Two years after crash disaster, Kiwi star is flat-out chasing the big GP3 title
Richie Stanaway appears to have his open-wheel career back on track after two years out following his crash at Spa Francorchamps while racing in Renault 3.5 litre.
The Kiwi driver has made the most of his opportunity with Status Grand Prix in GP3, and this weekend is back in action at one of the fastest circuits on the calendar, Monza in Italy.
Stanaway and the team have continued to make progress with the car and with three rounds (including this weekend) to go in the championship, he feels he has every chance of winning the title.
Stanaway is second in the series, 32 points behind Red Bull Racing’s junior team driver, and former Toyota Racing Series contestant Alex Lynn.
The New Zealander is taking heart from the fact that the series winner is often decided in the last round – Aucklander Mitch Evans nabbed the 2012 title in the final round at Monza.
It’s a long season for a support series, with 18 races, and Stanaway is confident the team are heading in the right direction to close the gap on Lynn.
But he expects it’ll be a hard weekend because of the format and the controversial Pirelli tyres.
“The good thing is that Nick [Yelloly, his teammate] and I are second and third in the drivers championship and the team [Status Grand Prix] are second in the teams championship.
“They finished last in the teams championship last year, so they’ll be happy if we stay where we are now.
“I’m in with a chance to win the title this year, so the next three rounds are going to be very important and I can’t afford to have any mishaps. I need to get more race wins, especially in the feature race as the series doesn’t really reward consistency.
“I really need to win [tonight’s] feature race, or at least get inside the top three, as there’s not many points for [tomorrow’s] race.”
Pirelli has nominated the same medium tyre compounds used at Spa, and although the two circuits have different configurations they are both high speed, which puts huge demands on the tyres through the flat-out corners and long straights with heavy braking.
All the teams will have trimmed the cars as much as possible and will be relying on mechanical grip rather than aero downforce to get the cars through the turns.
The hardest parts of the track on tyres are the first chicane (Variante del Rettifilo with its heavy braking), the Variante Ascari where the cars change direction rapidly and the Parabolica, which induces huge lateral forces on the cars.
“I know the track well and I feel we’ll have a good car there. I’m feeling better than I have on some other weekends, but it can be a bit of a lottery.
“We haven’t changed the car much since Silverstone and will use that as a baseline. It’s the tyres that will have the biggest influence – we don’t carry much aero here because it’s all about speed at Monza.
“The car will be depending mostly on mechanical grip, so a good setup is vital. We sort of missed our window at Spa, but I think we’ll be okay here.
“I’ve never done a full championship I haven’t won, so I’ll be doing everything over the next three race weekends to keep that record going,” said Stanaway.
GP3 points after round 6
Alex Lynn – 153
Richie Stanaway – 121
Nick Yelloly – 95
Emil Bernstorff – 91
Jimmy Eriksson – 85
Dino Zamparelli – 81