The Status Grand Prix team saw Nick Yelloly and Richie Stanaway both claim podium finishes as the GP3 Series rolled into Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian leg of the season. Yelloly claimed third in race one, while Stanaway took second in race two.
Third driver Alfonso Celis Jr continues to improve, and finished 13th and 15th respectively in the two races, but was on course for better in race one before an out-of-control rival hit him with two laps remaining.
Stanaway originally decided to start the race on wet tyres but changed his mind on the formation lap, jumping into the pits alongside championship leader Alex Lynn of Carlin. The two battled with each other until the flag, with the Kiwi driver beating the Briton to seventh place.
“There were quite a few championship contenders at the front and we were all there sitting on the grid on wets – and I didn’t want to be the one to take a punt and have it rain,” said Stanaway. “When you start further down you can take that risk. So then I had to pit at the end of the formation lap. Lynn and I were pressing on pretty hard. We were giving it everything – flat out! It was a pretty cool race actually – of course I’m disappointed with the result, but it was fun.”
Starting from second place on Sunday, Stanaway was forced to start on the wet side of the grid, and was lucky to stay second. He had another close battle with Lynn, this time for the lead of the race, but could not make the opportunity stick that saw him briefly take the lead after a mistake from the Briton, as Lynn struck back the very next corner to retake the lead that he would not relinquish again.
“I couldn’t really do anything at the start from the wetter side of the track, and I was struggling with the balance a little bit,” insisted Stanaway. “I got one great opportunity to take the win when Lynn made a mistake but I couldn’t quite make it stick. I got past, went to block him on the wet part of the track, and ran wide and he got back ahead. It’s not a bad result, but it takes the satisfaction away a bit, especially as the races we’ve got left are running out. But we’ll just bounce back and try to maximise it at Monza.”
Yelloly was disappointed with his qualifying effort on Saturday morning, but made the correct tyre choice for the race and was rewarded with a podium finish for third. He admitted he had fun battling with Dino Zamparelli and Jann Mardenborough as the Brit pack dominated race one.
“Starting 13th, we could take more of a gamble on tyres, and on the green-flag laps you could tell it was going to dry out,” said Yelloly. “Then we got on with it and picked off the wet-tyred runners one by one. It was good fun battling with Dino and Jann – Dino got a run on us both and picked up a double-tow, and I ran off the track, so I let Jann past to be safe from picking up a penalty and got him back at La Source. The group of us were the class of the field on slicks in the damp, and I’m looking forward to making progress again tomorrow.”
For race two on Sunday, starting sixth, he managed to pass the Jenzer Motorsport machine of Pal Varhaug for fifth, but was unable to pass Mardenborough for fourth, and was forced to defend from Emil Bernstorff of Carlin on the final lap to hang onto his fifth place.
“I got a good start, and hung it out there to pass Varhaug,” said Yelloly. “In the wet on slicks I had good pace, but I couldn’t send a lunge on anyone because of the risk of going off. At first I was quicker than the guys in front, but then I suffered from some understeer. I caught Mardenborough late on but I couldn’t get close enough to make a move. At the Bus Stop on the final lap, he braked so early, so I had to put it in the middle of the track to defend from Bernstorff. I’m happy with the points and my championship position.”
Celis Jr continues to improve as the season goes go, and like Stanaway, switched to the dry tyres at the conclusion of the formation lap on Saturday. He was running eleventh when the safety car was deployed to clear up the stranded car of Matheo Tuscher at Eau Rouge, but lost a place when an out-of-control Ryan Cullen made contact with the Mexican’s car at the Bus Stop Chicane on the penultimate lap that damaged his suspension.
“I thought it was going to rain again so I take the blame for the initial tyre choice,” said Celis Jr. “But I think I drove well throughout the rest of the race and I’m quite happy about how it turned out. At the restart, I closed more on the cars in front at the Bus Stop than I thought I would, so I had to brake earlier than normal. I saw the smoke from Ryan and I thought ‘Oh my God!’ I was already turning but I prepared for the hit and caught it. It damaged the suspension though and I was really oversteering from then on.”
His race on Sunday was less entertaining, although his lap times continue to get closer to those of his team-mates. He lost two places at the start, and another to the charging Luca Ghiotto with five laps to go, but finished fifteenth. He heads into Monza hoping to finally break into the top ten and score points.
“I lost some positions at the start and my front tyres took a while to come in; Ghiotto was quicker and he overtook me,” said Celis Jr. “Then I had Luis Sa Silva behind me, but he crashed. I’m more confident with the car, more consistent, and now I want to be consistent in the top 10. I’m OK with how the weekend went, and can’t wait for Monza!”