ART's Esteban Gutierrez emerged at the top of a closely-contested pile as the first ever GP3 Series test concluded its first day on track at Circuit Paul Ricard in the south of France.
Times continued to drop throughout the afternoon, as the impressive reliability of the Dallara-built cars allowed drivers to rack up 1324 total laps during the day - equating to a distance over 5000km. Gutierrez posted a time of 1min 20.949secs to claim top spot, over a second quicker than the fastest lap of the morning session, while Michael Christensen (MW Arden) and Pablo Sanchez Lopez (Addax) completed the top three. In all, eleven drivers posted a quicker lap time than ART's Alexander Rossi used to pace the first session.
“Today was exciting because just looking at the car for a month without driving it was frustrating for me," Gutierrez commented, "Getting to know the car was our main goal of the day, and in the end it was also a good result for us. It is only the first day so we have to keep working. I had a good feeling with the car, and really enjoyed the high downforce: it is good for training for GP2. The feeling is also similar with paddle shifts. It is a really enjoyable car to drive.”
“It is inevitable to get a bit nervous before the first test day of a new series but, after the first hour today, I was already quite pleased with the way things were going, especially when each of the teams had at least one or two cars on track so quickly into the session," GP3 technical director Didier Perrin added, "Plus, I saw at least six of the young drivers fighting for on track position and overtaking each other in the very first laps of the series history – this is something I had never seen before!
“I've been exceptionally impressed by all ten teams. Having seen all of their cars up close today, I can say that the preparations were excellent and all the teams were ready as soon as the pit-lane opened. The feedback they gave me was that the drivers all really enjoyed driving the car and felt that it was quick with a very high level of grip. Despite some natural glitches that were expected, the overall reliability of the cars has been outstanding, and we are very satisfied with this first day. I'm sure that we will do great things this season.”