Rossi’s second-place finish helps secure team title
Special to The Union
SPA-FRANCOCHAMPS, Belgium – Undaunted by the continually changing weather of this year’s Belgium Grand Prix, GP3 driver Alexander Rossi, made his way back to the podium with a second-place finish on Sunday securing the team championship for ART Grand Prix.
“I like the wet and have a lot of confidence,” said Rossi. “I had a bit of adversity and bad luck to overcome this weekend, so it was good to have a clean run on Sunday, scoring enough points for the team to secure ART Team Championship. I will build on this as we head to the finale in Monza.”
“Alexander ended the weekend on a high,” said ART Grand Prix owner, Nicolas Todt. “After a difficult qualifying session and unpredictable race one, he drove great in race two with very good overtaking. Alexander played an important role in the title that ART Grand Prix clinched today.”
In free practice, Rossi began the weekend with an engine problem, surging at intervals under acceleration. Keeping the Nevada City native from showing his full potential as the second to the final GP3 weekend was underway, ending practice 27th.
Qualifying was a lottery in terms of tire choice (drys or wets), clean laps and multiple cautions in every sector. At the start of the session it seemed 30 cars on track would help dry the tarmac quickly. This was not the case as rain and yellow flags prevailed and the quicker laps at the beginning of session. Rossi and teammate Esteban Guitierrez were handed grid penalties for not slowing enough under yellow. Rossi was thereby relegated to 19th for Race 1.
The race one start was dry but barely so as black clouds hovered overhead. After the first lap, Rossi had moved up to 13th. By then, the safety car was called out due to a first-lap crash.
When the safety car emerged on lap three, so did the rain. The team decided to keep Rossi out for one more lap, but they lost this gamble as the rain became heavier. On slicks, Rossi negotiated the fourth lap prior to pitting, yet he lost valuable time to those already on wets. Rossi pitted for wets on the next pit pass, leaving the pit exit lane in 22nd.
By the time a second safety car came out again on lap seven, Rossi had worked his way up to eighth place. The safety car took the field to the end of the race. During this second safety car period, race officials posted an announcement that Rossi was under investigation for jumping the start from starting-position No. 19.
After the race, the stewards imposed a 20-second penalty. In rainy Spa race conditions, the additional time might not have changed much, if anything. But behind the safety car, those 20 seconds constituted an eternity, dropping Rossi out of the points and down to 16th. The removal from eighth place also meant that Rossi did not benefit from the reverse grid starting pole for the next day’s race.
“The penalty for race one was unfortunate”, Rossi said. “Even with pitting one lap late for wets and lining up 19th, I was quite satisfied finishing eighth and having pole on Sunday. With the penalty my performance does not match the result on paper. This was a real disappointment.”
The second GP3 race started in dry conditions on Sunday morning. Neither the dry weather nor Rossi’s 13th starting spot would last long. By the third lap, Belgian’s fickle clouds had burst again. Rossi however was up to sixth in the opening lap.
Great teamwork by the ART pit crew allowed Rossi to rejoin in fifth. Then in short order, Rossi first dispatched Dean Smith, then Miki Monras, then points challenger Nico Muller, to finally end up nose-to-tail with the race leader.
One should know about Spa that one part of the circuit can be bone dry while it rains cats and dogs on another part of the 4.8-mile Ardennes circuit. During the two-lap battle for the win, Rossi got a good look at passing Manor Racing’s Adrien Tambay on the wet parts, only to have to cede the advantage on the dry road.
Unfortunately for Rossi, the race finished on the dry part. Still, second place from thirteenth during a wet weekend at the demanding Spa circuit allowed Rossi to display the racecraft for which he is known.
Rossi is currently fourth in the Driver’s Championship with 38 points and two wins. The final rounds of the GP3 Championship will take place, Sept. 10-12, in Monza, Italy alongside GP2 and Formula 1.
For more information about multiple championship winning team, ART Grand Prix, log onto: http://www.art-grandprix.com
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