Trident’s David Beckmann showed maturity beyond his years to control the opening race of the GP3 weekend from pole position at Spa-Francorchamps.
Beckmann, who is only in his third race with the Trident team after being dropped by Jenzer Motorsport, dominated the race from pole position to secure his maiden GP3 victory and lead home a 1-2 for the Italian squad with team-mate Ryan Tveter coming home in second. ART grand Prix’s Anthoine Hubert rounded out the podium in third to extend his lead in the championship over Callum Ilott, who could only finish sixth.
A wet track with a drying line faced the drivers ahead of the race and the formation lap showed this with spray coming off the cars on the run up the Kemmel straight.
Beckmann got the perfect start from pole position as Hubert and Pedro Piquet were slow off the line. This gave Jake Hughes the chance to go in between the pair but as the pack braked for La Source, Hughes backed off to save the car from any damage on the wet track. The crowded nature of the corner forced Nikita Mazepin wide with very little grip on the run-off area.
In all of the opening lap battles, Beckmann had broken clear ahead of the fast starting team-mate Ryan Tveter, who had took advantage of the turn one chaos to move from eighth to second, taking second from the third Trident of Piquet on the run down to Eau Rouge. The ART of Hubert claimed third off Piquet halfway around the opening laps whilst rival and team-mate Ilott had dropped to ninth after contact with Mazepin.
Hughes made his move on Piquet at the start of lap three and whilst the race started to settle, Beckmann continued to extend his lead with the fastest lap of the race as the circuit continued to dry. Tveter then responded to his Trident team-mate in terms of lap time to close to within a second. Nervous times for the Italian squad with two drivers leading the field and trading lap times on a slippery circuit.
The order looked settled until lap nine when Tveter closed on his team-mate with the use of DRS on the run to Les Combe. The American braked too late, skidded across the run-off area and dropped back into the clutches of Hubert.
As the second half of the race progressed and the podium positions seemed set, the focus moved to the battle for fourth place, which was lead by Hughes and stretched to Giuliano Alesi in ninth. With five laps to go, Hughes looked safe but then his rear tyres seemed to drop ‘off the cliff’ and Piquet made his move, as did team-mate Mazepin. With Hughes dropping off the lead by about two seconds per lap, championship contender Ilott took his chance on the final lap with the use of DRS to demote Hughes down to seventh at the flag.
Beckmann lead the field home by 1.363 seconds from a gracious team-mate Tveter to record another 1-2 for the team, after Piquet and Alesi pulled off the same result for the team in the second race at Silverstone. Beckmann now sits eighth in the points, just behind Tveter. Tveter seemed pleased just to do well at Spa after a massive accident in a previous race at the circuit. Hubert closed at the end but had to settle for third plus the extra two points for the fastest lap. A good day for the championship leader.
Pedro Piquet secured fourth from Nikita Mazepin, who will move up to third in the championship behind Hubert and Ilott. Ferrari Academy driver Ilott stays second in the points but falls to almost a race win behind his French team-mate. Hughes will be disappointed to finish in seventh, the fourth of the ART cars, but can take some comfort that he will start on the front row of tomorrow’s shorter reverse grid race.
On pole position for tomorrow’s race will be Arden’s Joey Mawson. The Australian almost took advantage of Ilott’s move on Hughes on the final lap but ran wide letting Hughes back through and left Mawson fighting off Alesi for the important eighth place.
Alesi had a quiet race compared to his team-mates, who all finished in the top four, and had to settle for ninth whilst Jenzer and Tatiana Calderon slowly worked their way forward to score another point, her second point in two races.
Third in the points coming into this race, Leonardo Pulcini, could not recover from his poor qualifying and finished down in 15th. Progress in tomorrow’s race will be important for the Campos driver if he wants any chance of claiming the crown come Abu Dhabi at the end of the season.
MP Motorsport debutant Richard Verschoor, replacing the promoted Dorian Boccolacci, raced well to finish ahead of his team-mate Devlin Defrancesco in 17th after starting from the pitlane due to being disqualified from qualifying for missing the weighbridge.