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Champion Russell unstoppable in GP3 qualifying

Impresses in Sahara Force India’s first practice as well

Image Credit: AFP
Force India’s British George Russell drives his car during the first practice session ahead of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit.
Gulf News

Yas Marina Circuit: Newly crowned GP3 champion George Russell was once again in top form as he claimed pole position for the Abu Dhabi race by clocking the fastest time of 1:54.751.

With that, the ART Grand Prix squad swept the 2017 qualifying sessions — eight poles in all — in the sport’s third-tier category.

Leonardo Pulcini of Arden International was three-tenths of a second behind while his teammate Niko Kari, who was quickest in the practice, was third.

Not content with his show in GP3, Russell also jumped into the Force India cockpit to partner Sergio Perez for the first Formula One practice session.

The Englishman showed that he is ready to push himself to any limit to prove his worth. The 19-year-old, who replaced Esteban Ocan in Sahara Force India for F1 practice, was 11th behind Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardio clocking 1:41.131. It has to be recalled that Russell had an impressive showing in Sergio Perez’s Force India in FP1 in Brazil as well. He had lapped only six-tenths slower than Ocon.

Coming back to GP3, Macau Grand Prix winner Daniel Ticktum of Red Bull Junior settled for fourth but not before having pushed Russell in the 30-minute session. Ticktum faded in the final sector and was pipped by Kari and Pulcini who had in turn bettered Russell’s previous best. In the final minutes, the top spot rapidly changed hands as Jenzer Motorsport‘s Arjun Maini and then Pulcini deposed Ticktum.

Pumped up with his Formula 1 outing just before the session, Russell then claimed the top spot with three minutes remaining. The fifth place was grabbed by Maini ahead of Honda junior Nirei Fukuzumi. Dorian Boccolacci was seventh followed by Raoul Hyman and Anthoine Hubert. Alessio Lorandi rounded out the top 10.

In other action, Alexander Albon showed great form in the morning free-practice session for the final round of the FIA Formula 2 Championship at Yas Marina Circuit. Albon clocked 1:48.974 to grab the top spot by over a tenth of a second from Norman Nato and Nyck De Vries.

It was Nobuharu Matsushita who enjoyed the early lead before teammate Albon took control of the proceeding to claim the top spot. Nato then led briefly before Albon reclaimed top spot.

Matsushita, Antonio Fuoco, Oliver Rowland, Artem Markelov, Sergio Sette Camara, new champion Charles Leclerc, Gustav Malja and Louis Deletraz were all within a second of Albon’s time.

With the 2017 F1 title wrapped up by Leclerc, no fewer than four drivers are still fighting over the runner-up spot as the 10-team series concludes at Yas Marina Circuit.

Ferrari protege Leclerc of PREMA Racing is out of sight on 249 points but the four drivers behind him are covered by 33 points — Rowland of DAMS on 189, Artem Markelov from Russian Time (177) and his teammate Luca Ghiotto (164), and Nicolas Latifi, also of DAMS, on 156.