Valtteri Bottas stamped his authority on the 2011 GP3 Series once again this afternoon with a commanding win in Race 1. The Finn finished 6.495 seconds ahead of his teammate and pole sitter James Calado to lead a Lotus ART 1-2.
When the lights went out Bottas pulled away well to snatch the lead of the 12-lap race from Calado. Behind the ART duo Marussia Manor Racing’s Adrian Quaife-Hobbs put a move on Melker exiting La Source hairpin to take third, and the Series contenders then entered into a furious battle for the final podium spot. Title contender Alexander Sims made a storming start moving up from sixteenth to ninth by the end of lap one.
Bottas was soon under control of the race at the front, and was simply too quick paced for teammate Calado to hang on. The Finn put in fastest laps to build up an eight second lead by midway through the race. Meanwhile the battle for the final podium spot between Quaife-Hobbs and Melker had been resolved with the RSC Mücke Motorsport driver finally taking the honors.
With five laps remaining Sims was pushing American Conor Daly hard for fifth, but a clash between the Status and Carlin drivers at Blanchimont ended in tears for Sims who then dropped down the field and out of the points with steering issues.
Speaking about his race, Daly said, “I made a good start compared to the wet starts I’ve made recently! I was fighting with Yelloly pretty much straight away but I backed off a little going into Eau Rouge as I didn’t want us to make contact. I got him on the next section though and then just concentrated on staying on track.
“Then I had Sims behind me and I really want to keep my position. It could see him behind me at one point, and then he started to spin and just tapped me as he went off. Thankfully I was able to continue and take our best ever GP3 finish. It’s a great result for the team; we’ve all been working so hard and it’s great to see things coming together. It’s great that we have a fourth place grid position tomorrow as well with another chance of a good result.”
By the checkered flag Calado had pulled back the gap to Bottas, but it was too little too late and the Finn celebrated his third win of the season. Melker completed the podium ahead of Quaife-Hobbs, Daly, Tom Dillmann, Nico Müller and Richie Stanaway who finished in a fantastic eighth spot on his GP3 debut. The New Zealander will start on reverse pole for tomorrow’s race, and ensured that Lotus ART had all three drivers in the points.
Bottas still leads the GP3 Series driver standings and is now eleven points ahead of his teammate Calado.
GP3 Series will be back on track tomorrow morning for Race 2 at 09:20 local time.
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