The seventh and penultimate round of the 2011 GP3 Series took place this weekend at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium. Marussia Manor Racing demonstrated a strong performance once again, making it the fourth weekend in a row and the eighth race in which the team added points to its tally.
The weekend started in a positive way in the first and only Practice session on Friday, with all three drivers Adrian Quaife-Hobbs, Rio Haryanto and Matias Laine driving at constant pace and never below 1.5s from the fastest time set by Championship leader Valtteri Bottas. Adrian was the fastest Marussia Manor Racing driver that morning, battling for top positions during the whole session and ending up 4th. Matias was 11th and Rio 16th.
Saturday’s qualifying session took place in difficult conditions because of the heavy rain overnight and the notoriously changeable conditions here in Spa. The track was damp but drying, so it was important to follow a good tyre strategy. Adrian was battling with front-runners Alexander Sims and Bottas, the three of them swapping fastest lap times as the track continued to dry. James Calado finally took his first pole position of the season, with Adrian finishing 2.5s away from him in 5th position. Rio ended up 20th and Matias 26th.
The first race of the weekend on Saturday afternoon got off to a good start for all three drivers, with Adrian making a move on Nigel Melker whilst exiting La Source to take third position. From then on he was fighting for a podium finish until the end of the race, showing good race pace even though Bottas, leading the race, was soon under control and too quick for anyone. Both Rio and Matias were able to gain positions after starting from the back of the grid and finished 12th and 18th respectively, keeping out of trouble. Adrian finally finished 4th and added 5 more valuable points to his tally.
Today’s second race at Spa-Francorchamps began positively for Marussia Manor Racing, as Adrian, who was starting from 5th position, stormed up to 2nd after only four laps. Unfortunately, he had to retire due to a turbo failure. Rio staged a strong comeback, finishing 9th while Matias didn’t classify after spinning early in the race.
The eighth and final GP3 Series race weekend will take place on the 9-11 September in Monza.
Pete Sliwinski, Team Principal
“It’s always good to end up in the points during the weekend so we are pleased with this, but it’s disappointing because we could have ended up in the points again today. But we are all doing a good job and we have to continue the good work. There is only one more race weekend remaining, so we have to keep focused and aim for the best possible results in Monza.”
“A typical Spa-Francorchamps weekend. The changeable conditions here make it a very tough race weekend. But we did our best and worked hard, and now we have to carry on like this to end the season on a high.”
“It was so frustrating today! I was really feeling comfortable in the car and early in the race I was running in second position after a great start. Then all of a sudden I felt the car lost some power and everyone started to pass me – I couldn’t do anything. It’s a shame because the weekend had started well, finishing 4th yesterday and if I had scored some more points today I could have ended up third in the Championship. But there is still one more race to go before the end of the season and I just have to keep on pushing.”
“On Friday the speed was good and on Saturday during the qualifying in the wet I was also fast, but in the end the track started to dry and I was late in to put my dry tyres on. I felt comfortable in both races and my speed stats to be good but now I just need to avoid small mistakes and the results will come.”