It had taken Kevin Ceccon 29 GP3 race outings before he finally found his way to the top step of the podium at Silverstone three weeks ago, but he clearly liked the experience so much that nothing was going to stop him from doing it all over again for back-to-back Sunday race successes as he took victory in race 2 at the Hungaroring.
The Arden driver was put into a winning position by a fine launch off the grid, while his main rivals clashed behind him and took each other out. After that he was able to control proceedings and not offer any openings to ART's Esteban Ocon and he stayed safely out of reach at the front all the way to the chequered flag at the end of what proved to be a slightly shortened morning's work.
CLICK: Full GP3 Sunday morning race 2 results from the Hungaroring.
It was much cooler and cloudier on Sunday morning with a stiff wind blowing over the 2.722-mile, 16-turn Hungaroring when Carlin's Antonio Fuoco took up position on pole for the shorter second GP3 race of the weekend, thanks to reverse grid rules having finished race 1 in eighth place on Saturday afternoon. The chief threat alongside him was Ceccon, while both Italian drivers needed to be wary of Koiranen GP pair Jimmy Erikkson and Matt Parry on the second row. They in turn formed something of a buffer zone behind which lay four of the biggest names in this year's GP3 championship - Emil Bernstorff (Arden), Marvin Kirchhöfer (ART), Ocon and championship leader Luca Ghiotto (Trident) in eighth - all of whom were keen to charge to the front given half a chance and who were all too well aware that opportunities would be few and far between on the notoriously tight and twisty circuit.
After the initial attempt to start the race was called off, reducing the scheduled race distance from 17 to 16 laps, the race finally got underway. Ceccon got the better start and managed to win the race down to turn 1, while Fuoco battled desperately to block Eriksson lunging down the inside line while simultaneously trying to stop Bernstorff from sweeping around the outside to make it an Arden 1-2. The battle continued through to the chicane at turns 8 and 9 which Fuoco and Bernstorff unwisely attempted to take side-by-side only to find there was simply insufficient room to avoid contact. Fuoco was briefly jolted into the air and only narrowly avoided slamming into the back of Ceccon, but instead he was sent into a hard hit against the Armco barrier that put him out on the spot. Bernstorff himself made it only one more corner before having to pull over and retire with suspension damage.
With Jann Mardenborough also punted off track in the Carlin in a separate incident and Trident's Artur Janosz having spun and stalled in turn 4 after contact with Arden's Aleksander Bosak, a safety car was needed to clean up the various incidents. Racing resumed on lap 4 with Ceccon able to leap away from Ocon who had now inherited second place ahead of Eriksson, Parry and Ghiotto while Pål Varhaug was up to sixth ahead of Kirchhöfer. The German was hardly about to let that stand, and on lap 6 he did indeed find a way past the Jenzer Motorsport car at turn 12.
As the race settled down and became more strung out, overtakes were few and far between but the exception to the rule was Varhaug's Jenzer team mate Mathéo Tuscher who was finding his way past the likes of Status Grand Prix's Seb Morris, Koiranen GP's Adderly Fong and Carlin's Mitchell Gilbert with some audacious, opportunistic and not always entirely contact-free moves. By the midway point of the race, the Swiss teen had managed to climb to ninth place and was the fastest man on the track, but his entertaining antics appeared to have used up his tyres and he was unable to crack the points-paying positions, running the remainder of the race in ninth behind his team mates Varhaug and Ralph Boschung despite applying as much pressure as he dared on the final lap.
At the front, Ceccon has proceedings well under control and had more than a second in hand over Ocon who seemed inclined to concentrate on sealing second place and not get jumped by the lurking brace of Koiranen cars immediately behind him and looking increasingly pacey by the lap. With the win out of reach, Ocon settled instead for setting the fastest lap of the race just before the chequered flag came out.
Eriksson held off his team mate to join Ceccon and Ocon on the podium, while championship leader Ghiotto will have been relatively content with fifth place as long as it meant finishing ahead of his main GP3 drivers title rival Kirchhöfer. Varhaug and Boschung took the final points positions with Tuscher and Gilbert just missing out but at least notching up a topo ten finish.
Ghiotto now holds a 23 point lead at the top of the championship standings, while Kirchhöfer now finds himself tied for second place with Ocon, the pair 21 points ahead of Bernstorff whose title hopes took a hit with today's lap 1 retirement. The drivers now get a month off before reconvening for the fifth round of the 2015 season at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on the weekend of August 21-23.
See full GP3 Sunday morning race 2 results from the Hungaroring.