Once again the GP3 Series provided a thrilling season of close racing in 2014, and it was Red Bull-backed Briton Alex Lynn who prevailed in the championship, driving for Carlin.
Whereas Lynn was comfortably clear in the lead from the early rounds, the battle for the runners-up spot in the championship went down to the wire, with Dean Stoneman getting the better of Marvin Kirchhofer, although a few races from the end, seven different drivers had been in contention.
The 2014 season, nine different drivers saw the chequered flag first, including maiden series wins for Lynn, Stoneman, Kirchhofer, Jimmy Eriksson, Emil Bernstorff, Nick Yelloly and Jann Mardenborough, while both Richie Stanaway and Patric Niederhauser returned to the top step of the podium.
Having acquired the backing of the Red Bull Junior programme after his Macau Formula 3 win at the end of 2013, Lynn started the year in perfect style by taking a win at the Circuit de Catalunya having started from pole position and with fastest lap to boot. He was joined on the podium by Koiranen GP driver Eriksson, who, after a point-less 2013 season with Status Grand Prix, got his second year of GP3 off to a great start, and by Stanaway, who was making a welcome return to the series and to single seater racing after almost seeing his career end with a back-breaking crash in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series back in 2012.
The reversed grid race two didn’t go to plan for Lynn, who went the wrong way in tyre choice on a damp track and struggled early and ultimately finished eighteenth. The victory went to Marussia Manor Racing’s Stoneman, who finished ahead of Swiss driver Matheo Tuscher of Jenzer Motorsport and Dino Zamparelli of ART Grand Prix. A mention must go to Emil Bernstorff here, who made an excellent recovery from the back of the grid after crashing out of race one for Carlin to score a point in eighth place.
For race one in Spain for Lynn, he did exactly the same in the opener at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, taking pole position, the win and the fastest lap, with his team-mate Bernstorff second ahead of Eriksson. Bernstorff took the win in race two despite starting seventh, with Eriksson and Stanaway on the podium, while Lynn finished twentieth after being forced into the pits early to fix a puncture.
It was Eriksson’s time to take his maiden win at Silverstone, becoming the first driver to defeat Lynn in the opener, with the Briton being forced to settle for second, while Kirchhofer of ART Grand Prix took third to complete the podium. Stanaway led a Status Grand Prix 1-2 finish in race two ahead of Nick Yelloly, with Bernstorff finishing third ahead of Kirchhofer, Ricardo Agostini of Hilmer Motorsport and Lynn, who scored his first race two points of the year.
Silverstone saw one of the biggest crashes of the year in free practice, when two debutants – Mitch Gilbert of Trident Racing and Sebastian Balthasar of Hilmer Motorsport collided on the Hangar Straight in heavy rain, with Gilbert’s car sliding upside down before coming to a rest, with his headrest broken. Luckily both drivers walked away unharmed, although Gilbert sat out the weekend.
Kirchhofer was victorious in sublime style in the Hockenheim opener, winning from pole position and with the fastest lap, with Lynn once again on the podium in second ahead of Bernstorff, while Jann Mardenborough of Arden International secured eighth place and reverse grid pole position, which he used to great effect to take his maiden victory in race two. He was joined on the podium by fellow Britons Zamparelli and Lynn, while Stoneman and Yelloly made it a British 1-2-3-4-5 finish.
Heading into the Hungaroring, it was Stanaway who took his second win of the season in race one, but the New Zealander was made to work hard for the victory by Robert Visoiu of Arden International, who pushed him all the way until he made a mistake a few laps from the end that allowed Yelloly through to make it a Status Grand Prix 1-2 finish again, though Visoiu held on for third. Patric Niederhauser took his first victory since 2012 in race two after a great start from third on the grid that propelled him into the lead at the first corner. Zamparelli finished second (having started from the pole) ahead of Mardenborough, meaning Lynn finished off the podium in both races for the first time in 2014.
Luca Ghiotto surprised many by taking pole position on his debut for Trident Racing, but it Stoneman who took the win, his second of the season, in the damp opener at Spa-Francorchamps ahead of Zamparelli and Yelloly. Lynn, who had finished eighth in race one after jumping into the pits on the warm-up lap to switch from wet tyres onto dries, took victory in race two ahead of Stanaway and Alex Fontana of ART Grand Prix, who had endured a nightmare start to the year.
There was another massive crash for a Trident Racing driver in free practice, when another debutant Konstantin Tereschenko lost control heading towards the Bus Stop chicane at the end of the lap and got launched into a frightening roll that saw his weekend end there, although he was unharmed.
After three point-less races, Eriksson got back into the groove and took his second win of the season in race one at Monza, with Zamparelli once again on the podium ahead of his team-mate Kirchhofer, while Stoneman was victorious in race two ahead of Lynn, with Kirchhofer completing the podium again.
Stoneman was forced to switch teams between the races at Monza and Sochi when his Marussia Manor Racing team quit the series, but the Briton found his feet at Koiranen GP, replacing Carmen Jorda, and was immediately victorious once more, leading from pole position in race one to beat Kirchhofer and Fontana. Stoneman almost made it a double win in the exciting race two, but was unable to pass Niederhauser on the final lap, with the Swiss driver taking his second win of the year, with Kirchhofer completing the podium in third. With Lynn taking fifth behind Mardenborough, it meant that he was on the verge of the title.
Lynn clinched the title in unusual style in Abu Dhabi, when Stoneman, the only driver who could deny him the title, was unable to take pole position and the four points that offered. Stoneman took the victory in race one ahead of Kirchhofer, who had denied him that pole position, while Zamparelli finished third.
Niederhauser thought he had taken his third win of the year in race two but was sadly disqualified after the race for a technical infringement out of his control, handing Yelloly his maiden series win in his fiftieth race in the series. Champion Lynn was handed second place ahead of Bernstorff. Stoneman claimed second in the championship despite a first lap retirement after Kirchhofer was forced to start from the pit lane after stalling on the dummy grid, and although the German climbed to eleventh, he missed out by just two points to the Briton.
Lynn was the deserving champion of 2014, and proved to everyone that Red Bull were correct in joining forces with the young Briton. Carlin clinched their first Team’s championship, with Lynn, Bernstorff and Luis Sa Silva all contributing to defeat ART Grand Prix by 17 points.