GP3 Series: Welcome to today’s GP3 press conference at the Circuito de Jerez following the qualifying session. Joining us is poleman Nirei Fukuzumi for ART Grand Prix. In second place we have Jack Aitken also for ART and in third we have George Russell for ART as well. Starting with you Nirei, this is your second pole position of the season. Can you talk us through your session today?
Nirei Fukuzumi: I’m very happy with today’s pole position. I drove the best that I could this afternoon. I was three tenths slower than George [Russell] this morning during free practice, but I knew I could improve on my driving for qualifying. I was able to put everything together for that lap and it was good enough for pole. In Monza, I got pole position because the qualifying session was cancelled and I had set the best laptime during free practice. I was lucky and yes also happy to get pole then, but this time, I set it on the track during the qualifying session so I am really, really happy.
GP3 Series: Congratulations indeed. Jack, second place today. Did you expect to be so close to your teammates at the flag going into the session?
Jack Aitken: Yeah. It was going to be service as usual for ART. We were pretty strong in practice so I was expecting it to be a fight between us. Unfortunately, at the start of my run, I had quite a lot of traffic. I think we released a little bit too late and ended up in that bid train of cars where you don’t want to be. But I was quite surprised actually the grip was still there so the second laps so luckily I was able to get a good lap in but not quite the same as Nirei’s… It’s P2 in the end, but still a good position to start the race tomorrow. We’ll see.
GP3 Series: Thank you. George, did you think you had done enough on your final run?
George Russell: After the first run, we saw the drivers did their quickest lap on lap 1. I did mine and they said I was quickest. I wasn’t expecting anybody to improve on their second lap but obviously, the two guys next to me did… I’m not too sure: the grip felt really good on the first push, but I didn’t quite optimised it myself. And then I think I took a bit off my tyres compared to Nirei and Jack and I struggled for grip on the final lap. It’s something we will have to look into. I was very happy this morning and it seems as if the rise of temperature has affected me more. Still, I’m happy with P3. Obviously, I have the title in my thoughts and I’m focusing on that.
GP3 Series: Thank you. Nirei, back to you: tyre degradation is the massive story this weekend. Tell us about how it was for you on the fast lap and in practice?
Nirei: I think tyre degradation was not so high during free practice. I did six push lap in a row. But I think the most important thing tomorrow will be overtaking: I believe it will be very difficult to do on this track so the start of the race will be crucial. If I manage to keep the lead at turn 1 and then make no mistake, the win is within my reach for certain. I will have to be careful to keep a big enough gap to whoever is behind me because there is a DRS zone in the main straight… We will have to see what happens.
GP3 Series: What about you Jack and George? Do you also feel like tyre degradation will not be an issue for you?
Jack: We are on the hardest compound so like Nirei said, there is not a huge amount of degradation although it is quite hot. I think it will be a challenge to overtake unless someone has a big problem…
George: Obviously, it’s a new circuit for GP3 and it’s a new track surface. Tyre degradation is a bit of unknown for everybody. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.