The Frenchman may have been disappointed to have missed out on pole position by a tenth this morning, but a flying start in Race 1 meant the Mercedes backed and ART Grand Prix rookie stormed into the lead of the race and took a lights to flag victory. In a race which saw several virtual safety cars, Arden International’s Emil Bernstorff took second place after passing Series leader Luca Ghiotto at the final re-start. Marvin Kirchhöfer completed the rostrum.
Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium hosted the fifth round of the 2015 GP3 Series season in very hot and sunny conditions. Trident’s Ghiotto started from his fourth pole of the season, with Ocon alongside him. The ART Grand Prix star made a lightning getaway, whilst the Italian bogged down on the line. The Arden Motorsport duo of Bernstorff and Kevin Ceccon also passed Ghiotto as they entered into Turn 1.
Contact was made between Ghiotto and Ceccon, with the Arden driver suffering a puncture and having to retire from the race. Stewards issued the Series leader with a five second time penalty which was added to his elapsed race time.
Carlin’s Jann Mardenborough ran wide over the Eau Rouge kerb on lap three which sent his car into the barrier. The Brit was able to jump out of the car unaided. The Virtual Safety car was deployed to recover his car. Once the action resumed several laps later, Bernstorff was lying in wait for Ocon and looked ready to pounce but Ghiotto was in his mirrors and wasted no time in moving up to second, getting a good tow from the Brit, and set off after race leader Ocon.
Ocon held a small one second advantage over Ghiotto, wit Bernstorff four seconds adrift. On lap 9, Seb Morris (Status Grand Prix) passed Jenzer Motorsport’s Pal Varhaug for P8, but then the Brit ran wide and the two made contact, with the duo retiring. Beitske Visser – new to Trident this weekend and competing in her second round, did not have the dream comeback after stopping at Turn 16. The Virtual Safety car was deployed for a second time whilst her car was removed.
The action resumed with Ocon keep to defend the advances of Ghiotto, but a third virtual safety car was issued after Matheo Tuscher made contact with Sandy Stuvik. The pair both having to retire due to the damage sustained.
The final two laps of the race were run in clear conditions and it was Ghiotto in second who made a mistake at the re-start costing him vital time. Bernstorff was able to sneak back into second place, whilst Kirchhöfer also passed Fuoco for fourth. At the chequered flag, Ocon enjoyed his second win of his GP3 career, one second ahead of Emil Bernstorff.
Due to the five second time penalty imposed, Ghiotto dropped from third to sixth place, promoting Kirchhöfer to third position. Fuoco was fourth ahead of Koiranen GP’s Jimmy Eriksson (the Swede serving a drive through penalty for a jump start). Completing the top ten were: Ghiotto, Alfonso Celis Jr, Alex Palou (achieving his and Campos Racing’s first points of the season), Aleksander Bosak (also achieving his debut points of the campaign) and Ralph Boschung (Jenzer Motorsport).
Ghiotto’s lead in the Drivers’ Standings has been reduced from 23 points to 14 points following Ocon’s victory, whilst Kirchhöfer is third ahead of Bernstorff. In the Teams’ Standings, ART Grand Prix remain on top with 241 points ahead of Trident (154) and Arden International (149).
Race 2 will commence at 09.25am local time tomorrow with Palou starting from reverse pole.