Trackback // Monza, 2012
The 2012 GP3 Series closed at the historic Autodromo Nazionale Monza, and with it the drivers’ title, which was being fought over by MW Arden’s Mitch Evans, Carlin’s Antonio Felix da Costa and Aaro Vainio and Daniel Abt from ART Grand Prix. If Evans was the presumptive champion after being the strongest driver all season long, the others was there to fight for the title until the maths said it was over.
The New Zealander set the pace in free practice, and more importantly in qualifying where pole position meant the title was tantalisingly close for Evans, extending his lead to 25.5 points with rivals Felix da Costa starting next to him in 2nd, Abt taking to the grid in P8, and Vainio all the way down in 13th.
But it all started to unravel in Race 1, when the front pair had to straight line the first chicane with Evans picking up some damage, which wasn’t helped by impact damage a few corners later and a trip through the gravel before he toured around to the pits and retirement. Gallingly Felix da Costa was soon into the lead, and with Abt also on a charge Evans had plenty to worry about.
Abt soon blew into the lead but was challenged from behind by Vainio, while a gear change gremlin struck title rival Felix da Costa: he rolled to a halt on the Rettifilo escape road, switched his car off and then on again before getting under way once more, but the Portuguese driver was out of the points and his championship challenge was over.
Tio Ellinas got involved in the fight at the front, blasting past the Finn but unable to get on terms with the German before yellow flags for a crash at Parabolica neutralised the race, handing the win to Abt from the Cypriot and Vainio, who was later handed a 20s penalty for speeding under yellows, dropping him to 11th and out of the title fight.
With Evans leading Abt by 14 points, it was clear what the German needed to do to win the title: win the race, and hope for misfortune to strike for the Kiwi driver. Abt lined up in 8th, Evans in 25th, and then the lights went out.
The German jumped up to 5th at the start, was in 3rd by lap 3, and grabbed the lead from Giovanni Venturini two laps later, doing everything he had within his power to claim the title. But Evans wasn’t hanging around: he needed the point for 8th or to grab the fastest lap and finish in the top ten to bring home the championship, and by lap 7 he was up to P10 and had the fastest lap under his belt.
But almost immediately a crash ahead of him saw Evans straight line the Rettifilo chicane once again, and a similar wayward run across Roggia along with a trip through the Lesmo gravel gave the New Zealander a puncture, forcing him back to the paddock and snatching the title from his grasp once again.
The only thing that could save Evans’ title now was an outside force, and that force’s name was Tio Ellinas. After his brilliant drive the day before the Cypriot was looking to go one better: Ellinas cruised by Abt at Roggia for the lead, which the German regained on the front straight with 2 laps remaining before Ellinas repeated his move at Roggia for the lead once more. When Venturini closed on Abt he spent the final lap looking in his mirrors, not at the car ahead of him, and Ellinas ran to his first win of the season, over Abt by just 1 second.
“To be honest, it’s a shame to finish second like this,” a crestfallen Abt acknowledged after the race. “Coming here I didn’t think it could happen, but when you can win it, and when I knew Evans was out, I knew I had to do it, but I just couldn’t hold Ellinas off: he was really quick.
“It was nearly a perfect weekend, we were so close.”
Evans, left with a lump in his throat and a tear in his eye as he watched helplessly while the fight unfolded in front of him, was left scrabbling for words to describe his emotions afterwards: “if you’d told me at the start of the season I would be champion I still wouldn’t be able to describe how I feel. Now I have been crowned champion, I have no words to describe this: it’s just a dream come true.
“I’ve sacrificed my whole life to come to Europe, and it’s so rewarding to win a title in my second year in Europe. There are so many people who made this possible: I can’t name everyone, but they know who they are.
“This championship isn’t just for me, it’s for so many people.”