Oscar Piastri has come back from the mid-season break in winning form, taking out the Feature Race on Sunday after going fastest in Qualifying.
The Championship leader couldn’t have started the Italian Grand Prix weekend any better than claiming the fastest lap in Qualifying on Friday. Although Piastri claimed the top stop, his main rival, Guanyu Zhou, was only 0.051s off but found himself in third, with Jehan Daruvala just missing out on pole by 0.016s.
The Prema Racing driver would then line up 10th
on the grid in Sprint Race 1 at Monza, with the order reversed from Qualifying. Piastri remained patient with his tactics, making moves only when he was confident they could be successful. Most of the action happened in front of Piastri, with Dan Ticktum spinning on lap two after an attempted pass from Theo Pourchaire. It wasn’t the only incident Pourchaire was involved in, with Liam Lawson’s move on the French driver resulted in front wing damage.
Piastri remained in the top 10 for the early parts of the race after an attempted pass on teammate Robert Shwartszman didn’t pay off. DAMS driver Roy Nissany lost his car on lap 10, with Piastri having to slam on the brakes and dodge the car. Piastri got past Bent Viscaal and Juri Vips in the second half of the race to cross the line in fifth. He would go on to finish in fourth, with Shwartszman having a five-second penalty.
Sprint Race 2 was a quiet race by F2® standards, with Piastri stuck in a DRS train for a good portion of the race. Pourchaire and Piastri battled throughout the race, with the Frenchman winning an early tussle. Piastri was able to set the fastest lap after a virtual safety car compressed the pack. On lap 14, he was able to regain the position he lost earlier to Pourchaire. The Melbournian driver finished seventh, gaining two championship points and another two for the fastest lap.
With the two sprint races finished, attention would turn to the Feature Race with the most points of the weekend on offer. Piastri started on pole and held the position to take the victory and claim the 25-points on offer.
It wasn’t a smooth race, however, with safety cars continually bunching up the pack. With five laps to go, all eyes were on Ticktum, who rolled the dice earlier in the race and didn’t change his tyres, hoping for another safety car. He got his wish and fell from first to eleventh but had the freshest tyres on the grid. Ticktum was able to make his way into P3 after gaining five places on the first lap after the safety car finished. Contact between David Beckmann and Viscaal on Lap 28 of 30 finished Ticktum’s attempt at victory, with the final two laps happening under the fourth safety car of the race.
The Briton had to settle for P3 as Piastri crossed the line ahead of Zhou.
“I couldn’t be happier. It was a very tricky race with a few Safety Cars. I had a lock-up at the end that nearly undone all of my hard work, but we held on, and our pace was really good besides that,” Piastri said after the race.
“A big thank you to the team. We made some good improvements from yesterday and our pace was really strong. It feels awesome. It’s another box ticked off in my rookie year, so I am very happy.”
Piastri now holds a 15-point advantage over Zhou with three rounds of the season to go, sitting first with 149 points. Shwartzman is third with 113, ahead of Ticktum on 104 and Pourchaire on 94.
In the Teams’ title race, PREMA has 262 points and sit ahead of UNI-Virtuosi on 193 and Carlin on 185.
The season continues in just under two weeks at Sochi, where Piastri and Zhou will look to pick up their battle from the front.
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