Nirei Fukuzumi has won the opening race of the 2017 GP3 season for ART Grand Prix after mechanical failure ended Jack Aitkens challenge for the win.
Fukuzumi started better than polesitter Aitken and grabbed the lead on the long run down to the first corner, Aitken attempted to come back but understeered wide at Turn 1 and nearly ran into Dorian Boccolacci forcing him off the track on the exit of the Turn 2, dropping him to fourth place behind Leonardo Pulcini – the stewards felt no further action needed to be taken.
Fukuzumi and Aitken broke clear of Pulcini and George Russell swapping fasted lap times in the process.
DRS has been introduced for this season in GP3 but unlike F1 the drivers are only allowed to use it six times in the feature race and four times in the sprint event.
Russell and Alessio Lorandi opted for an aggressive strategy and used their DRS allocation to make up positions early in the race, Aitken was rather more reserved and actually waited until lap 15 to open his rear wing to close in on Fukuzumi down the main straight, although the Japanese driver was able to maintain the lead.
Aitken tried the overtake again the following lap but just as he looked to be closing on his team-mate he suddenly lost drive and was forced to retire.
Fukuzumi was untroubled and clear way at the front of the pack going on to win over 7 seconds ahead of Pulcini, who resisted a charging Lorandi at the end of the race to finish second and third respectively.
Russell, whohad a mid race battle with Arjun Maini, came home fourth after passing Boccolacci at the final corner with three laps remaining.
Anthoine Hubert also overtook Boccolacci in the final few laps and they came home fifth and sixth, with Maini just behind in seventh.
Raoul Hyman had last lap scrap with his Campos team-mate Siebert and prevailed to claim eighth and pole for tomorrow’s sprint race which promises to be another exciting instalment.