De Vries wins in Abu Dhabi; Leclerc claims title as both contenders retire
ART's Nyck de Vries won his second race of the season in Saturday's feature race in Abu Dhabi, but his victory was a mere subtitle as the championship was decided.
Both GP3 title contenders Charles Leclerc and Alexander Albon retired from the event in separate incidents, confirming Leclerc as drivers' champion for 2016.
With Albon on pole, the points differential was cut to 25, but with neither driver scoring and a maximum of 17 points available for the sprint race, the title was decided, making the Monaco-born ART man the seventh GP3 champion.
Albon was controlling the race happily until a safety car appeared on Lap 8 to recover the car of Tatiana Calderon from Turn 1. Then, at the restart, the pole-sitter came under pressure from Jack Aitken.
The Arden driver passed him for the lead whilst off-track, but any protests over track limits were swiftly forgotten when Albon hit the rear of Aitken's car, launching the ART into the air and breaking its suspension when it came back to earth, eliminating him from the race, and indeed the championship fight.
Leclerc had been stuck behind Haas F1 Team development driver Santino Ferrucci for the majority of the race, and with the demise of Albon and Aitken, their fight become one for third place.
Eager to get on the podium and with the title in style, he went for a move around the outside of Ferrucci at Turn 10, but he found himself pushed wide by the American. Contact was made, his tyre was punctured, and Leclerc, too, was eliminated from the proceedings.
The drama ensured Leclerc would have an insurmountable lead going into the final race of the season on Sunday, crowning him as drivers' champion.
The drama at the front left Nyck de Vries in the lead, and he coolly led home the remaining Arden pair of Jake Dennis and the recovering Aitken, who set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 2.
Behind the podium finishers came Kevin Joerg, Nirei Fukuzumi, Steijn Schothorst, Jake Hughes, Konstantin Tereschenko, Ferrucci - who received a 10-second penalty for his clash with Leclerc - and Alex Palou, who rounded out the top 10.