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PERFECT PIERRE TAKES GP2 TITLE FIGHT TO FINAL RACE

PREMA Racing driver Pierre Gasly will carry a 12-point lead over teammate Antonio Giovinazzi into Sunday’s GP3 sprint race after an outstanding drive to victory in the 31-lap feature race at Yas Marina Circuit.

Issued on behalf of Scot Sport...

PREMA Racing driver Pierre Gasly will carry a 12-point lead over teammate Antonio Giovinazzi into Sunday’s GP3 sprint race after an outstanding drive to victory in the 31-lap feature race at Yas Marina Circuit.

The 20-year-old Frenchman trailed Giovinazzi, 22 and a GP2 rookie, by seven points coming into the ninth and final round at Abu Dhabi but cut that to three with the four points for pole position.

He then converted that advantage into his fourth race win of the 2016 season as Giovinazzi came home sixth – a position that became fifth when Racing Engineering’s Norman Nato received a five-second penalty for speeding in pit lane.

‘It was a fantastic race,’ beamed Gasly on the podium. ‘The team did a good job since the beginning of the weekend. I felt very comfortable in the car, the strategy was great, we did a fantastic pit stop and I am very happy!’

The race hinged on tyre strategy, with several drivers opting to start on Pirelli’s Supersoft compound for a short stint and switch to Mediums for the greater part of the race, the others doing the reverse – except the PREMA pair.

Both went with the Supersoft-Medium plan, but it worked to Gasly’s advantage when he led and was called in first after six laps, leaving Giovinazzi to lose time on an extra lap before he too could come in and switch to the more durable tyres.

From then on it was all about two pursuits: Gasly going for first place, Giovinazzi in damage limitation as he tried to stay as close to his teammate as possible.

While ART’s Nobuharu Matsushita stayed out for 26 laps on the Mediums and led convincingly, in the end Gasly simply picked off opponents one by one until he was back in front.

‘Save the tyres for two or three laps then go for fastest lap,’ his team told him – a bonus that would have brought Gasly an extra two points. It almost worked: he fired in his personal best lap time on the 31stand last lap but could not better the time set by the flying Matsushita at the end, a 1:51.175 on the faster Supersofts.

With Matsushita second, Artem Markelov took the final podium place for RUSSIAN TIME. Teammate Raffaelle Marciello’s slim title chances disappeared when the Italian could finish only 10th.

Gasly now has 219 points to Giovinazzi’s 207. The one certainty about tomorrow’s 22-lap sprint race is that whatever the result, a PREMA driver will add that title to the teams’ crown they won in Malaysia.

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