The opening day of the latest GP3 test at the Paul Ricard High Tech Test Track in France has been dominated by ART Grand Prix. 18 year old Mexican Esteban Gutierrez ended the day as the driver to beat, having set the standard during the on track running.

The test, which was held on the circuit's 3D configuration, saw all twenty-nine youngsters take to the track within the opening hour of the three hour session.

Mexican Gutierrez topped the maiden GP3 test at Paul Ricard and carried on his early season form at the French circuit, lapping the 3D configuration in 1m20.446s, a time which wouldn't be beaten during the rest of the day.

Gutierrez's best time was over half a second faster than his nearest competitor, the Addax Team driver Pablo Sanchez Lopez, who set a best time of 1m20.987s.

To prove how competitive the inaugural season of GP3 is shaping up to be the top ten positions were filled by six different teams: ART Grand Prix, Addax Team, Manor Racing, Status GP, RSC Mucke Motorsport and MW Arden.

The best placed of the GP3 rookies was the 2009 Formula Renault UK Champion Dean Smith, who set a very encouraging eleventh fastest time during the morning, comfortably beating his nearest rookie, Jake Rosenzweig in the sister car of Carlin.

The afternoon session saw the ART Grand Prix continue their GP3 testing domination, as Gutierrez and team mate Alexander Rossi locked out the top of the times, sending out a warning to the other competitors that they would be the team to beat.

Behind the flying ART Grand Prix cars, the RSC Mucke Motorsport car of Nigel Melker led home the first of the Status GP car of Robert Wickens – who had only announced his deal with Status GP hours before the test, while Melkers team mate Tobias Hegewald.

Six different teams featured in the top ten at the end of the afternoon test, with ART Grand Prix securing the top two times, Gutierrez being backed up by his rapid team mate, 18 year old American Alexander Rossi.

Behind the dominant ART Grand Prix pairing were RSC Mucke Motorsport, the team is a collaboration between German race team Mucke Motorsport and former Formula One race winner Ralf Schumacher. The trio of drivers with the team for 2010 all set times fastest enough to end the day inside the top ten, with 19 year old Dutchman Nigel Melker setting the third fastest time of the afternoon, with team mates Tobias Hegewald and Renger Van Der Zande finishing the session with the fifth and eighth fastest times.

Status GP featured inside the top ten times, with duo Robert Wickens and Daniel Morad, Wickens set the fourth best time of the afternoon with Morad backing up Wickens in sixth.

Three teams featured one driver with a top ten times: MW Arden with Michael Christiansen, Addax Team with Sanchez Lopez and Swiss outfit Jenzer Motorsport and their racer Nico Muller. Seven tenths of a second separated Gutierrez and Muller during the afternoon.

Speaking after the opening days' testing, Gutierrez said: “We had a really great day today. This morning was more about trying different things with the car and seeing what works. Obviously it is good to be fastest but we have to remember that this is one track, and it is very different from all of the circuits on the calendar. It is more important to keep learning the car and moving forward.”

Gutierrez's ART Grand Prix team mate, Rossi commented: “It's not long now until Barcelona so we really went for it today. I was just 100th behind Esteban so it's a great result for the team. It's good to have a teammate that really pushes you. It's intense but we have a good relationship and it will make for an interesting season.”

RSC Mucke Motorsports Melker remarked on his day's testing: “This Series is extremely competitive so I'm really happy to be in the top three. We took everything we learnt at the last test and applied it today. I learnt a lot more about the car and every time I drive I am more and more impressed by the amount of grip – last season I raced Formula Renault and the difference is incredible. Now we are starting to think about qualifying tomorrow, and although P1 will be hard I am going to push as hard as I can.”

The combined times from day 1 of the GP3 test at Paul Ricard:

Position Name Team Time AM Time PM
1 Estaban Gutierrez ART Grand Prix 1:20.446s 1:20.707s
2 Alexander Rossi ART Grand Prix 1:21.000s 1:20.719s
3 Nigel Melker RSC Mucke Motorsport 1:21.767s 1:20.867s
4 Robert Wickens Status GP 1:21.138s 1:21.062s
5 Tobias Hegewald RSC Mucke Motorsport 1:21.773s 1:21.171s
6 Daniel Morad Status GP 1:21.700s 1:21.241s
7 Michael Christiansen MW Arden 1:21.508s 1:21.322s
8 Renger Van Der Zande RSC Mucke Motorsport 1:21.460s 1:21.379s
9 Pablo Sanchez Lopez Addax Team 1:20.987s 1:21.407s
10 Nico Muller Jenzer Motorsport 1:21.801s 1:21.462s
11 Simon Trummer Jenzer Motorsport 1:21.820s 1:21.496s
12 Pal Varhaug Jenzer Motorsport 1:21.964s 1:21.564s
13 James Jakes Manor Racing 1:20.999s 1:21.628s
14 Jake Rosenzweig Carlin 1:21.992s 1:21.671s
15 Mirko Bortolotti Addax Team 1:22.386s 1:21.685s
16 Pedro Nunes ART Grand Prix 1:21.756s 1:21.835s
17 Miki Monras MW Arden 1:21.757s 1:21.841s
18 Stefano Coletti Tech 1 Racing 1:23.166s 1:21.877s
19 Josef Newgarden Carlin 1:22.373s 1:21.930s
20 Dean Stoneman Atech CRS GP 1:22.307s
21 Leonardo Cordeiro MW Arden 1:22.345s 1:22.239s
22 Dean Smith Carlin 1:21.764s 1:22.357s
23 Doru Sechelariu Tech 1 Racing 1:22.436s 1:22.365s
24 Patrick Reiterer Atech CRS GP 1:22.456s 1:22.404s
25 Oliver Oakes Atech CRS GP 1:22.295s 1:22.471s
26 Rio Haryanto Manor Racing 1:21.989s 1:22.759s
27 Nicholas Marroc Tech 1 Racing 1:23.177s 1:22.910s
28 Ivan Lukashevich Status GP 1:22.733s 1:22.916s
29 Felipe Guimaraes Addax Team 1:22.215s 1:23.416s
Bold Drivers fastest time

Photo credit: Drew Gibson/GP3 Media Service