The first round of the 2018 championship in GP3 took place at the Circuit de Catalunya, Spain – just over a month after the pre-season tests here in preparation for the new season.
In slightly off-season colder conditions, it would prove to be a challenge for all drivers with regards to tyre wear and ‘switching on’ the tyre compounds for maximum grip.
The Arden trio endured a difficult first Qualifying session of the year, with a mixture of traffic and cold track conditions making it difficult to get a clean fast lap in.
With the top 18 drivers separated by less than 1.0s in lap time, the slightest error could prove costly.
Julian Falchero was the highest placed Arden Motorsport runner, setting the 15th fastest lap. Joey Mawson and Gabriel Aubry set the 17th and 18th fastest times of the session respectively after a frustrating qualifying session.
The 22 lap opening race began in cool conditions on Saturday morning, with Mawson making the best start out of the Arden trio. As they crossed the line at the end of Lap 1, Mawson moved up to 12th position, Aubry up to 15th and Falchero losing a pair of positions down to 17th position.
DRS was enabled on the third lap of the race, where all drivers are permitted eight uses of the Drag Reduction System over the course of the race, when within 1 second of the driver infront (through both DRS detection zones).
Aubry used it to perfection in order to make a bold move on Ryan Tveter into Turn 1, to move himself up a position early on during Lap 5.
At half distance, Mawson, Aubry and Falchero lined up in formation in positions 13-15th respectively, as tyre management began to become a factor in the race.
Tatiana Calderon retired from the race, elevating the Arden trio – with Aubry hitting the front of the Arden pack.
The race finished with Aubry as the highest placed Arden runner in 12th position. Falchero came home in 14th position and Mawson finished in 16th at the chequered flag.
The three drivers started the second race weekend from the positions they finished in Race One.Rain overnight and throughout the morning meant the majority of the grid started the race on the wet weather Pirelli tyres – leading to a tricky race.
A frantic start with spray being kicked up from the wet tarmac made for a challenging opening lap, which all three Arden’s survived to cross the line with Aubry the lead car in 10th, Mawson in 13th and Falchero in 18th position.
A crash for Pedro Piquet at Turn 9 brought out the Safety Car on lap 4. At this time, Aubry remained in 10th position, Mawson just behind in 11th and Falchero up to 15th position.
The race resumed on Lap 7 with the field all bunched up once again. With the track now drying out, the drivers were tasked with going as fast as possible and making up ground, whilst managing their wet weather treaded tyres and keeping them cool - in order to last the end of the 17-lap race.
An intra-team battle emerged between Aubry and Mawson, with Aubry running wide at the Turn 6 chicane, beached in the gravel and sadly registering a non-finish.
This required a second Safety Car in order to recover the stricken car. The race resumed on Lap 13, where a few drivers gambled on pitting for Slick tyres on the drying track.
A third and final Safety Car was deploted when Calderon beached the Jenzer Motorsport car in gravel, when a gamble on slicks backfired.
A last lap shootout ensued when the Safety Car came in at the start of the final lap. Falchero crossed the line in 11th position, with Mawson in 15th at the finish of a difficult weekend for the team.
The GP3 Series returns to action at the Paul Ricard Circuit, France on the 22-24 June for the second round of the 2018 Championship.