Championship leader Robert Shwartzman won for the first time since Le Castellet to edge closer to the FIA Formula 3 Drivers’ title. The Russian racer had to battle off his teammates for the victory in Monza, finishing at the peak of a PREMA 1-2-3, with Marcus Armstrong in second and Jehan Daruvala third.
The race started in contrasting settings to yesterday’s wet Qualifying session, with bright conditions overlooking a warm 19-degree Italian heat. Following a spat of post Qualifying penalties, it was Lirim Zendeli who backed up Christian Lundgaard on the front row, followed by Richard Verschoor.
The polesitter was in the middle of a three-man brawl for first off the line, having seen the duo behind him make thundering starts. The Dane managed to eventually fend off Verschoor, but Zendeli flew past him coming out of the first turn.
Armstrong had bolted off the line himself, rising from seventh to fourth, ahead of Max Fewtrell, and he was soon honing in on Verschoor, who he swiftly swapped positions with, while setting the fastest lap.
Delight turned to despair for Zendeli - who had taken the lead following arguably the race start of his career to date. Zendeli and Lundgaard came together and the German skidded off track - he was left with a puncture, which ended his race. Meanwhile, the Danish driver suffered front wing damage, which forced him into the pits and left him at the back of the field.
This handed Armstrong the race lead and a chance to make it three wins from four, which would thrust him into second in the Championship. With Verschoor desperately clinging onto second, ahead of fellow PREMA duo Shwartzman and Daruvala, the Kiwi was able to build up a steady lead at the front.
The Indian lost significant ground in his tussle with Shwartzman and Verschoor, when he was forced wide in his attempts to wrestle third from his Russian teammate. This allowed the Championship leader an opportunity to pounce on P2 and he powerfully sent it down the side of the Dutchman.
Having come within 12 points of Shwartzman in Round 5, Jüri Vips struggled in Spa last time out and wasn’t faring much better in Monza. The Estonian clumped the back of Keyvan Andres and was flung off track and into the wall. He attempted to get going again, but the damage to his front right tyre was too great and he was forced to retire, which brought out a safety car.
Verschoor lost two places upon the restart, with Daruvala and Yuki Tsunoda both lunging ahead down the pit straight. Meanwhile, Armstrong’s lead at the front had been sliced to just 0.5s.
The sight of Shwartzman arrowing in on his teammate for P1 brought back memories of Spielberg, when the duo collided in the same scenario. There would be no repeat this time around and Shwartzman cleanly dispatched off the Kiwi to take the race lead, displaying the maturity he has gained from that episode in Round 3.
The race would finish under the safety car, when Alex Peroni took flight on the sausage curb. The Campos driver was able to leave his car safely, before being taken by the medical car for the usual checks.
This allowed Shwartzman to run home unopposed in first, ahead of Armstrong and Daruvala. Tsunoda and Verschoor completed the top five, ahead of Pedro Piquet, Jake Hughes, Liam Lawson, Fabio Scherer and Logan Sargeant.
Having also claimed the fastest lap, the Russian’s win hands him a 35 point lead in the Drivers’ Championship, with three races remaining. Daruvala remains second with 144 and Armstrong is third with 137. Vips, on 122, and Lundgaard, on 97, complete the top five. Teams’ Champions PREMA Racing are first on 460 points, ahead of Hitech Grand Prix on 183 and ART Grand Prix on 174. Trident, 97, and HWA RACELAB, 72, complete the top five.
Lawson will start on reverse pole in Race 2 tomorrow at 9.30am local time.