The ART Grand Prix team had a tough weekend at the Hungaroring, with Dino Zamparelli taking the teams’ only points with an eighth place on Saturday and a second place on Sunday. Marvin Kirchhofer was just outside the points in both races, but Alex Fontana’s weekend was heavily compromised by the red flags coming out just at the wrong time in qualifying when the Swiss driver was on course for pole position.
Zamparelli felt he was unlucky with traffic during qualifying, but had a measured opening race of the weekend where he focused on taking eighth position and pole position for race two. He was frustrated to see Patric Niederhauser of Arden International jump ahead of him at the start to prevent the young Briton taking his maiden win, but he did take his second consecutive race two runners-up spot.
“Once again, we had strong pace this weekend,” said Zamparelli. “We showed that in free practice, but we got unlucky in qualifying with the traffic. We expected to fight for the top 3, but P5 wasn’t a disaster as long as I could get a good start. It’s a shame we didn’t, but I focused on the reverse pole.
“Niederhauser had a blinding start and I had to settle for P2. It’s difficult to pass around here as you lose downforce when you get close to another car. A podium is good but it’s a bit frustrating not to take the win when it was on the cards and when ART Grand Prix gave me a great car. We’ll come back even stronger in Spa.”
Kirchhofer was always on the back foot in Hungary having arrived at the Hungaroring with a five place grid penalty carried over from Hockenheim, but he was disappointed to qualify only tenth, which became fourteenth after the penalty was applied (he gained one position after Luis Sa Silva was also penalised). He could only gain a few positions in race one, and ultimately failed to score all weekend to drop more points behind the Championship leader Alex Lynn.
“To be honest, I knew it would be a difficult weekend because of the penalty I got in Hockenheim,” said Kirchhofer. “But I did not expect it to be that tough. Qualifying was not nice to us because I had a problem with the clutch and I ended up P10, which meant P14 with the penalty. I gained several positions in the race but I did not want to compromise my Belgian weekend and I did not take any risks.
“I’m still optimistic, the season is still long and I love Spa. I hope we gathered all the bad things in Budapest and that we’ll be back in the hunt for pole and victory in Spa.”
Fontana’s weekend was compromised by the red flags during qualifying, which came while the Swiss driver was on a lap that was fast enough for pole position. Ultimately it resulted in an eighth place starting position, but he lost a handful of places on the opening lap and was left pointless once again.
“The practice session was great and qualifying too until the red flag,” said Fontana. “I was potentially on pole with two fastest sectors but I had to back off for the red flags. That was a real shame because we all know how the position on the grid is important in GP3 and especially in Budapest.
“My start was not bad but I chose the wrong line and I lost some positions. I fought all race and preserving the tires was not easy. Plus, I did not want to have a penalty for Spa where I have stood on the podium in the past. I hope this will be a fresh new start for me.”
Team Manager Sebastien Philippe was ultimately frustrated with the teams’ weekend in Hungary, especially as they had finished 1-2-3 in practice on Friday. He lamented the bad luck of Fontana, but praised the race craft of Zamparelli for managing race one superbly to gain pole for race two.
“This weekend was frustrating because we obviously had what it takes to get poles and wins,” said Philippe. “Alex was the unluckiest man of the field in qualifying as he was clearly the fastest, but the red flag killed his grid position and basically his weekend. After a difficult start in race 1, Dino was clever to secure Sunday’s pole. Unfortunately, Niederhauser had a blistering start.
“We told our drivers not to take any risks in this race because it was of the utmost importance not to compromise our races in Belgium and their reactions and adaptation were perfect, even though they are frustrated with the raw result. We will now prepare for Spa together as a team.”