Written by Sophie Harvey, Edited by Mara Simion
DAMS entered Monza seeking a flawless performance, especially after their scoreless outing in Zandvoort. Despite starting the season on a high, their recent performances have taken a considerable dip.
Qualifying in Monza is always an eventful affair. However, it proved to be just the first disappointment of the team’s difficult weekend. Neither Ayumu Iwasa or Arthur Leclerc could improve their second run amongst the traffic, forcing them to settle for the starting positions of P15 and P12 respectively.
Expressing his frustration, Leclerc commented: “We struggled to put the tyres in the right window in the first run and then the end of the session was very messy. I tried my best to overtake and get to the front of the pack, but it was really tricky so I wasn't able to improve my time.”
Fast forward to Saturday, the sprint race proved to be a mixture of emotions for the team; Iwasa was forced to retire the car after his engine experienced a technical difficulty whilst Leclerc drove to a brilliant P8. A five-second penalty for Isack Hadjar promoted the Monegasque to P7, in turn bringing home two well-needed points, his first since Silverstone.
As a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, Leclerc no doubt wanted to carry this momentum into Sunday’s feature race to give the Italian fans, tifosi, a race to remember. Unfortunately, this did not go to plan, braking too late into Prima Variante and spinning into the runoff, resulting in an early retirement.
Whilst chaos unravelled around him, it was Iwasa who kept his cool. Opting for an aggressive, early pitstop strategy, the Red Bull Junior capitalised on the second safety car deployment. However, with 17 laps yet to be completed, nursing his Pirelli supersoft tyres to the chequered flag would be a colossal task.
Remarkably, the gamble paid off and rewarded Iwasa with an incredible second place and his sixth podium finish of the season. Starting from 15th on the grid, it was a result that surely surpassed DAMS' hopes.
"I'm really happy with today's race, the car had great pace and the team did a perfect job with the set-up and strategy. We had to take a risk during the pit stop, changing tyres earlier than planned, but I looked after them and made some important overtakes to clinch another podium,” said Iwasa, who is third in the drivers' championship.
With an almost three-month hold on the Formula 2 action, DAMS will have plenty of time to regroup in preparation for their final race weekend of the season in Abu Dhabi this November. Iwasa will hope to repeat his previous success at the Yas Marina Circuit, having won the feature race a season prior. Meanwhile, DAMS will set their sights on overtaking Rodin Carlin in the constructors championship. There will be plenty to watch out for, that’s for sure!