British driver grabs fastest lap in dying moments of the session
Jake Hughes drew first blood in the 2018 GP3 Series by setting the quickest lap of the Free Practice session in Barcelona, Spain, clocking in a 1:32.908 to beat ART Grand Prix teammate Anthoine Hubert to the top of the timesheets at the death, as Leonardo Pulcini of Campos Racing took third.
An overcast morning at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya thankfully gave way to the sun as the session started, and the full trio of Arden International cars were first to hit the circuit – with Joey Mawson leading out teammates Gabriel Aubry and Julien Falchero. Newcomer Will Palmer cruised past the Ardens to set the first lap times, leading the way in the opening stages before fellow MP Motorsport driver Niko Kari usurped the Brit at the top.
Palmer and Kari were first to bring the times below the 1m40s mark, together whittling away at their quickest laps before Campos’ Simo Laaksonen popped up ahead of the pair. The Finnish driver held the lead of the session as the clock ticked past the first fifteen minutes, before Juan Manuel Correa (Jenzer Motorsport) took the reins. Pulcini and Trident’s Giuliano Alesi briefly headed the standings, before ART pair Hubert and Hughes occupied the top two positions – the Frenchman becoming the first driver to enter the 1m33s.
Hubert set about extending his advantage, taking 0.3s out of his own time to ensure that he led the session after the first half-hour. Before anyone could challenge for top spot, the session was suspended after Campos’ Diego Menchaca pulled over at the side of the road. Palmer led the field out for the final seven minutes of running after the Mexican driver’s car was cleared from its resting place on the outside of Turn 3.
A planned virtual safety car period was brought out with five minutes remaining, ending with time left on the clock to ignite a mad dash for the last laps of the session; multiple changes were afoot at the sharp end in the final two minutes as Pedro Piquet of Trident quickly popped up in second before Hubert raised the bar even further. Cue Hughes, who then snatched top spot in the final moments – with a lap almost half a second clear of his teammate’s benchmark.
Pulcini took third place on his final run, as Nikita Mazepin (ART) took fourth ahead of MP’s Dorian Boccolacci. Tatiana Calderon (Jenzer) set a lap late on to beat Piquet to sixth, as Aubry and Kari were fractions ahead of 10th-placed Jenzer driver David Beckmann.
With the top 11 drivers all within a second, qualifying promises to be a very close-fought encounter. The battle for pole position for Saturday’s Race 1 will take place at 17:50 local time this afternoon.
2018 GP3 Series Round 1 Free Practice – Barcelona, Spain
|1||Jake Hughes||ART Grand Prix||1:32.908||14|
|2||Anthoine Hubert||ART Grand Prix||1:33.390||14|
|3||Leonardo Pulcini||Campos Racing||1:33.490||15|
|4||Nikita Mazepin||ART Grand Prix||1:33.531||13|
|5||Dorian Boccolacci||MP Motorsport||1:33.658||19|
|6||Taitana Calderon||Jenzer Motorsport||1:33.688||16|
|8||Gabriel Aubry||Arden International||1:33.842||19|
|9||Niko Kari||MP Motorposrt||1:33.857||18|
|10||David Beckmann||Jenzer Motorsport||1:33.880||18|
|11||Callum Ilott||ART Grand Prix||1:33.897||13|
|14||Simo Laaksonen||Campos Racing||1:34.213||17|
|15||Diego Menchaca||Campos Racing||1:34.312||13|
|17||Juan Manuel Correa||Jenzer Motorsport||1:34.455||16|
|18||Will Palmer||MP Motorsport||1:34.486||20|
|19||Joey Mawson||Arden International||1:34.590||19|
|20||Julien Falchero||Arden International||1:35.055||17|