#5 Niko Kari (FIN – Arden)
Qualifying: 3rd – Race 1 Grid: 3rd – Race 1 Result: 1st
Reverse Race 2 Grid: 8th – Race 2 Result: 13th
GP3 Championship position: 10th – 63 points – after 15 of 15 races
#14 Dan Ticktum (GBR – Dams)
Qualifying: 4th – Race 1 Grid: 4th – Race 1 Result: 4th
Reverse Race 2 Grid: 5th – Race 2 Result: 3rd
GP3 Championship position: 11th – 36 points – after 15 of 15 races (debut in race 11)
Niko Kari took his maiden GP3 victory with a superb drive in Abu Dhabi. It started with a great outside move at the first corner, taking the lead from third on the grid. He controlled Race 1 masterfully from there with fellow Red Bull Junior Dan Ticktum finishing fourth.
In the reverse grid Race 2 Kari also made early gains but finally crossed the line sixth. Ticktum had to wait until half distance to move up from P5 where he had started but then cut through with a vengeance, finally crossing the line second. He was penalised five seconds for leaving the track and gaining an advantage, that left him on the podium but third.
The 18-year-old Finn was on form and quick from the start of the season's final weekend. Fastest around the Yas Marina circuit in Free Practice he backed that up with third in Qualifying. "In Free Practice we still had a bit of pace to gain, but in the Qualifying I pushed a bit in the braking zones and I did 2 mistakes on my first lap, so that limited me a bit for the second push lap. We were a bit conservative, so P3 is a good place to start and I'm really looking forward to tomorrow," he asserted on Friday.
Starting from P3 proved no impediment. "I was just saying to myself, because the guys were really on the inside of the track, 'I will try my best to go around the outside,' and it worked! It was a good move, I was fairly happy with everything, and then I could just control the pace from there," enthused the Arden driver who had scored their 100th win.
Hard work paid off
"We have been struggling all year I would say to find a good set up on the car to really improve everything, but finally we have done it, and for the first weekend it is really working. Of course we've had a few good weekends, a few podiums, but I'm really happy, the car was really good, and we'll see what happens tomorrow: the car is really quick, I think I did the fastest lap as well."
Race 2 was also impressive and Kari took two places on lap one then made in through to fifth. But after a late coming together with Arden team-mate Steijn Schothorst as he was looking at fourth on the penultimate lap he dropped back to sixth due to front wing damage. Unfortunately Kari was later handed a 10 second penalty after the stewards judged him to have caused the collision with Schothorst at turn 14. The time adition dropped him from the sixth as he crossed the line to P13.
Ticktum ends his short GP3 season on the third step
Robbed of a podium in Jerez, the 18-year-old Briton got there in Race 2 at Yas Marina. It was only his fifth GP3 race, making a late start having run all year in Formula Renault Eurocup. He also dipped into F3 with victory last weekend in Macau so it has been a thrilling November to end the year.
"It was pretty exciting, I would say!" said Ticktum of his excellent Race 2 in Abu Dhabi. "It all went quite well until I got a penalty which I didn't agree with. I had a lot of my car alongside Schothorst when I attacked, and I think I had 2 wheels on before he squeezed me, so that put a bit of a downer on the whole podium and everything. But I'm still happy with everything else, it's a great result for me and the team in their final round of the championship, and I think it's their first podium of the year as well. Overall it was positive, but it was a shame to get the penalty."