Fighting Evans edges further ahead
Mitch Evans snatched another one point advantage over GP3 title rival Aaro Vainio with a fighting third place finish in the feature race at the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest on Saturday.
Vainio, who started from pole position, was soundly beaten; the Finn having to settle for fifth place. In contrast, Evans put in a storming drive; momentarily leading at the start and then indulging himself in a race long battle for second. After eleven of the 16 races in the 2012 GP3 Series Evans has stretched his lead to 19pts.
The New Zealander is on 136pts, Vainio is on 117pts while Daniel Abt (94pts) and Felix da Costa (85pts) lie well back in third and fourth overall. Vainio topped Friday practice and claimed the bonus 4pts for pole position on Saturday morning but Evans responded within seconds of the race start.
The outcome was settled in the first half of the opening lap as Vainio made a poor start from pole. Evans got away well and jinked to Vainio’s right, and then switched across to attack again on the left.
"I was put on the grass by Vainio at the start so I lost some ground. I think if that hadn't happened I would have had a better chance of winning the race,” said Evans.
Although da Costa had a good getaway, Evans tried to go around his outside at the first corner, only to run wide and allow Abt and Vainio back past him. But Evans fought back immediately and passed both Lotus cars at the third corner, before Abt lunged down his inside to regain second position a few corners later.
“In turn one I lost two places but then I got past Abt on the outside. So I thought 'sweet, I've got that back' and then Daniel came out of nowhere. I didn't see him coming and when I did eventually see him, I just got out of the way as I knew Vainio was behind me and I didn't want to risk anything.”
For the rest of the 16 lap race Evans hounded the back of Abt’s car, the gap never more than half a second, as da Costa pulled away in clear air at the front.
“I thought I would have another chance to get through on Daniel. We got close but I wasn't able to take second. Our race pace was really good - we had a very fast car today."
At half distance Abt survived a wild slide across the kerbing as Evans piled on the pressure. Their tight battle allowed da Costa to edge steadily away in the lead and the Portuguese driver won by 4.4s, and set a new lap record. The gap between Abt and Evans was just 0.33s at the finish.
"He was struggling quite early, so I kept the pressure on as I didn't want him to make a mistake and not be there to take advantage. I think if I had dropped back I might have had a better shot of getting the fastest lap. But it was still a good result."
As da Costa pulled clear of the battling Abt and Evans, Vainio lost fourth to Kevin Ceccon on the second lap. Conor Daly, Matias Laine, David Fumanelli, Marlon Stockinger and Lewis Williamson round out the point scorers.
Evans will start from sixth place and will be on the third row for the ‘reverse top eight’ second race in Hungary on Sunday morning. Vainio will line up on the reverse grid race in fourth place - right in front of Evans.