After a tough season, Jake Hughes finally got his championship challenge back on track with victory in Sunday’s reverse grid race in Austria.
Hughes, who had said he was returning to GP3 to challenge for the championshp with ART Grand Prix, led from the end of the first lap to take his first race win of the season away from a moral boosting weekend, even though the top three on the grid made things a little easier for the Brit.
Giuliano Alesi got the best start of the three and, as Ryan Tveter got alongside the pole position holder David Beckmann, the action begun. As three drivers reached the braking point at turn one, Tveter moved across to open up the corner entry leaving enough room for Beckmann. The problem was that Alesi was on the outside of Beckmann and this squeezed the Jenzer driver, who had no-where to go, spearing Tveter across the track and into Alesi, eliminating both Trident’s on the opening corner with Beckmann pulling over later in the opening lap. .
From there, Hughes’ only challenger was the Brazilian Pedro Piquet. The Trident driver closed on the leader during the first half of the race and on half distance, Piquet used his final DRS (Drag Reduction System) use to good effect, claiming the lead into turn three. This left Piquet vulnerable to Hughes, who had all four uses still available, so the Brit used one to keep in touch with Piquet and another to re-take the lead after Piquet ran the kerb on the exit of turn three on lap 11. Hughes would be never headed from here as he won by just under a second from Piquet, who scored a second successive Sunday race podium after finishing second in France.
Leonardo Pulcini had a quiet race whilst trying to keep up with the front two but had to defend late on as he repelled an attack from championship leader Callum Ilott. Ilott, who won yesterday’s race in dominate style, passed the Italian with his final DRS use into turn three but a better run out of the corner put Pulcini in a great position to fight back. Being later on the brakes and defending into the final part of the lap, Pulcini kept Ilott at bay. Pulcini had to also defend on the final lap from MP Motorsport’s Dorian Boccolacci. Boccolacci went for a move into turn three forcing the Italian to take to the run off area but this only delayed Boccolacci and allowed Pulcini to escape to score a second podium of the weekend, also claiming a second successive fastest lap for the extra points.
Trident’s Alessio Lorandi pulled one of the moves of the race as he claimed fourth overall with a fractured shoulder. Nikita Mazepin made a late move on Niko Kari into turn three, forcing the MP Motorsport car off the track. This gave Lorandi the chance to get alongside both the drivers on the run to turn four, passing both drivers in one straight. Lorandi soon closed on Boccolacci in the closing stages and cruised past both Boccolacci and Ilott on the run to turn four after both drivers were bulked on the exit from Boccolacci’s failed move on Pulcini.
Boccolacci came home in fifth after starting tenth whilst Ilott extended his championship lead with the four points for sixth place. The Brit has had a great weekend but may be a little disappointed after challenging for a podium earlier in the race. ART team-mate Nikita Mazepin made it three ART’s in the points with seventh but the Russian would have wanted to capitalise more on a terrible weekend for former championship leader Anthoine Hubert.
Hubert, who came into the round with a 14 point lead ahead of Mazepin, had a poor qualifying session leaving him 19th on the grid for yesterday’s race. Contact with Mazepin yesterday left the Frenchman pointless and with a lot of work to do today. A great start saw Hubert rise to tenth on the opening lap but his progress seemed to be stumped from there, only gaining one more place to finish in ninth and finish the weekend with no points added to his tally.
MP Motorsport would have hoped for more this weekend but with Boccolacci in fifth and Kari rounding out the points in eighth, the team will be satisfied with the reverse grid race. Their third car, Devlin DeFrancesco, raced well from the back of the field to finish in eleventh place on his first weekend in the series.
In the championship, it is still two ART’s at the top of the table but it is now Callum Ilott who leads by six points over Anthoine Hubert. Campos’ Leonardo Pulcini leads the non-ART challengers in third, only two points behind Hubert, whilst Barcelona race winners Nikita Mazepin and Giuliano Alesi slip down the order to fourth and fifth respectively. Pedro Piquet moves up to sixth in the championship whilst today’s winner Jake Hughes scored more than double the points in this round alone than he had scored all season put together. This leaves the Brit in eighth, 33 points off points leader Ilott but Hughes will be carrying the momentum of victory to his home round at Silverstone in just five days time.