Quaife-Hobbs ends GP3 season on a high

British race ace Adrian Quaife-Hobbs brought his GP3 Series campaign to a finish at Monza at the weekend with a stirring performance at the historic Italian track. The 20 year-old took his second pole position of the season on Saturday, after being consistently in the top three in Friday’s practice and in race two on Sunday passed a staggering 18 cars to take sixth, and clinch fifth in the points table.

The Marussia Manor Racing driver went into the final two rounds with a mathematical chance of lifting the title. And, after setting the early pace with the second fastest time in morning practice, he headed into the afternoon session confident of improving.

However a coming together with another driver on lap six brought his charge to a premature end. Despite that the Tonbridge racer still finished third quickest of the 30-car field.

Heading into Saturday’s qualifying, Quaife-Hobbs was once again on fine form, settling in to sixth place on his first run on old tyres. As he ventured out for his final attempt at pole on new tyres though, he found the rest of the pack also out on track, and it looked like being an impossible task to repeat his previous form.

However, on the run onto his final tour, he managed to make a gap to the car in front, and in the closing minutes of the session, dialled in the perfect lap to clinch pole position and earn two valuable championship points.

Starting from the front row for the first of two races Quaife-Hobbs made the perfect getaway to take an immediate lead, gradually extending the gap over the first four laps. On lap five however, he began to struggle with oversteer and dropped to fourth. Then entering the Ascari bend on lap ten the oversteer worsened and he was pitched off the circuit, hitting the wall and severely damaging his car.

With the car repaired overnight and despite his championship title hopes over, the BRDC Rising Star took to the circuit for race two on Sunday morning, lining up 24th. A staggering start allowed him to pass ten cars as the packed filed into Ascari for the first time, but a collision ahead caused the car in front to brake heavily, leaving Quaife-Hobbs nowhere to go. The resultant impact damaged his front wing and lost him four places in the process, dropping him to 18th.

Over the remaining laps, he reeled in and passed another 12 cars to finish sixth at the flag, gaining an additional point and earning him fifth place in the points table.

“Overall it was a pretty good weekend, in that we had good pace throughout,” said Adrian. “I did all I could to win here this weekend. After the pole time I really believe we could have finished second in the championship.

“Testing started well and we were immediately quick but in the second session, I got hit by another car, which pushed me off into the gravel and ended my run. We were still third though and I’m certain I could have gone quicker had I been able to do more than six laps.

“In qualifying I was sixth on my first run and it became obvious that to get a quick time I would need a tow from another car. But, when I came back out with new tyres ready for the run, the whole field was on track, it was like a GP3 car park out there.  So, on the penultimate lap, I backed right off and found a gap to the car in front. Then it all came together, a perfect lap, and good enough for pole.

“Race one was disappointing to say the least. After getting the pole spot, I knew I could still win the title, or at least take second and for the first four laps, it was all going according to plan, until lap four when I started dropping down the order.  Then on lap ten I oversteered off the track and into the wall, taking off two corners.

“We knew going into the second race it was going to be tough starting so far back but I was determined to end the season on a high. I made a great start, passing ten cars before we went into Ascari, although a collision ahead resulted in the car in front braking heavily and I hit the back of him damaging my front wing, and allowing four cars to retake me. After that I managed to pick off a car a lap and get up to sixth. So overall a pretty good race after starting so far back.”