Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Jake Hughes ends GP3 season with thrilling sprint win
Abu Dhabi: The title may have been decided on Saturday at Yas Marina Circuit, but anyone watching the GP3 sprint race on Sunday would never have believed it as Jake Hughes raced to his second win of the season for the DAMS team.
With the top eight on the grid made up by the top-eight finishers on Saturday in reverse order, Hughes started from the front row and eventually emerged from a frantic few first corners in the lead from Campos Racing’s pole-sitter Konstantin Tereschenko.
The race’s major incident happened right then as ART driver Alex Albon, pipped to the title by Charles Leclerc on Saturday, collided with Arden International’s Tatiana Calderon on the main straight and was catapulted into the barriers on the left.
Happily the driver, unlike his car, was undamaged, but it was his first double no-score in the nine-weekend racing season.
After two laps behind the Safety Car, Hughes decided the best way to avoid trouble was to stay out in front, which he did from the restart until the end of the 14-lap race, claiming a second win to go with his sprint race success at Hockenheim in Round 5.
But there was plenty of action behind him as Arden’s Jake Dennis and Jack Aitken scrapped all race long for the other podium places with ART’s Nirei Fukuzumi.
In the end it was Aitken who came second, 2.8 seconds down on Hughes, with Fukuzumi third a further 4.3 seconds behind, the Japanese driver’s third podium of the year.
The other battle that lit up the closing stages of the race was between Antonio Fuoco in the Trident and Saturday race-winner Nyck de Vries of ART. ‘Tony Fire’ is how the English speakers in Fuoco’s entourage refer to him, a direct translation of his name — and he was in fiery mood as he tried repeatedly to force his way past the Dutchman, shaking his fist each time his moves failed to come off.
Fuoco eventually earned a five-second penalty for causing a collision, dropping him to 17th of the 20 finishers.
Last year’s Abu Dhabi winner Alex Palou came fifth, ahead of Tereschenko and Steijn Schothorst, as the three Campos Racing drivers staged a superb race within a race of their own and were separated by less than half a second at the end. New champion Leclerc started from 17th and blazed his way through the field in a bid to seal his title-winning season with a final point, but Swiss driver Kevin Joerg in the DAMS denied the ART star and took eighth place.
Leclerc finishes a stellar year with 202 points to Albon’s 177, with the luckless Fuoco stuck on 157 in third ahead of Dennis (149), Aitken (146) and De Vries (133), the six drivers to make it into triple figures in the series’ seventh season.