Russell leads GP3 standings going into the summer break
ART Grand Prix and Mercedes-AMG F1 Junior Driver George Russell goes into the annual GP3 Series summer break leading the championship after Budapest with a nine point lead over his nearest rival.
Russell was quick out of the blocks at the Hungaroring, building upon a stong showing at the in-season test here a few weeks ago. The BRDC Superstar topped the times in the free practise session prior to qualifying around the tight and twisty Hungarian circuit.
Qualifying around here is on the most important of the season, due to the difficult nature of the circuit in following other cars and therefore to overtake them. Russell set the 2nd fastest time after the first runs, just behind teammate Anthoine Hubert. In the second run, his other teammate Jack Aitken hit the top of the times, with Russell filling in just behind him after a sideways moment in sector 2 costing him a couple of crucial tenths.
The session however was halted with two minutes to go, as Arjun Maini's Jenzer car ground to a halt on the start/finish straight - meaning none of the drivers were able to get another lap in.
Russell would line up on the front row in 2nd position alongside teammate Aitken for the first race of the weekend. However disaster struck for Russell on the lap to the grid! His ART GP Dallara machinary ground to a halt numerous times with a mechanical issues. Russell managed to bring the car to the grid, where the ART mechancis worked frantically on the car to solve the issue in the little time they had until lights out.
As the cars left on the formation lap, Russell once again ground to a halt - valiantly he kept stopping and starting his car to desperatley get it back to the pits, sadly to no avail - as he became a spectator for the opening race, whilst teammate Aitken went on to take a 1-2-3 finish for ART GP. Teammates Nirei Fukuzumi and Anthoine Hubert completed the podium, all taking points out of Russell's healthy championship lead.
The non-start from race one meant Russell would start the second race from 18th on the grid, with a lot of work ahead to get into the points and limit the damage to his rivals. Russell made a fantastic start to vault himself up to 13th with some bold overtakes around the outside, whilst keeping out of trouble in the early exchanges.
As the race went on, it was clear to see Russell clearly had the pace to challenge for victory in normal circumstances, as he set the fastest lap of the race during his climb through the field. By half-distance, he had moved himself in the battle for 8th position and the points paying positions.
Up ahead of him, he could see teammates Aitken and Hubert as he continued to pull in the pack on his charge. With seven laps to go, Aitken went for an overtake and ended up overshooting and running wide on the tarmac run off, rejoining just ahead of Russell who had got himself into 8th position. One lap later, going into turn two, Aitken's tyre deflated with a puncture, leaving Russell with no time to react as he clipped the back of his teammate and caused damage to his front wing, denting his strong fightback through the grid. Russell was forced to pit for a front wing change, later rejoining the race to finish 12th position at the flag.
George Russell "It was a tough day on Saturday, not being able to make the start due to a mechanical failure - however these things can happen as a part of racing.
I feel we bounced back very strong in race two, getting ourselves up to 8th position on a circuit that is so hard to overtake on was a good fightback, also getting fastest lap on the way was a good feeling.
It was a shame that damage to the front wing forced us to box, but I am still confident we will bounce back stronger than ever and go again at Spa after the summer break."
Despite getting no points during an agonisingly luckless weekend, Russell still leads the GP3 Series standings with 92 points, nine clear of his nearest rival Aitken after the first eight rounds of the 2017 season.
The GP3 Series will now head into its annual summer break, where the action will resume at Spa-Francorchamps on the 25-27 August to start the second half of the season.
In the meantime, Russell will remain in Budapest as he willl be competing with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team in the two-day test that follows the Formula 1 World Championship round at the Hungaroring. Russell will be tasked with driving the Mercedes-AMG F1 W08 EQ Power+ and testing future developments on the car, alongside giving them a showcase of his talents around the Hungaroring circuit.
George Russell "I am really excited to be testing the Mercedes-AMG F1 W08! This is the car that is leading the Formula 1 Constructors World Championship and has won the most races this season. I cannot wait to get to grips with the car, as well as working with the best team in the business for two days in Budapest, in one of the fastest cars ever made!"