Russell finishes 2nd at Jerez to extend GP3 Championship lead
ART GP and Mercedes AMG-F1 Junior George Russell extended his GP3 Series lead after finishing 2nd in race one at Jerez, beating his main rival Jack Aitken - as they helped complete another podium lock out for ART Grand Prix.
The 2017 GP3 Series ended a four week break from action, by returning to the Circuito de Jerez - in a standalone race meeting along the FIA Formula 2 Championship and the EuroFormula Open Championship.
Russell topped the earlier Free Practise session at the technical Spanish Circuit heading into qualifying later on Friday afternoon. The BRDC Superstar grabbed the top spot halfway through the session and continuing to improve on his own time all the way to the flag to claim the honours by less than a tenth from ART teammates Jack Aitken and Anthoine Hubert.
Timed Qualifying saw Russell top the times with five minutes of the session to run - pipped his main rival Aitken into 2nd position as the drivers prepared for their final runs in the session.
Everyone returned to the track with 5 minutes to go - with Russell still on top after improving on his own time. As the timer reached zero, it looked as though the Brit was about to claim another GP3 Series pole position, but Aitken and then Fukuzumi pipped Russell's time with their final fliers - meaning the championship leader would line up 3rd on the grid for the opening race of the weekend.
Saturday morning saw the GP3 Series grid form up for the opening race of the weekend. Fukuzumi made a great start from pole position -holding off Aitken. Russell stalked the back of his main championship rival, making a bold move up the inside into turn three - taking 2nd position from his teammate and championship challenger.
This gave Fukuzumi the break to pull out of DRS threat, as Russell fended off the attentions of Aitken and Red Bull Junior Dan Ticktum. Russell maintained his position throughout the race, as the worry about tyre wear issues on the Pirelli rubber came to nothing as the new surface resulted in less abrasion on the tyres.
Russell managed to break free of his pursuers, pulling out an advantage of 1.5s over rival Aitken - with the same gap ahead to race leader Fukuzumi.
Fukuzumi held off Russell to take his second win of the season, heading home another ART GP podium lock out- as Russell took 2nd position, extending his championship lead in the process over Aitken to 44 points.
George Russell " I knew this circuit was going to be difficult to overtake so I knew if I wanted to pass Jack and to finish second I needed to do it as soon as possible. I saw an opportunity at Turn 2.
Luckily, I made it stick and it was a fairly simple race from there really. As Nirei mentioned, we didn’t know how tyre degradation would play out so I was just managing the gap to Jack as I knew I probably would not have been able to pass Nirei for the lead. I just managed the gap and settled for second.
After Turn 1 I knew Nirei had the lead. I put it in my mind that my main focus was to try and beat Jack and not lose any points in the Standings."
Race two takes place tomorrow at 11:00 local time. The race as always will be live on Sky Sports F1 HD.
Russell goes into the race with the opportunity to win the championship a round early if he outscores Aitken by three points, tune in tomorrow to see if Russell can seal the deal - or if the GP3 Series fight will be taken to Abu Dhabi.