GP3: Arjun Maini ends 2017 season with podium in Abu Dhabi
Arjun Maini started the final round of the 2017 GP3 Series at the Yas Marina circuit finishing ninth in the lone practice on Friday morning, after he had abort his fastest lap.
The Indian picked up pace in the qualifying to finish an impressive fifth, a mere 0.715s off pole-sitter ART’s George Russell – the 2017 champion completing a clean sweep of pole positions for ART.
Arden duo of Leonardo Pulcini and morning practice pace-setter and the outgoing Red Bull junior driver Niko Kari ended up second and third respectively – separated by just 0.084s.
Maini made a perfect start to move ahead of DAMS' Daniel Ticktum in the opening lap to be fourth, as Kari shot into the lead with Russell dropping to third.
Kari led the way ahead with Pulcini and Russell fighting for second around the Virtual Safety Car - the British was unable to take the Italian the first time, but he cleared him in the second.
Meanwhile, Maini pulled a gap from the fighting Ticktum, Dorian Boccolacci (Trident) and Alessio Lorandi (Jenzer), but was unable to close it in the front.
However, with a stroke of luck on Lap 16, the Haas F1 development driver was gifted the podium place after Pulcini suffered with a slow puncture.
And so, Maini claimed his first podium since the Barcelona win, while the soon-to-be former Red Bull driver Kari scored his first win, ahead of Mercedes junior Russell.
Maini had a steady start in the season's final race of 2017 at Yas Marina from sixth, but Kari was all over him in the first few laps.
The Finn eventually made past him, with the Indian then having a battle with Russell - the duo exchanging positions for few laps, before the British driver had the move stick.
With Jenzer teammate Lorandi having troubles with his front wing, Maini was still running seventh despite losing out to Kari and Russell.
The end stages of the race saw ART's Anthoine Hubert also pass Maini, as the Haas protege had troubles with tyres, while in a wild move, DAMS' Bruno Baptista too moved ahead.
The incident, though, is under investigation, with Maini classified eighth while Boccolacci took his maiden win ahead of Trident teammate Ryan Tveter and Ticktum.
With Russell already a champion, Maini ended his first full season in ninth with 69 points to his name - with a win and a podium. Meanwhile, his team Jenzer were third with 161 points.
UPDATE: A penalty to Kari and Baptista pushed Maini to sixth in the final order, helping him finish with 72 points in all. The Indian was also awarded by the teams for his win in Barcelona under the 'Best Race Win' category in the 2017 end-of-season GP3 awards.