Charles Leclerc has been crowned the 2016 GP3 champion with a race to spare as he and title rival Alexander Albon both crash in the opening GP3 race of the weekend.
Leclerc was unable to complete the race, which was won by team-mate Nyck de Vries, after contact with Santiano Ferrucci, but with Albon already out of the race after colliding with Jack Aitken, Leclerc had enough of an advantage in the points to seal the title.
Leclerc’s start to the race didn’t show any signs that he was likely to win the title until tomorrow’s race.
Title rival Albon had no such problems as he quickly pulled out a lead over Aitken and de Vries, the pair having both jumped 2nd place starter Jake Dennis off the line.
A brief safety car meant Albon’s lead, was cut to zero and he came under pressure from Aitken and lost the lead on lap nine before being allowed back through when the stewards announced the move was being investigated because the overtake was deemed to be off the track.
But having retaken the lead, Albon then tried a bit too hard to keep his position as he and Aitken ran side-by-side through the Turn 11-12-13 complex, hitting a raised kerb in the process which in turn launched himself over Aitken’s car, Albon landed heavily after the crash and retired there and then.
That promoted Leclerc to fifth, but he soon to retired from the race. Making contact with Santino Ferrucci in the braking zone for the same complex where Albon had crashed.
It had little impact on the overall state of affairs as his points lead over Albon was sufficient to crown him champion with a race to spare.
“It’s really strange to win the title and finish in the wall at the same time,” said Leclerc.
“What Ferrucci did was completely stupid – I have to go and talk to him – but it’s a fantastic achievement.”
Aitken’s clash with Albon slowed him down enough to allow de Vries to take the lead of the race, one he would not lose as the managed the gap back to Dennis in the closing laps to claim his second GP3 victory.
Aitken recovered to third, jumping ahead of Ferrucci in the closing laps, but it was Kevin Joerg who finished fourth after Ferrucci was handed a 10-second penalty the clash with Leclerc.
Fukuzumi came home fifth ahead of Schothorst, while Jake Hughes staged an impressive recovery, showing his class as he fought through the field to finish seventh despite starting from the pit lane