Alesi leads the way in Abu Dhabi

Giuliano Alesi
Giuliano Alesi

Giuliano Alesi has set the pace for the final round of the 2018 GP3 Series by grabbing the top spot in this morning’s free practice session at the Yas Marina Circuit with a time of 1:55.676, going purple in all 3 sectors late in the session for a lap which was 0.892s faster than teammate David Beckmann and Gabriel Aubry, who both set the same best time earlier in the day.

The session opened to the expected blue skies and building heat so familiar to everyone at the circuit, with most of the runners heading out when the lights went green but ART and Trident holding fire for a while: Beckmann was the last driver on track at the 15 minute mark just as ART annexed the top 3, with series leader Anthoine Hubert leading the way ahead of Callum Ilott and Nikita Mazepin.

Hubert went quicker still next time round, laying down a marker for his title intentions, while Beckmann slotted in a tenth behind him to show that his late season form was continuing. With most of the field having a wealth of experience at the circuit there was little in the way of off-track activity, although Alesi briefly slowed half an hour in before getting underway once more.

Leonardo Pulcini was also determined to show that his recent good form reflected his true ability by setting the pace with 15 minutes remaining, setting a new target for his rivals. Hubert improved but not by enough, while Mazepin ran well wide before regaining the track at the Viceroy section. All eyes were on Aubry as he was setting purple sectors, but just ahead of him Beckman claimed the top spot with a concise and flowing lap, while the Frenchman ran wide at the final corner to match the German’s time to the thousandth, with rookie Jehan Daruvala slotting just 0.02 behind the pair.

With 2 minutes remaining Alesi struck, setting the pace in every sector to bring home a lap that smashed his rivals dreams: Beckmann improved on the first sector but was well off in the second, and the session was done. Behind the top 4 Joey Mawson was the only other driver within a second of Alesi, finishing ahead of Sacha Fenestraz, Pulcini, Hubert, Richard Verschoor, Ryan Tveter, Jake Hughes and Mazepin as they returned to the paddock to plan their qualifying strategies.

Free Practice Times

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1 Giuliano Alesi Trident 1:55.676 18
2 David Beckmann Trident 1:56.568 12
3 Gabriel Aubry Arden International 1:56.568 18
4 Jehan Daruvala MP Motorsport 1:56.589 20
5 Joey Mawson Arden International 1:56.655 17
6 Sacha Fenestraz Arden International 1:57.053 18
7 Leonardo Pulcini Campos Racing 1:57.116 16
8 Anthoine Hubert ART Grand Prix 1:57.170 16
9 Devlin DeFrancesco MP Motorsport 1:57.170 18
10 Richard Verschoor MP Motorsport 1:57.259 18
11 Ryan Tveter Trident 1:57.277 15
12 Jake Hughes ART Grand Prix 1:57.311 17
13 Nikita Mazepin ART Grand Prix 1:57.393 16
14 Juan-Manuel Correa Jenzer Motorsport 1:57.453 17
15 Diego Menchaca Campos Racing 1:57.579 18
16 Simo Laaksonen Campos Racing 1:57.588 17
17 Pedro Piquet Trident 1:57.727 15
18 Tatiana Calderon Jenzer Motorsport 1:57.826 18
19 Callum Ilott ART Grand Prix 1:57.847 16
20 Jannes Fittje Jenzer Motorsport 1:58.579 17