Dean Smith ran at the sharp end throughout the entire GP3 Series weekend at Valencia, but a fuel pressure problem robbed the Addax Team driver of a second place finish on the last lap of the first race. A drive-through penalty then prevented him from scoring points in the second race.
First free practice on Friday began well for Dean but he would have a high-speed off through no fault of his own halfway through the session. The throttle on his car stuck open as a result of an ECU overload, sending his car off at Turn 2.
In the second session Dean recovered to post the fourth fastest time, just 0.182 off the quickest time. In qualifying on Saturday he recorded the best qualifying result of his GP3 career to date, bagging himself a slot on the front row.
Dean beat polesitter Lewis Williamson off the line at the start of race one, but both were passed by the fast-starting Adrian Quaife-Hobbs through Turn 1.
He maintained position throughout the race and looked set for a comfortable second place finish until the end of the final lap, when his car went into 'safety mode' due to a fuel pressure problem. Dean could only crawl his car across the line in fifth place.
This did at least give him a second row grid slot on the reverse grid for race two, and Dean made the most of it to move up into third at the start. He tried to pass Valtteri Bottas for second place but the Finn defended his position and Dean lost two places in the process.
Getting caught in another multi-car scrap on lap nine saw Dean slip to sixth, but he was able to get back past teammate Gabby Chaves to take fifth. He looked set to finish there until he was handed a drive-through penalty by the stewards who deemed he did not slow enough during a yellow flag period. The penalty dropped him down to 11th in the final results.
“We've been fast the whole weekend, I've had good pace and have driven well and the car has been working well so to come away without another podium is very frustrating,” said Dean.
“I'm really annoyed about the drive-through as a lot of drivers were quicker than me when yellows were out so I'm not happy about that. I definitely backed off but if I am going to get a penalty, the others should!”
Dean was unsure whether he would get the chance to continue with Addax into the Valencia round due to budget constraints, but he repaid his team by showing superb pace throughout the weekend.
“I do want to say a big thank you to Addax and all of the team's sponsors, especially Barwa, for the chance to be in the car again this weekend – we definitely proved our pace and we deserved at least one podium,” said Dean. “We had a lot of bad luck but we showed we're as quick as anyone out there.”
Once again Dean is unsure of whether he will be able to continue his GP3 campaign any further. As it stands Dean will not get the chance to race at his home circuit of Silverstone unless he can find a drive.
“It's Silverstone next in a couple of weeks and I'd love to be out there but, as it looks at the minute, we won't be due to the funds,” he added. “If we can't be there with Addax, hopefully there might be one or two other seats available. We've got the pace to succeed, we just need the opportunity.”