George Russell dominates in GP3 at Spa-Francorchamps
Mercedes-AMG F1 Junior and ART GP Driver George Russell wins the opening race of the weekend in the GP3 Series, to extend his championship lead after taking his third pole position and victory of the 2017 season.
Russell returned to GP3 Series action after the annual summer break to the iconic Spa-Francorchamps circuit. The young Briton took pole position in a wet/dry qualifying session at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, grabbing the top spot late in a tricky session which saw little rain but ran on a wet circuit throughout, to finish almost three tenths ahead of teammate Nirei Fukuzumi and Arjun Maini.
The Briton set an ultimately unbeatable lap time of 2:27.042 swith 3 minutes remaining in a session which was drying late on. Conditions continued to improve, but were not quite enough to switch to slicks. As a result his rivals had no opportunity to displace the championship leader from taking his third pole position of the season.
Russell held the lead from pole at the start, making a good start to maintain the crucial inside line as the field charged into the notoriously difficult turn one at La Source. Teammate Nirei Fukuzumi made a great
getaway from second to put him under pressure at the apex of La Source.
Russell led the field through the legendary Eau Rouge and Radillon corners, but Fukuzumi made use of the slipstream, getting a better run down the Kemmel Straight to take the lead from Russell going into Les Combes.
Fukuzumi led Russell, now in second position before a Virtual Safety Car was deployed, when DAMS driver Bruno Baptisa was taken out of the race at Les Combes.
As the race restarted, Russell harried the back of his teammates pushing for an opening to reclaim the lead of the race - using DRS to great effect to stick to the gearbox of the Honda Junior Driver. The next lap, Russell managed to draft past his teammate to retake the lead of the race into Les Combes.
Teammate Jack Aitken began to harry the back of Fukuzumi, as Russell set immediately about opening the gap to his rivals behind - getting himself out of DRS range within two laps, as he began to take control of the race. As Russell extended his lead at the front, Aitken and Fukuzumi began to battle for second position - favouring Russell, as the championship leader and Mercedes AMG F1 Junior extended his advantage, ultimately to a race winning 7.4s gap from Aitken and Fukuzumi, in an ART Grand Prix podium lock out. Russell took the fastest lap of the race in the process to cap off a perfect Saturday.
Russell took his third victory of the season and extending his championship lead to 22 points over teammate Aitken as they head into the second race of the weekend tomorrow morning, in the run up to the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix.
George Russell "I made a good start and I got around turn 1 okay but I knew up Eau Rouge Nirei was going to have a chance on me. It was quite easily flat on the first lap so that made it difficult.
I decided to attack when the DRS was about to come, but then the virtual safety car came out. At the re-start I was right behind him. I opened the DRS in both zones and managed to get passed at the straight. Then on in, it was about controlling the gap and manage it.
In the end, the tyres were in good shape so I opened the gap slightly.
This weekend’s been so far perfect for us. We had unbelievable pace yesterday in qualifying and I was interested to see how I would handle it today in the dry. Obviously the pace continued with us.
All in all, it’s been a perfect qualifying, race and we got the fastest lap as well."
Race two will be live on Sky Sports F1 HD at 08:00 UK time. Russell will be starting from 8th position in the partially reversed grid after winning the first race of the weekend.