Oliver Bearman survived the chaos at Monza to secure his fourth victory of the season and back-to-back victories for PREMA Racing at their home event. The Briton claimed the lead on the opening lap and didn’t look back as things got busy behind.
Ayumu Iwasa’s gamble on the alternative strategy paid off as the DAMS driver moved up 13 places to take second and the fastest lap along the way. Théo Pourchaire took a big step towards the Drivers’ Championship crown with third for ART Grand Prix.
AS IT HAPPENED
Pourchaire got the perfect start to cover off Bearman into Turn 1 and retain the lead. On the run to Turn 4 though, the Ferrari junior was able to get the slipstream he needed to claim P1, while Victor Martins forced his way by Roman Stanek for third behind them.
The Czech driver was on the defensive out of the second chicane and on the way to Turn 6, defended hard from Frederik Vesti. The PREMA driver was squeezed onto the grass, spinning into the barriers and out of the race on the opening lap as a result. The Trident driver was later handed a five-second time penalty for the incident.
Back racing on Lap 4, Arthur Leclerc suffered a spin under braking for Turn 1 three laps later and couldn’t get going again, triggering the Safety Car once more. It brought the leaders in for their mandatory stops, with Bearman emerging from the pitlane still ahead of Pourchaire.
Martins followed his teammate in for a double stack but lost out to Kush Maini, Richard Verschoor, Jak Crawford and Dennis Hauger, rejoining in 11th on the road. Jehan Daruvala took over the lead on the alternate strategy. Verschoor was awarded a five-second time penalty for an unsafe release after his stop.
Underway once again on Lap 12, Daruvala was under pressure into Turn 1 as Jack Doohan went side-by-side with him. The Invicta Virtuosi Racing driver took to the escape road and rejoined alongside the #2 MP Motorsport, but Iwasa caught both by surprise to surge into the lead at Turn 4, passing the pair in one move.
Further back, Zane Maloney was sent into a spin on the main straight after getting tagged by Roy Nissany at the restart. The Rodin Carlin driver hit the barriers and brought out the Safety Car for the third time.
With debris on the pit straight, cars were called through the pitlane. Iwasa, Daruvala and Hadjar took the chance to pit for their mandatory stops and switch to supersofts, while Doohan remained on the mediums he started with. Bearman reclaimed the lead ahead of the Australian, having overtaken the Alpine junior moments prior to the Safety Car. Daruvala was back into the train in fourth behind Pourchaire, whilst Iwasa fell to 10th and Hadjar rejoined in 12th.
Bearman launched back into a comfortable lead on Lap 16 as Crawford got his elbows out to take sixth from Verschoor. Martins followed the Hitech Pulse-Eight driver through on the Dutchman and then passed Crawford into Turn 4 to claim sixth position at the restart. That became fifth as he moved past Maini along the main straight one lap later.
After going wheel-to-wheel with the Invicta Virtuosi driver, Pourchaire cleared Doohan for second on Lap 18 into the first corner.
Martins’ race hit trouble when his DRS became stuck open. Maini got a run down the main straight, but it was Crawford that got a great tow from both to claim fifth in one move at Turn 1. The ART driver was forced to pit for repairs at the end of Lap 20 but couldn’t get the flap to close, putting him out of the race.
Maini tried to fight Crawford back on Lap 23 but contact between the pair through Turn 3 left the Campos with a broken front wing and a puncture for the Red Bull Junior Team driver. The Campos pulled off the road and triggered another Safety Car. Doohan took the chance to make his mandatory stop, filtering back out in 10th on fresh supersofts.
Back to green flag racing on Lap 27 and once again, Bearman got the launch he needed to keep the lead. Iwasa had filtered through in third after the pitstops and was soon through for second, passing Pourchaire at Turn 1 on the restart.
Contact between Crawford and Stanek left the former out of the race with damage. It required the intervention of the Virtual Safety Car before an upgrade to a full Safety Car which would take the field to the flag.
Bearman claimed his fourth win of 2023 ahead of Iwasa and Pourchaire. Verschoor’s penalty dropped him from fourth on the road to 12th. Enzo Fittipaldi inherited the 12 points for P4, and Dennis Hauger completed the top five.
Doohan ended up sixth ahead of Daruvala, Amaury Cordeel, Ralph Boschung and Roman Stanek, with the Trident driver rounding out the points.
KEY QUOTE – Oliver Bearman, PREMA Racing
“That’s a win in the Feature Race. Super happy, the pace was really good, and we managed all the Safety Car restarts well. Happy with this result and can’t wait for Abu Dhabi.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
Théo Pourchaire has a 25-point lead over Frederik Vesti heading into the final round of the 2023 campaign. With 39 points still on the table, it isn’t quite over yet. The Frenchman is now on 191 to Vesti’s 166.
Ayumu Iwasa remains in third with his first scoring result since the Spa-Francorchamps Sprint Race, now on 152. Jack Doohan stays fourth with 138 while Victor Martins completes the top five on 131, one clear of Oliver Bearman in P6.
In the Teams’ Championship, ART Grand Prix still lead the way on 322 points. PREMA Racing remain in second on 296 and Rodin Carlin stay third, moving onto 212 points.
It all comes down to this - one last round to decide the 2023 Drivers’ Champion. Yas Marina plays host to the 14th and final F2 weekend of the season from November 24-26.