01 Callum Ilott
02 Jake Hughes
20 Devlin DeFrancesco
01 Callum Ilott
02 Leonardo Pulcini
DNF Devlin DeFrancesco
With no testing under his belt and no experience of the GP3 cars, Devlin DeFrancesco was thrown in at the deep end this weekend for the third round of the GP3 Series at the Red Bull Ring, but the Canadian-Italian held his own superbly.
The 4.326 km track, tucked away in the Styrian Mountains, can be notoriously unforgiving. But DeFrancesco hit the ground running, with a strong set of laps in the Friday practice session. Mixed conditions made his running somewhat of a baptism of fire, with rain disrupting play for a while. However, finding his feet quickly Devlin put in a series of consecutive laps that left him quietly confident for the sessions ahead.
Attacking from the onset, qualifying proved unbelievably close between all twenty drivers on the grid, with less than 0.4 seconds covering the top twelve drivers in the field. With a strong, confidence building first flying lap under his belt, the eighteen year-old was forced back to the pits whilst the team investigated a clutch issue.Getting back out on track with only a few minutes left on the clock, Devlin set out on one final flying lap. Lighting up the screens with personal best sectors, it was looking to be very competitive. A cruel twist of fate halted this progress, with a red flag being shown to rescue a stricken Hubert.
With many drivers improving around him, completing their laps before the red flag fell, Devlin was bumped down the order finishing a respectable 0.9 seconds away from the polesiter.
Heavily missed opportunity with qualifying, II was happy with my first run, just a tenth off my teammate. We lost a lot of time with the clutch problem then the red flag really hampered us stopping my flying lap. - Devlin commented
Aware that he didn’t show his true pace, the Canadian-Italian left the track eager to prove his worth in his debut race. Making his way cleanly off the line, Devlin started working his way up through the order. Gaining a place instantly when Joey Mawson stopped on track on lap one, and then began to chase down series veteran Tatiana Calderon after a safety car restart. Demonstrating his raw talent in front of the Formula 1 crowds, Devlin performed a great overtake on Arden’s Julien Falchero to gain another position. Keeping his nose clean whilst chaos erupted further up the field, running as high as fifteenth whilst taking an impressive chunk out of Diego Menchaca’s advantage in front.
Devlin's progress was cruelly halted when a mechanical failure forced him to pit, later retiring on the penultimate lap with a throttle safety issue losing 3 places to classify 2 laps down in 18th. Although disappointed to retire with mechanical issues on his debut, the young racer remained focused, turning his attention to Sunday’s race, confident that their strong race pace shown earlier was a sign of more good things to come.With grid positions for Sunday morning's sprint race set by the finishing positions of the previous race (with the top 8 reversed) Devlin lined up on the 9th row. Undeterred by losing position at the start after suffering a slight niggle with his clutch, the resolute young racer started his charge on the pack. Keeping out of the trouble, as chaos ensued in front yet again, with multiple crashes and retirements Devlin once again set out to display his racing prowess. Treating the crowds to several overtakes over the course of the 18 lap race, he was rewarded with an 11th place finish, making up an astounding 9 places.
"Overall, I’m happy with my debut. Mechanical issues aside our pace was very promising, matching my teamates. Qualifying is the name of the game and the clutch issue and red flag really hampered us there, but I think we had a pretty strong second race.”
With hardly any time to recover from his intense first weekend in GP3, Devlin will next head to Silverstone this coming weekend in order to contest the fourth round in the series. He is hoping to iron out a few issues but thinks there is the potential to start much higher up on the grid for the races.
“I’m really looking forward to Silverstone, it’s still early days but I’m feeling more and more comfortable with every lap."