Antonio Felix da CostaIt was a hard weekend of racing for the Carlin GP3 team in Monza with Championship contender Antonio Felix da Costa failing to score points in the first race after an electronic gearbox glitch left his car stuck in sixth gear – dashing his title hopes. Da Costa was looking at serious championship points at the time after his main rival Mitch Evans was forced to watch from the sidelines following damage to his car on the first lap. Buller was involved in a brilliant fight for position during both races, finishing 10th and 12th respectively while Brundle sustained heavy damage to his car in the first race and came through the field in the second to finish 10th. Despite da Costa’s title frustration, Carlin finish the season third in the teams’ championship.

Starting from the front row of the grid the first race of the weekend got off to a messy start as the cars streamed into the first corner. Managing to take avoiding action da Costa held second place in the race before snatching the lead from Matias Laine before the end of the first lap. In taking avoiding action alongside da Costa his main championship rival Evans damaged his car and was forced into retirement – leaving the Carlin man suddenly looking like the title favourite.

Buller had also had a great start and avoided the chaotic first corner accidents however Brundle wasn’t quite so lucky from his starting position; losing his rear wing in the first corner he was black flagged a few laps later.

At the front da Costa was fighting well in the knowledge that the championship was looking good for him. He lost position to Daniel Abt and Aaro Vaino in the next couple of laps but was staying close to the two leaders and remained very much in the hunt for the race win. But disaster struck the Red Bull Junior driver with an electronic gearbox glitch left him stuck in sixth gear – and rapidly falling down through the pack. Pulling the car to the side of the road da Costa resolved the problem using the master switch to restart the car however this subsequently left him lying near the back of the field as a result.

Buller meanwhile was involved in a great battle for position with Conor Daly, Tamas Pal Kiss and Giovanni Venturini which resulted in positions changing almost every corner. Out of the battle Buller would cross the line in 11th position however a time penalty for Laine brought Buller into position to take the final point in 10th.

Da Costa was pushing hard despite his heartbreak and crossed the line in 15th place where he would start for the second race of the weekend.

With no championship to fight for da Costa started the race with the aim in mind to make his way up the field and solidify his third place in the championship standings. Once again the Carlin man was quick off the line and was eighth by the end of the first lap and challenging those ahead. Driving strongly he made up a handful of positions to fifth while Evans and Abt were in their own respective battles for championship glory. At the chequered flag, da Costa crossed the line to secure third in the championship in what has been an incredible impressive year for the Portuguese racer.

Meanwhile Brundle had started well from 23rd on the grid and was making his way through the pack. The British racer made the most of every possible overtaking opportunity and crossed the line in a solid 10th place.

Buller’s race was similar to yesterday’s with a multitude of drivers after the same position. While trying to avoid the spinning car of Laine, Buller was forced into a spin which ultimately lost him a handful of positions – taking the flag in in 14th position.

Reflecting on his championship battle, da Costa said, “Its racing and it happens. It’s a shame because the team have worked so hard and I was so, so close to the title. I could actually feel it as I was driving around yesterday and then it was snatched away from me. But we’ve had an amazing season and I’ve enjoyed the racing and working with the team.”

Trevor Carlin added, “Our GP3 team and drivers have done a fantastic job this season. Third in the drivers and teams’ standings is a great achievement, and if it hadn’t been for a very cruel stroke of luck yesterday, Antonio could have been looking at first in the championship. I think both the team and Antonio will be remembered for raw speed this season, which has given us a great foundation for the future.”

Photo by Daniel Kalisz/LAT Photographic.