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Mexico's Esteban Gutiérrez has been crowned the first ever GP3 Champion after claiming pole position at Monza on Saturday morning, therefore meaning the dominant 19-year-old picks up the title with two races still remaining.
Gutiérrez kept his cool and put his head down to complete a flying lap in a 1:43.425, almost three tenths clear of Renger van der Zande. In the first half of the final qualifying session of the season, it wasn’t the ART man who was dominating as Jenzer Motorsport’s Nico Müller set the pace early, closely followed by local man Mirko Bortolotti.
Dutchman van der Zande, Gutiérrez, Josef Newgarden and then title contender Robert Wickens were also quick straight out the pits, but Müller looked strong and it wasn’t until the final ten minutes of the session that things really heated up on track.
After the field all pitted for new tyres at the halfway mark, Müller was quick to get straight back on the pace around the legendary track posting a time of 1:44.305.
Van der Zande was keeping up with the Swiss driver and Wickens looked to be a contender for pole after posting the fourth quickest time, improving with every lap.
But it didn’t take long for Guttiérrez to stamp his authority on the session and in the dying minutes, the ART Grand Prix driver set his quickest time of the session so far three tenths faster than Müller and just before a yellow flag ruined his rivals’ attempts to better the Series’ leader’s lap time.
With five minutes left on the clock all cars were out on track desperate to catch the Mexican, but a spinning Daniel Juncadella brought out new yellow flags and pole-hopefuls were forced to abort their flying laps again – it was only new Champion Gutiérrez and RSC Mucke Motorsport’s Nigel Melker that managed to skip the disruption.
Gutiérrez went even quicker for good measure. Just as the track was cleared and with two minutes left in the session Alexander Rossi, who was pushing hard and improving in the first two sectors, went off at Parabolica causing yet another yellow.
When the track cleared, the remaining drivers had just one last gasp attempt to claim the top spot, with Wickens pushing hard to try and keep his championship hopes alive, but it wasn’t to be. Stuck in traffic, Wickens was down in seventeenth spot and could only managed to haul his Status car up into fifth place – his hopes of being crowned championed dashed. As so the champion and top ten were decided: Gutiérrez took pole and let his joy explode in the parc fermé where team Champions ART Grand Prix greeted him with open arms and big smiles.
Van der Zande was second and Müller third. Name Hegewald finished fourth ahead of Wickens who will now defend his second place in the Series during today’s Race 1. Atech CRS GP’s Roberto Merhi. Josef Newgarden, Nigel Melker, Daniel Morad and Rio Haryanto rounded out the top ten.
- Full qualifying results
Race 1 at Monza begins at 5:20pm local time (BST +1)
ART Grand Prix
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