David Beckmann (pictured, with trophy) produced an assured drive in Race 1 at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, to clinch his first career GP3 Series victory, seeing off the threat of Trident teammate Ryan Tveter (pictured at left) to secure a 1-2 finish for the Italian team. ART Grand Prix’s Anthoine Hubert finished in third, having been unsuccessful in mounting a challenge on Tveter in the late stages of the race.
In the coldest conditions experienced in a race this season, the thermometer barely pushing 50 degrees F at the start, the field lined up on the medium compound Pirellis despite damp patches on the circuit. As the lights went out, Beckmann grabbed a perfect start and immediately powered into a strong lead, taking advantage of the remainder of the field becoming congested at La Source. From eighth on the grid, Tveter slipped through into second as the ART trio of Hubert, Nikita Mazepin and Jake Hughes were bunched up on the outside of the corner – the American dived down the inside, with Pedro Piquet taking an early third.
With Beckmann disappearing up the road, Tveter and Piquet battled hard for third in the opening corners – Tveter going wide at Les Combes. Piquet was unable to capitalize, as Hubert repassed the Brazilian on the run down to Bruxelles, leaving him vulnerable to the advances of Hughes. By the end of the first lap, Beckmann held a 2.2-second lead, prompting Tveter to dial up the pace.
On the next tour, Tveter had halved the deficit to Beckmann and was angling to be within DRS range of his German teammate. Hughes, meanwhile, had dispatched Piquet at the Kemmel Straight, and immediately set after Hubert with the intent of challenging for a podium.
Beckmann hit back, starting a rally between himself and Tveter as the pair traded fastest laps over the next series of laps. Regardless, Tveter was able to home in, and by Lap 8 had managed to collect DRS to try and reel Beckmann toward him. The subsequent lap was Tveter’s best chance of making an overtake, getting close at the Kemmel Straight, but went deep into Les Combes and took to the run-off. This gave Beckmann some respite, and he was able to open the lead up once again ahead of the race’s second half.
“I was just backing off through Eau Rouge and Turn 5 because I didn’t want to lose the car. But then I saw that it’s possible to go faster because Ryan was going faster, and I was needing two laps to come on the same pace,” related Beckmann. “Once he opened DRS he was very close, but he locked up. It’s very difficult to have the same braking point in these conditions, so yeah, I saw he was coming in close but I was keeping calm, had a cool head and focused on the braking points and everything, so I have to say it was an intense race.”
“I was pushing like crazy to try and catch David, I was giving it absolutely everything through Eau Rouge,” said Tveter. “I really enjoy these conditions, and obviously the car was handling absolutely amazing and I was able to maximize. I’d got very close to David halfway through the race, but I had another tricky braking point at Les Combes and I’m very lucky I didn’t tap him or anything! I had to run off, lost the DRS and from then on the tires were a bit tricky to manage.”
Hubert then began to close in to Tveter, setting a fastest lap while battle for eighth place began to rage on behind them as Joey Mawson defended hard from Giuliano Alesi. The pair began to catch the scrapping ARTs of Mazepin and Callum Ilott, who had almost come to blows earlier on in the race at Les Combes. Alesi attempted to launch a move on Mawson at La Source with DRS, but caught a lock-up and had to let the Australian go.
With Tveter occupied by the impending threat of Hubert, Beckmann was able to manage his tires and keep a sufficient gap to those behind him, keeping his head to chalk up his first ever victory in GP3, 1.3s clear of Tveter at the line. Tveter absorbed Hubert’s overtures with DRS to clinch second – the American driver’s best result of the season.
“I think Anthoine has been saving a little bit from the beginning, and came on strong at the end and was catching both of us,” Tveter added. “I was giving everything to survive and bring home the result for the team. It’s hard to believe, coming from P8 to P2, I’m so happy and especially for our team.”
Behind them, Hughes began to struggle with his performance late into the race, losing fourth to Piquet before slipping into the clutches of Mazepin and Ilott, who quickly engulfed their teammate and fed him to the chasing duo of Mawson and Alesi. Battling with Mawson over seventh on the final lap, the Arden International driver briefly found his way past before Hughes was able to reclaim the place. Mawson will assume reverse-grid pole in tomorrow’s Race 2 having settled for eighth, while Alesi and Calderon completed the scorers, the Colombian passing Jenzer teammate Juan Manuel Correa late on in the race.