Written by Jasmin Low, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
The stakes were high, with just nine points separating the top two in the championship, and Frederik Vesti taking the sprint race victory a day before, while Theo Pourchaire started from pole position. As the five red lights went out, and the race began, Pourchaire began to battle with Oliver Bearman, who was lined up just behind him on the grid. Bearman took the lead from the ART driver, as chaos ensued behind them. Trident's Roman Stanek, and Victor Martins of ART went wheel-to-wheel, and as Stanek struggled after a tight squeeze with the Frenchman, he forced Vesti off the track and into the barriers, putting the most recent winner out of the race. Stanek was handed a five-second time penalty for that incident. That same lap, Zandvoort race winner Clement Novalak in the other Trident went spinning into the gravel, and he retired from the race, as the safety car was called out.
On lap four, the pressure was on for Bearman, as racing resumed. Bearman managed to get a good restart as Kush Maini and Richard Verschoor battled for fifth place in the background, and Amaury Cordeel suffered a puncture the following lap.
During the seventh trip around Monza, Arthur Leclerc hurtled into multiple of the polystyrene barriers placed at the first chicane, bringing an end to his race, and Bernd Maylander made his second appearance with the safety car. This safety car was the cause for the frontrunners Bearman, Pourchaire and Martins all making their way into the pit lane, meaning a risky double stack for ART. Bearman and Pourchaire came frighteningly close on exiting the pits, as Bearman came out just in front of Pourchaire.
As soon as the green flags were flying again on lap 12, a massive crash for Zane Maloney saw his Rodin Carlin torn to pieces, as he spun across the track and back again after making contact with Roy Nissany who was later slapped with a drive through penalty. Ayumu Iwasa in the remaining DAMS, Jehan Daruvala, and Jack Doohan all battled for the race lead. Doohan lost out, and was overtaken by Bearman just before the safety car was called out, in a critical move which put one car between him and Pourchaire. The safety car drove through the pit lane, allowing Daruvala and Iwasa to change their tyres and Juan Manuel Correa was dealt a five-second time penalty for speeding in the pit lane behind the safety car, an infringement which could potentially lead to a race ban for the final round of the season.
On lap 16, the field went back to green flag running. Bearman worked wonders, creating a gap of over a second to Doohan behind him. Doohan worked hard to fend off Pourchaire, as they both jumped across the track, with Pourchaire finally making the pass on the Australian during lap 18, although by then, Bearman had built the gap up to over two seconds. Hauger went deep into turn one, taking out more of the polystyrene barriers but continued on, as Victor Martins was stuck in a rare predicament where his DRS flap was stuck open.
The oversteer caused by the DRS was a struggle for Martins as Jak Crawford executed a double overtake on both him and Maini, and the black and orange flag was shown to Martins as he returned to the pit lane for a mandatory stop. Martins was forced to retire from the race in the same pit lane where he'd sealed his victory in the F3 championship a year ago.
Maini and Crawford had a scary lap 23, incident where the Campos’ front wing went under the rear wheels of Crawford’s Hitech. Maini was off into the gravel, and had to retire, as Crawford was left with a puncture, ruining the opportunity for points for both drivers. The safety car made another appearance, bunching the field back up, which continued for the next three laps.
As the race neared its end, the tension was mounting for Bearman, as the safety car restart made even trickier by the Monza track approached. Bearman executed another masterful restart, as Iwasa overtook Pourchaire on his super soft tyres for second. As Pourchaire struggled for grip, Verschoor was putting the pressure on from behind, and Jack Doohan flew through the field, also on the supersoft tyres.
The short hiatus from the safety car came to an end on lap 29, as Crawford and Stanek went wheel-to-wheel into the Ascari Chicane, but only Stanek’s Trident car came out the other side. Crawford was the final retirement of the race, bringing out the virtual safety car and then the full safety car, to seal a fourth victory for Bearman in the red and white Prema.
Iwasa finished second in a great recovery drive, making up thirteen places, while Pourchiare rounded out the podium, opening up the gap between him and Vesti to 25 points, with 39 available in the final round. Verschoor crossed the line fourth, but dropped out of the points completely to thirteenth, after a five-second time penalty was applied for an unsafe release in the pit lane.
It was a special victory for the 18 year-old British driver, at the home race for his team, and his driver academy (Ferrari), the Tifosi cheering his name from the stands. He is now sixth in the Drivers’ standings, just one point shy of fellow rookie Victor Martins ahead of him.
There is now just one round left to decide the Formula 2 title, in Abu Dhabi, from the 24th to the 26th of November. Do make sure to tune in after two months, to watch the title showdown in the Middle East, as yet another Formula 2 season will come to a close.