Niko Kari stormed to GP3 Series Feature Race at the Yas Marina Circuit, to take his first victory in the series.
The Finn resisted pressure from his rivals, as well as a couple of virtual safety car periods to lead home George Russell and Arjun Maini.
It was all decided at the start, when Arden International team-mates Kari and Leonardo Pulcini made great starts from second and third on the grid leaving pole man Russell the choice as to who to defend from and chose the Italian, leaving the outside line free for Kari to swoop through into the lead.
Behind the leaders, Nirei Fukuzumi and Raoul Hyman were slow to get away causing problems for rivals behind them.
The Japanese driver then clattered into Giuliano Alesi at Turn 8, forcing both drivers to pit. Outfront, Pulcini had found his way past Russell to make it an Arden 1-2 on track with the top 4 – with Maini in fourth place – pulling away from Dan Ticktum who was leading the next group, trailed by Dorian Boccolacci, Anthoine Hubert (who was looking to introduce himself into the fight for P2 in the championship), Alessio Lorandi, Steijn Schothorst and Ryan Tveter.
Looking to build a DRS buffer from his team-mate, Kari was pushing outfront when a brief virtual safety car period was deployed on lap 5 because Marcos Siebert had stopped at Turn 8.
Kari easily controlled the restart with Russell catching Pulcini napping but being forced to run over the kerbs and concede the place back to the Italian and handed Kari the vital 1 second gap he need.
Ticktum and Lorandi both lost out at the restart, losing positions but soon regained the places with the Briton breaking away from the pack as the Italian tried to follow, making a move on Boccolacci for sixth place.
Hubert’s hopes of putting in a strong result as Jack Aitken and Fukuzumi fumbled were dashed when he suddenly suffered a technical gremlin which dropped him down the field.
Another VSC period was called when Alesi rolled to a stop at Turn 20.
Russell once again caught Pulcini napping, but this time managed to make the move for second place stick into the final turn. Behind, Lorandi and Boccolacci resumed their battle swapping positions all over the circuit before the Italian made the move stick on lap 14. Dutchman Steijn Schothorst brought himself into the battle and forced the Frenchman to keep an eye on what was going on behind him.
Things became even worse for Pulcini whose left rear tyre started to deflate dropping him down the order before inevitably having to retire. This meant Maini inherited a podium finish.
Kari took the chequered flag with Russell unable to do anything about the Finn who has been on incredible form all weekend. Maini completed the podium. Ticktum claimed a lonely fourth placed ahead of Lorandi and Schothorst. Boccolacci held of a charging Hubert ahead of Tveter and Kevin Jörg.
However, following the race Hubert was handed a five second time penalty after it was found he had flouted rules regarding VSC and this means he loses his eighth place finish – and what was reverse grid pole for tomorrow’s race – promoting Tveter to eighth and Bruno Baptista into a points finish.
The 14 lap Sprint Race, the last race of 2017, gets underway at 12.50 local time.
2017 GP3 Series Feature Race Results – Yas Marina
|1||5||Niko Kari||FIN||Arden International||37m28.944|
|2||3||George Russell||GBR||ART Grand Prix||37m31.692|
|3||24||Arjun Maini||IND||Jenzer Motorsport||37m36.476|
|5||22||Alessio Lorandi||ITA||Jenzer Motorsport||37m54.828|
|6||7||Steijn Schothorst||NED||Arden International||37m58.834|
|8||4||Anthoine Hubert||FRA||ART Grand Prix||38m03.947|
|12||23||Juan Manuel Correa||ITA||Jenzer Motorsport||38m10.306|
|13||27||Raoul Hyman||RSA||Campos Racing||38m19.510|
|14||1||Jack Aitken||GBR||ART Grand Prix||38m26.755|
|15||2||Nirei Fukuzumi||JPN||ART Grand Prix||38m44.579|
|DNF||6||Leonardo Pulcini||ITA||Arden International||DNF|
|DNF||28||Marcos Siebert||ARG||Campos Racing||DNF|
|DNS||26||Julien Falchero||FRA||Campos Racing||DNS|
*Hubert has been handed a five second penalty and is officially classified in P11.