Leclerc was keen to fight his way back up the order and passed the Indian driver on lap two. At this point Albon held a small advantage of half a second over Aitken while Leclerc posted the fastest lap.
Nirei Fukuzumi and Jake Dennis enjoyed a great tussle for P6 with the Briton coming out on top. Dennis then set after Steijn Schothorst for P5 and passed the Dutchman but out-braked himself allowing the Campos Racing driver back into position.
Albon looked confident at the front as he started to build an advantage to Aitken to over 2s. Meanwhile, Leclerc began to reduce the deficit to Aitken to 0.2s in the final laps. Maini in fourth also found some extra pace in the closing stages and clocked the fastest lap, reeling in Leclerc.
On the penultimate lap, Albon set the fastest lap and he took the chequered flag by a mammoth 6.3.s. Aitken held onto second place, while Leclerc resisted Maini’s best efforts to take his eighth podium of the season. Schothorst, Dennis, Fukuzumi, Antonio Fuoco, Matthew Parry and Sandy Stuvik completed the top ten.
Leclerc’s lead in the drivers’ standings has been cut to 24 points with Albon now his nearest challenger after Fuoco finished in P8 after a spin at Turn 4. However the Italian will start tomorrow’s race from reverse pole. ART Grand Prix claimed the Teams’ title in Monza Round 7 with the battle on for second which after today’s double points’ finish has seen Arden International pull away in second over Trident in third.
Tomorrow’s 14 lap race starts at 10.05 local time (GMT+8) as the battle for the GP3 crown heats up.
Sepang Race 1*
Alexander Albon
ART Grand Prix
Jack Aitken
Arden International
Charles Leclerc
ART Grand Prix
Arjun Maini
Jenzer Motorsport
Steijn Schothorst
Campos Racing
Jake Dennis
Arden International
Nirei Fukuzumi
ART Grand Prix
Antonio Fuoco
Matthew Parry
Koiranen GP
Sandy Stuvik
Alessio Lorandi
Kevin Jorg
Nyck de Vries*
ART Grand Prix
Alex Palou
Campos Racing
Matevos Isaakyan
Koiranen GP
Giuliano Alesi
Konstantin Tereschenko
Campos Racing
*5s time penalty for De Vries for causing a collision
Not Classified
Santino Ferrucci
Akash Nandy
Jenzer Motorsport
Artur Janosz
Jake Hughes
Tatiana Calderon
Arden International
Fastest Lap : Alexander Albon (ART Grand Prix) : 1 :51.934 on lap 18