Matt Parry was denied a season-ending return to the GP3 Series podium as a puncture in the final round at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix took him out of contention for the top three.

The Welshman had worked his way into position to challenge for more silverware at a track he already knew from last season’s first taste of GP3, but finding himself literally at the centre of the unresolved title fight between Esteban Ocon and Luca Ghiotto brought a premature end to what had been another solid weekend in the F1 feeder series.

Less than a week after appearing on the podium with the championship contenders in Bahrain, Parry opened his Yas Marina account with the fourth fastest time in practice, again chasing the leading lights in a session where the order changed throughout.

It was the same story in qualifying, with the list of drivers revolving throughout the 30-minute session and fractions of a second deciding grid positions. Parry eventually slotted into ninth position, but was only a tenth of a second from row three and less than four tenths from returning to P4.

“I made a couple of little mistakes on my best lap in qualifying and, with the session as close as it was, that was all it took for me to be pushed back to ninth,” Parry explained, “GP3 is already very competitive but, on a circuit like Yas Marina, where we have all run in winter testing, the margins were always likely to be smaller than usual. I reckon that, without the errors, I could have been inside the top three, but the inside of row five isn’t a disaster – it just means I have to work a little harder in race one!”

Having already shown his passing prowess in both Bahrain races – where he rose from gremlin-induced 18th to eleventh in race one, and from eleventh to third in race two – Parry was confident of making up places once racing got underway in Abu Dhabi, and quickly gained two spots to run directly behind Ghiotto. Although he appeared to have better pace than the Italian, and was forcing the Trident driver into mistakes, Parry found further passing opportunities hard to come by on the serpentine Yas Marina layout, but eventually moved into sixth position as the result of a retirement further up the field.

“Yas Marina is a fantastic facility, but its design does not make for easy overtaking, especially if you are running a comparable pace to the car ahead,” Parry confirmed, “Ghiotto appeared to be having some problems staying on the track, but always had just enough in hand to stay in front of me. Nevertheless, I was able to pick off a couple of cars in the opening laps and finishing sixth meant starting from third on the reverse grid for Sunday!”

With an ideal opportunity to chase a fourth podium of the year in the season finale, Parry was determined to make the most of his grid position but, with the two title contenders starting directly behind the #12 Koiranen GP car, knew that he would have his hands full from the start. Despite appearing to make a good getaway, the Sport Wales ambassador quickly had to defend from a fast-starting Ocon, with Ghiotto also trying to capitalise on the run to turn one. With title-led desperation either side of him, Parry was left with nowhere to go and contact was almost inevitable. Although he escaped the first clash with minor front wing damage, a second wheel-banging moment with Ocon as the pack exited the opening corner left the Sport Wales ambassador with more substantial problems, and he quickly dropped back through the field.

“My start was okay, but it was obvious that the two title contenders were keen to make up as much ground as possible in the shortest amount of time,” Parry reflected, “The main straight suddenly got very crowded and there was contact as Ocon tried to force his way between myself and Ghiotto. I seemed to get away with that but, as we came out of turn one, Ocon again made contact with my car, this time causing a puncture. I tried to struggle on, but had no option but to pit for a replacement.”

With the pack still relatively bunched, the unwanted pit-stop dropped Parry to 24th position, well over a minute behind himself and his initial quarry. Despite having little to play for, the Briton was determined to make the most of his remaining track time, and closed the gap significantly over the remaining laps.

“There was good reason to go back out with so much of the race still to run,” Parry concluded, “We wanted to learn how to maximise the tyre during the race and what we learned was really informative, but it was another chance to show our pace, especially with a clear track ahead of me. I was really pleased to be nearly a second a lap quicker over the race distance than the others, and can go into winter testing with confidence.”

Parry’s results confirmed him in eighth position in the final GP3 Series drivers' championship, while helping the Koiranen GP team to fourth overall in the teams’ standings. He will now remain in Abu Dhabi for three days of winter testing, splitting time between Koiranen and the Trident team which took Ghiotto to second in the championship.


Article created by Craig Llewellyn.