Strong Weekend for ART Grand Prix at Hockenheim

The ART Grand Prix team left Hockenheim having taken their first victory of the season in the hands of home hero Marvin Kirchhofer. The German led from start to finish on Saturday for his maiden GP3 Series victory. Briton Dino Zamparelli managed to score points on Saturday and a podium on Sunday, but third driver Alex Fontana continued to struggle, and the Swiss driver remains pointless heading into next weekends’ Hungarian round of the series.

Kirchhofer’s Saturday was immense. He took his first GP3 pole position in the morning, and then made a good start to the race that enabled the German to convert that into his maiden series victory. Unfortunately his Sunday was less satisfactory, as his race was cut short after a collision with the Carlin of Emil Bernstorff. He will head into Hungary with a grid drop penalty hanging over him; despite the German believing it was a racing accident.

“This pole position on my home soil, was a very special feeling,” said Kirchhofer. “But I knew it was just the first part of the job and to finish it, I had to make a good start and stay strong and focused. I did just that thanks to the team’s hard work, as we have definitely improved in the last few weeks. I hope this is just the beginning and that we will fight for wins at every race from now on. To get pole, victory and the fastest lap in front of all my fans, my family and my friends, it was magic and it’s the perfect reward for them and for ART Grand Prix.

“Unfortunately the weekend ended on a bad note with this penalty, which will now compromise my chances to do well in Hungary. It was clearly a race incident, nothing more, but I’ll learn from this and I’ll try to qualify high in Budapest, to get a good result in race 1 to be in a good position in race 2.”

Zamparelli continues to improve, and believed he could have started higher up that his seventh place on the grid after being caught out by yellow flags on the circuit. He managed to convert that to a sixth place finish on Saturday. On Sunday, he made a good start from third on the grid to move into second place, but saw a chance of a win disappear firstly by more yellow flags and then by the pace of the Arden International of Jann Mardenborough up front as Dino’s tyres began to lose pace.

“I qualified P7 but we had the potential to do better without the yellow flags,” said Zamparelli. “I was hoping that I could catch up in the race. I fought hard to take 6th position and my goal was to go for the win on Sunday.

I worked hard on my starts ever since the blunder at Silverstone. Hard work pays off: I got past Eriksson and I put Mardenborough under pressure. I was faster than him but the yellow flags came out at a bad time for me once again. Then, my tyres were deteriorating and I have to work with ART to improve this.

“All in all, this was a good weekend, there were a lot of good things to take from Hockenheim and it’s great to be back on the podium. It gives us a lot of confidence before the Hungarian races.”

It was another disappointing weekend for Fontana despite showing some good pace. The Swiss driver qualified eleventh but would start sixteenth after the penalty carried over from Silverstone was applied. He finished in eleventh on Saturday, but his aim of scoring points on Sunday did not come to pass as he stalled on the line, and dropped to the rear of the field. He fought back tremendously but could get no higher than fourteenth.

“Free practice was better than the end result, P12, as I had yellow flags on my fastest lap and more importantly we found a few solutions to improve my car,” said Fontana. “I was confident for qualifying and eleventh place was certainly not the one we expected. I had good pace and overtook several cars in race 1 and my aim was to get some points on Sunday.

“Unfortunately, I stalled on the grid and came back from 26th to 14th. I’m disappointed about my mistake but on the positive side, the car was really good, so was my race pace.”

Team Principal Frederic Vasseur praised Kirchhofer’s race winning efforts on Saturday but rued his mistake on Sunday that cost him not only a good result in race two but also a penalty for race one in Hungary. Vasseur also took time to say positive things about Zamparelli’s podium, and Fontana’s fighting spirit.

“Despite the fact that he had to cope with the pressure of racing at home, Marvin was excellent in his approach, his driving and his management of qualifying and the races,” said Vasseur. “It is an immense satisfaction because it is rare to reach such a level of perfection. Too bad for his error of the second race as it cost him points in Germany and won’t do him any good in Hungary.

“Dino is back on track after his disappointment in Silverstone and victories won’t escape him indefinitely. Alex has been fighting against adversity for a few weeks, but he never surrenders and his return fight in the races gives us an idea of what his potential would be if he were to start in the first rows of the grid.”