Mixed Results in Spain for Status GP’s Three Drivers

by Paul Hensby

Status Grand Prix’s three drivers had varying amount of success in the season opening GP3 Series event in Spain. Richie Stanaway took a third place in race one and followed that up with a fourth in race two, while Nick Yelloly took a ninth and a seventh. Young rookie Alfonso Celis Jr finished race one down in 18th but retired after an accident with Pal Varhaug in the tricky conditions of race two.

Stanaway, making his first single seater start since a career-threatening Formula Renault 3.5 crash at Spa in 2012, qualified well and then took a podium in the first race. For race two, in tricky conditions he finished fourth and left Spain second in the championship behind Carlin’s Alex Lynn.

“Qualifying was close, and I just needed another tenth or two to get pole,” said Stanaway. “We had the potential but didn’t quite maximise it. I got off the line well in the race, but unfortunately I had a fight with Kirchhofer and lost a place to Eriksson. From then on I did what I could, and once the race has settled down you have to drive to what you have. I’m very happy with the podium.

“[Race two] was certainly not a boring race! I was giving it everything I had, and conditions were changing a lot throughout the race. It was interesting slipping around, trying to find the grip. I had a lunge on [Jimmy] Eriksson into the chicane, which was a good move, but I’d made a pretty slow getaway at the start, which I was making up for. It’s great to end the weekend second in the championship – a good start to the season.”

For Yelloly, it was a frustrating weekend, with the highly rated Brit getting caught up in traffic during qualifying and then due to the nature of the Circuit de Catalunya layout, struggled to make up places on the road during the first race that left him ninth, just one place behind what would turn into reverse grid pole for race two.

“We were quick but I didn’t ever get a free lap on the second set of tyres, and everyone else went at least half a second quicker,” said Yelloly. “I got up to ninth in the race, but it’s always the same at Barcelona – you can’t get close enough to the guy in front to make a move. With [Matheo] Tuscher, it was either a massive lunge and take him out, or take a couple of points.”

In the tricky conditions of the second race, he showed his speed, but could only climb to seventh, and for the second race in a row, scored two points, and left Spain sitting ninth in the championship.

“Richie and I were easily the quickest on the track for much of the [second] race. [Patrick] Kujala hampered my race at the start when he took us both wide – he out-braked himself and turned across me. I had to get past a couple of people and then I caught Eriksson and Marvin Kirchhofer like they were standing still. I’m really happy with the pace – it’s just a shame we didn’t have much to show for it this weekend.”

For Celis Jr, it was a weekend of learning, as the Mexican rookie completed the first race in 18th, but made a rookie mistake in the damp conditions in race two to collide with the Jenzer Motorsport machine of Pal Varhaug that eliminated them both.

“I pushed a lot through the first laps and I was really pleased to make up so many places, but I maybe took too much out of the tyres and in the end I really damaged them,” said Celis Jr. “But this is all part of the learning process and I’m pleased with the progress I have made today. It was good to finish my first GP3 race and hopefully I’ll learn even more in the second.”

“I really like conditions like this,” he added after race two. “It was good, it was fun, and it was just a bit of a shame about the contact. I just saw a gap and went for it, under-steered and touched Varhaug. But anyway, I am ambitious but I am young and I’m learning. It was a good race before that though – I was really pleased with the progress we made!”

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