Five points. That’s all that separated F2 championship leader George Russell and his chief rival Lando Norris ahead of their Monza showdown, while the battle for GP3 glory has also proved to be hotly-contested this year. So who would gain the advantage heading to the penultimate round in Russia?
F2 FEATURE RACE
The Tifosi turned out in force at Monza’s Temple of Speed, and those looking to make the most of the Italian Grand Prix weekend were treated to a thrilling F2 Feature Race, which was won by Russian Time’s Tadasuke Makino in incredible circumstances.
The Honda junior driver charged from 14th on the grid to secure a magical Monza triumph, with his squad’s strategy to start him on the medium tyres proving crucial. Makino was running in the lead by the fifth lap, with his rivals struggling on the supersofts, and after making his mandatory stop with three laps to go, he nursed his car home to take the chequered flag.
And that was just one storyline that made this race a truly memorable one, with late charges and wheel-to-wheel tussles keeping the spectators on the edge of their seats until the very end. One of those battles was between pole-sitter Russell and fellow Brit Norris (as shown below), with the former eventually coming out on top to take fourth.
Ahead of Russell, Artem Markelov and Alexander Albon finished second and third respectively to make up the podium. That pair battled for the lead in the opening laps, but ultimately it was Makino who took a surprise triumph.
There was drama after the race too, with Antonio Fuoco disqualified after his Charouz Racing System car was found to have had a non-compliant throttle map by scrutineers. The Italian had earlier finished in P8, meaning he lost out on reverse-grid pole in Sunday’s Sprint Race.
Not many would have predicted Makino (shown below taking the lead on lap 5) to win this Feature Race, so would we have another surprise winner in the weekend’s second showdown?
F2 SPRINT RACE
Ahead of this race, Russell’s last win came in Austria’s Feature Race, a winless run of eight which had allowed Norris to close the gap in the title race. So in his pursuit of title glory, the Mercedes junior knew he needed to return to winning ways soon – and that he did in Italy.
Russell was made to work hard for this triumph, having made a superb start to climb from fifth to second. He was involved in an entertaining tussle with Artem Markelov (shown below), moving ahead of the Russian on lap 11 and once he moved out of DRS range, he was able to control the race and ultimately win.
For Norris, he was made to regret an uncharacteristic slow start, which forced him to fight his way through the field. The Briton was able to make up lost positions but found a stubborn opponent in Nicholas Latifi, and had to settle for fifth.
It’s safe to say David Beckmann is on a mission in the GP3 series. A week after tasting victory for the first time with Trident Racing, he won his second GP3 Series Feature Race from pole in a row.
The German teenager mastered the wet conditions at Monza to continue his fine form since joining Trident mid-season, crossing the line six seconds ahead of ART Grand Prix’s Anthoine Hubert.
Hubert’s title rival and ART team mate Callum Ilott completed the podium, after Leonardo Pulcini’s late misfortune – in which a gearbox problem on the penultimate lap dropped him outside the top ten – allowed the Briton to take home a P3.
GP3 SPRINT RACE
Pedro Piquet and Giuliano Alesi, the sons of Formula 1 icons Nelson Piquet and Jean Alesi, enjoy a battle against each other, as they showed at Silverstone – and the pair produced another exciting tussle at magical Monza.
It was Piquet who succeeded again to win for the second time this year, but he was certainly made to work for it, with the pair engaged in a wheel-to-wheel battle for victory all race (as shown below).
Piquet got ahead of Richard Verschoor for the lead on the first lap, then lost it to Alesi four laps after the Safety Car restart – called due to a collision between Gabriel Aubry and Juan Manuel Correa.
And it seemed as if Alesi would hold on, but a poor exit at the first chicane allowed Piquet to take a penultimate-lap lead, and this time he held on.
Behind them, Callum Ilott crossed the line to finish third, but there was drama after the race when the Brit and Hubert were disqualified, with ART deemed to have breached the official tyre pressure limits.
That promoted Nikita Mazepin, another ART driver, into third, while Campos Racing pair Leonardo Pulcini and Simo Laaksonen were elevated into the points-paying positions.
TOP 5 MOMENTS OF THE WEEKEND IN F2
DRIVER OF THE WEEKEND – Tadasuke Makino
With the more experienced Markelov leading Russian Time’s pursuit for F2 glory this season, Makino has been steadily finding his feet in this series, and has been targeting top-ten finishes at the best.
So to take a maiden victory at Monza came as a huge shock to the team and driver, who himself admitted that he had ‘no idea’ he was in the lead moments before taking the chequered flag.
And it wasn’t like this victory was handed to the Honda protege. He started 14th on the grid but made the most of an alternate strategy – he was one of three drivers to start on medium tyres – to take the lead after just five laps.
At one stage, the gap between him and second-place Markelov was almost 45 seconds, and this early pace ultimately allowed him to return to the track after his pit stop with his lead intact.
So it's a deserved Driver of the Weekend accolade for Makino, who became the tenth different race winner in F2 this year.
THE KEY QUOTE
“To be honest I think the weekend could have been better: I was quite disappointed with myself yesterday. We potentially lost a victory, or P2, yesterday and so I wanted to put it right today, and I was pleased to regain the position today: obviously I inherited it a bit after a small mistake by Artem, but earlier when I went for the lead I made a mistake too, so it was a tricky race. Very low downforce, high fuel loads, cold and greasy conditions: it wasn’t easy for everyone today, but at the end of the day we’ve extended the championship lead and I’m happy with the win today.” – George Russell, seen below celebrating his win.
Russell’s victory in F2’s Sprint Race, coupled with Norris’ underwhelming weekend, has allowed the Mercedes junior to increase his lead at the top of the standings. Behind the tussling Brits, Alexander Albon remains in third, while Markelov moves ahead of Nyck de Vries into fourth.
The top five in F2
Nyck de Vries
Despite his disqualification from the Sprint Race, Hubert holds onto top spot, but Mazepin jumps ahead of his team mate Ilott into second, having won more races than his rival this season. Piquet’s second win of the season for Trident, meanwhile, has allowed him to climb to fourth ahead of Pulcini.
The top five in GP3
After back-to-back races, the F2 and GP3 talents get to enjoy a short break before returning to action for their respective penultimate rounds of the season, which take place in support of the Russian Grand Prix on September 28-30.
For more information on the FIA Formula 2 Championship, click here.