The Status Grand Prix trio of Nick Yelloly, Richie Stanaway and Alfonso Celis Jr had a very tough weekend in Russia, with the highlights being Yelloly’s ninth and sixth place finishes and Celis Jr’s first ever points on Sunday for seventh. Stanaway’s weekend was a nightmare, as he saw his outside chance of the championship disappear when disqualified in qualifying for missing the weighbridge.
Yelloly was disappointed to finish in ninth, just missing out on reverse grid pole position to Patric Niederhauser, the eventual race two winner, by 1.187s. He admitted to struggling during the opening race despite feeling the car was an improvement from qualifying.
“We made an improvement to the car from qualifying although we did struggle a little bit in the race,” said Yelloly. “Passing in GP3 is very, very tough, especially at Sochi, so it was difficult to make any progress. I didn’t get the best first lap – I was on the dirty side of the grid and it got very messy with incidents. Ninth is the worst place to finish when the top eight are reversed for race two, but we’ll just improve and carry things forward.”
Yelloly moved up a few places to sixth during the second race on Sunday, but felt he did not have enough grip left after the safety car to make anymore places up. He admitted he felt more comfortable with the set-up of his car having made some changes overnight.
“We made a balance improvement from yesterday and we were quick in the early stages,” insisted Yelloly. “It was a big step forward, and I managed to do a few nice overtaking moves and get a few people behind us. At the end of the race, I just didn’t have enough tyre left to nail one or two of them. I just missed the shunt at the start and I’m glad Richie’s OK.”
Despite there only being one round of the season to go in six weeks time at Abu Dhabi, Yelloly insists that he and the team will continue to strive to be at the front, with the Briton still looking for his first win in GP3 despite being a regular visit to the podium.
It’s good to get points and we’ll keep working hard to be fighting at the front in Abu Dhabi,” insisted Yelloly.
Stanaway admitted he did not see the red light in the pit lane during qualifying signifying for him to go into the weighbridge that saw him start from the pit lane having set the sixth fastest time in the session. Despite a good opening few laps, the New Zealander could not finish in the points, ultimately ending his race down in twelfth.
“I didn’t see the red light in the pit lane, so that was disappointing,” reflected Stanaway. “Starting from the pits wasn’t going to be ideal, but in the race I gave it everything I could. I just couldn’t have got to the chequered flag any quicker. But when you start from the pit lane the damage is already done, especially on a track where it’s so difficult to overtake.”
Race 2 was over before it could really begin for the New Zealander, as he was caught up in the turn one crash that eliminated Alex Fontana, Pal Varhaug and Riccardo Agostini. He was lucky to escape injury as it was a violent hit against the barrier, and was disappointed as he felt he could have finished inside the points on Sunday.
“We made some changes to the car overnight, and it felt really good during a couple of warm-up laps, so we had some good potential,” said Stanaway. “I just got fenced in at the start and there was nowhere to go. The impact is probably the biggest g-force I’ve experienced, because I went perpendicular into the barrier, where it curves in because of an access road, and the sudden deceleration shook me up. I’ll probably be pretty sore tomorrow but I’m OK.”
Celis Jr was baulked at the opening corner of Saturday’s opener and lost a few places, then lost more ground as he avoided a crash in front of him, before ultimately finishing down in sixteenth.
“I got blocked at Turn 1 just after the start and lost a couple of places,” stated Celis Jr. “Then there was a crash at Turn 5 and everything was coming at me. There was a crashing car coming towards me so I had to really slow down and lost more positions. After that I drove to what I had – I just had to do the best I could.”
Race 2 saw the Mexican finally secure his first GP3 Series points with a fighting drive through to seventh, finishing on the tail of team-mate Yelloly. He was running ninth behind Kevin Ceccon and Patrick Kujala but was able to pass both on track, something Celis Jr was delighted to do.
“It feels great to score my first points and race strongly in the Top 10,” insisted Celis Jr. “I got a good start, avoided the Turn 1 accident, and then got my head down – the pace was good and I was comfortable racing with the guys around me. I was able to pressure Kujala, and when we both passed Kevin Ceccon I got into eighth. Then at the second restart I was really pleased with my move to pass Kujala for seventh. Every race weekend is a learning curve for me, and it’s great that we’ve got a reward. It shows the progress we’ve made.”