Niko Kari beats George Russell to Abu Dhabi GP3 race one victory

Outgoing Red Bull junior Niko Kari beat George Russell to victory in a disrupted first GP3 race of the season finale in Abu Dhabi

Niko Kari beats George Russell to Abu Dhabi GP3 race one victory

Kari had to weather virtual two safety car periods before sealing his first GP3 win, which is the first non-ART Grand Prix race one win of 2017.

Arjun Maini completed the podium after a late-race puncture dropped Leonardo Pulcini down the order.

At the start, polesitter Russell defended hard against Pulcini off the line, but as the champion covered off one Arden car, Kari swept around the outside of both of them to seize the lead going through Turn 1.

The Finn raced clear and his team-mate demoted Russell to third by going around the outside of the champion into the left-hand Turn 8.

In the pack behind, Fukuzumi was very slow away and that put the Honda driver well down the order.

Things got much worse as he clattered into the back of Giuliano Alesi and lost his front wing as the cars bunched up going through the Turns 8/9 chicane, seconds after the Trident driver had had his own front wing damaged in the melee.

Kari and Pulcini began to pull clear of Russell but the race was neutralised by the virtual safety car when Marcos Siebert stopped off the track at Turn 5.

That allowed Russell to close up to Pulcini and he attempted to steal second at the penultimate right-hander as the VSC ended, but had to jump over the kerbs and shot wide as a result.

The top three - and Maini - raced clear of the squabbling pack, with Kari gradually extending his lead over Pulcini.

But at the conclusion of a second VSC period - caused by Alesi stopping on-track on the run out of Turn 14 - Russell again got the jump on Pulcini, this time sweeping around the outside on the approach to the final corner to take second.

From there, Russell could not get close to Kari and the 18-year-old - backed by Red Bull only until the end of the year - took the win by 2.7-seconds.

Pulcini's left-rear tyre let go on the main straight on the penultimate lap, which gifted Maini third, and he was classified down in 17th.

Macau Grand Prix winner Dan Ticktum lost out to Maini early on but recovered to fourth by battling his way past Dorian Boccolacci - the pair banging wheels at Turn 12.

Alessio Lorandi and Steijn Schothorst were fifth and sixth after their own dramatic scraps with Boccolacci, who came home seventh.

Anthoine Hubert finished eighth and has reverse-grid pole despite slowing along the main straight mid-way through the race before getting up to speed again.

That means he can steal third place in the championship from Fukuzumi - who finished 15th and could therefore not eat into Jack Aitken's advantage in their fight for second.

Aitken, who qualified down in 15th, was in the thick of the action on lap one but did not make progress up the order and came home 14th.

Race one result

Pos Driver Team Laps Gap
1 Niko Kari Arden International 18 37m28.944s
2 George Russell ART Grand Prix 18 2.748s
3 Arjun Maini Jenzer Motorsport 18 7.532s
4 Dan Ticktum DAMS 18 13.745s
5 Alessio Lorandi Jenzer Motorsport 18 25.884s
6 Steijn Schothorst Arden International 18 29.890s
7 Dorian Boccolacci Trident 18 34.339s
8 Ryan Tveter Trident 18 35.815s
9 Kevin Jorg Trident 18 36.374s
10 Bruno Baptista DAMS 18 37.837s
11 Anthoine Hubert ART Grand Prix 18 40.003s
12 Juan Manuel Correa Jenzer Motorsport 18 41.362s
13 Raoul Hyman Campos Racing 18 50.566s
14 Jack Aitken ART Grand Prix 18 57.811s
15 Nirei Fukuzumi ART Grand Prix 18 1m15.635s
16 Tatiana Calderon DAMS 18 1m20.614s
17 Leonardo Pulcini Arden International 16 2 Laps
- Giuliano Alesi Trident 9 Retirement
- Marcos Siebert Campos Racing 3 Retirement
- Julien Falchero Campos Racing 0 Not started


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