Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Charles Leclerc laps up GP3 success despite crash

Frenchman and his ART Grand Prix teammate Albon both suffer the same fate

Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
Niyck De Vries (middle) of ART Grand Prix celebrates after winning the GP3 race-1 with runner-up Jake Dennis (left) second runner-up Jack Aitken, both of Arden International, at Yas Marina circuit yesterday.
Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Charles Leclerc became the fourth ART Grand Prix driver to win the GP3 title in an unusual feature race in which both he and championship rival Alexander Albon crashed out at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. The other ART driver’s exit meant Leclerc could not be caught as his 202 points were 25 ahead of his rival.

“They told me that I was champion no matter what, so I was allowed to take risks to try and finish on the podium,” said the 19-year-old from Monaco after his fourth victory of his rookie season in GP3.

“I would have never taken that risk had Alex still been in the race. But since I knew I was already champion, I decided to go for it.”

This meant trying to get past DAMS driver Stefano Ferrucci to claim third place, but the Italian was having none of it. As Leclerc tried to go past into Turn 11, the two came together, and both came to grief.

“Ferrucci didn’t really leave me enough space on the outside which I don’t really understand to be honest, but it’s what it is,’ said Leclerc. “We finished in the wall, which is a shame, but we have achieved the most important thing today: we grabbed the title.”

A new member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, a new name at star team ART and new to the race series: Leclerc had a lot of expectations to live up to. He added: “It was my first year in FDA and I wanted to deliver because people expect the best from Ferrari and I need to be at the top.

“As for ART, they are the best team in GP3 so I had to do the job. I had three other teammates who are really, really fast. It’s been a hard year and I did feel the pressure so I’m very pleased to have won the Series in these conditions. Now I know I can handle the pressure.

“I didn’t know that before coming to GP3 because I had never had pressure before. It has been an amazing season.”

Next stop in Leclerc’s meteoric rise is GP2, with an announcement expected soon, and the new champion admits his path has been smoothed by his 2015 surroundings. “After F3, I think we knew there was quite a lot of potential and we didn’t see the point of doing another year there. We preferred to just move onto GP3, which would be harder than F3. It was the right choice: I’ve never grown so much.”

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