: Niederhauser excluded, loses race 2 win
CLICK: Full GP3 race 2 results from Abu Dhabi
Arden's Patric Niederhauser won the final race of the 2014 GP3 Series season with a commanding, untroubled run at the front after he beat pole sitter Nick Yelloly into the first corner. But a lot of the attention was drawn elsewhere, with Koiranen GP's Dean Stoneman and ART's Marvin Kirchhöfer yet to resolve the matter of the runners-up position in the GP3 drivers championship, and Carlin and ART similarly neck-and-neck in their showdown for the team title.
While Yelloly (Status GP) and Niederhauser lined up on the front row of the grid for race 2 under reverse grid rules based on Saturday's result, Kirchhöfer and Stoneman were due to start alongside one another back on row four in seventh and eighth position respectively. This meant that they went into the race separated by just a few feet of asphalt and a mere two championship points. However when the cars were ushered away for their formation laps, the ART refused to budge off the grid, and after everyone else had streamed away Kirchhöfer had to be rolled back onto pit road where he would now start behind Patrick Kujala's Trident, the Finn having been penalised for causing a reckless collision with Carlin's Luis Sa Silva in race 1 on Saturday. That seemed to have effectively ended the battle over the runners-up position, although it was still an outside possibility that Stoneman might fail to finish the race and Kirchhöfer could somehow claw his way back into the points. But none of that was hardly likely, now was it?
When the lights went out, Yelloly was unable to fend off Niederhauser going into the first corner followed by Carlin pair Alex Lynn and Emil Bernstorff and ART's Dino Zamparelli. Stoneman immediately tried to make a move around the outside but his ambition proved disastrous as he locked up going into a corner and was hit from behind by ART's Alex Fontana. That left Stoneman limping back to pit lane with irreparable damage to his rear wing to retire, while Fontana was able to continue after receiving a new front wing. All Kirchhöfer had to do now was finish in the top six to clinch the runners-up spot after all, but that was far easier aid that done: the trouble was that he was still running in 18th place with only ten laps remaining before the end of the season. Still, it was at least a chance - which is more than he's appeared to have just minutes earlier.
Kirchhöfer and Fontana were helped by the appearance of a safety car bunching the field up to allow for repairs to kerbing at the entrance to the marina that had become dislodged by an impact from Nelson Mason's Hilmer Motorsports car, and also for the retrieval of Ryan Cullen's Trident which had been tipped into a spin by the third Carlin car of Luis Sa Silva. Niederhauser had no trouble retaining the lead at the restart, and Yelloly was more concerned with holding off 2014 champion Lynn for second place when the track went green. The pair were already pulling away from Bernstorff and Zamparelli, followed by Kevin Ceccon (Jenzer Motorsports) and Jimmy Eriksson (Koiranen GP) who were both in trouble for exceeding track limits in their battle over sixth place. Rounding out the top eight in the final points-paying position was Arden's Jann Mardenborough, but he soon succumbed to pressure from Status GP's Richie Stanaway.
Kirchhöfer had succeeded in picking up a couple of early positions but now found himself in 16th place stuck behind the duelling Riccardo Agostini (Hilmer Motorsport) and Santiago Urrutia (Koiranen GP). Agostini was first to crack on lap 7, and the following lap saw Kirchhöfer get past Urrutia at the endof the straight. With Alfonso Celis Jr.'s Status GP expiring and Luis Sa Silva taking a drive-thru penalty for his earlier clash with Cullen, Kirchhöfer was now up to 13th place, but that was still five places out of the points and seven positions away from the result that would see him pip Stoneman for the runners-up honours in the championship. His work was made slightly easier by the sudden retirement of Mardenborough with a flat left rear, meaning that the German was now in 12th.
Meanwhile, almost unnoticed because of the drama unfolding further back, Niederhauser's lead was up to four seconds over Yelloly who had managed to pull away form Lynn to consolidate second place. Bernstorff was not looking to pressure his team mate and had a second in hand over Zamparelli, with Ceccon and Eriksson losing touch with the leaders as they continued their race-long battle over sixth place. No one was able to find any decisive advantage over the cars around them, and the race ended without further drama as Niederhauser successfully claimed his second sprint race win in a row, and his third victory in 2014 as a whole.
Meanwhile Kirchhöfer has found himself stuck in 12th position, feverishly trying to find some way around the Jenzer Motorsport of Matheo Tuscher but not managing to get the best of the Swiss driver. Ultimately he ran out of laps and when he crossed the line he was still two places outside the points, meaning that Stoneman - watching on helplessly in pit lane - had nonetheless managed to successfully clinch the GP3 drivers championship runners-up position with Kirchhöfer having to settle for third in the standings ahead of Bernstorff and Eriksson.
The final bit of business to take care of before the 2014 season was declared officially was the not-insignificant matter of the team championship. ART had made a late run for the title and got to within five points of Carlin, but with Kirchhöfer failing to finish in the points after his starting grid stall and Fontana down in 16th after his first lap clash with Stoneman, the squad only had points from Zamparelli's fifth place. With both of the cars ahead of him both sporting Carlin colours courtesy of Lynn and Bernstorff it meant that the honours were firmly in the British team's hands by the relatively safe margin of 17 points.
The celebrations marking the end of the fifth season of the GP3 championship started on the podium and would doubtless continue long into the day and night at Abu Dhabi. Some of those joining in will be back in action again in 2015 while others will move on to GP2 or other competitions, but for now there was off-season testing and a well-earned Christmas break to look forward to.
: Niederhauser excluded, loses race 2 win
See full GP3 race 2 results from Abu Dhabi