IN THE TYRE TRACKS OF CHAMPIONS
When Anthoine Hubert became the ninth and final GP3 Series champion in Abu Dhabi, he joined an elite club of drivers to have graduated from the championship with the highest possible honours.
Pirelli was there from the very beginning: the Italian company supplied the inaugural GP3 season in 2010, which was actually one year before it returned to Formula 1 and also began supplying GP2. From the outset, there was a desire for the tyres to feature a degree of degradation to help the drivers’ education process and to also contribute towards good racing.
GP3 immediately gained a reputation for being one of the most competitive single-seater series around, and for helping talented drivers on their way to the top. The first ever GP3 champion Esteban Gutiérrez went on to race in GP2 and then Formula 1, and that’s a trend that has since been followed by many of his successors.
The 2011 season was one of the most hardly-fought seasons: When Valtteri Bottas took his first victory he was the 10th different winner in as many races. However, by dominating the end of the season, the Finn demonstrated enough ability to get a foot in the door in Formula 1 (where he has since gone on to wins races for Mercedes). A similar feat was later achieved by both Daniil Kvyat and Esteban Ocon: one returns to the F1 grid this year, and the other will surely be back on it before long.
More recently, Charles Leclerc and George Russell have both followed championship glory in GP3 by also winning the Formula 2 title in their first seasons. Their success has proven how GP3 helps to prepare young drivers for the steps to come. It has also ensured they have arrived in Formula 1 with big expectations: Leclerc more than lived up to those in his rookie season to earn a place at Ferrari, while Russell has been tipped to also make a big impact with Williams in 2019.
The GP3 Series chapter now comes to a close, but many of the key ingredients to its success will form part of the new FIA Formula 3 Championship from 2019, which will also be supplied by Pirelli. The first season will feature 10 teams and 30 drivers, with many exciting prospects expected to take part, looking to follow in the tyre tracks of the champions that came before them.