Felipe Drugovich secured the FIA Formula 2 Drivers’ Championship at Monza despite being forced to watch from the sidelines after going out on the opening lap. Jüri Vips took his first win of the season, proving that overtaking was more than possible around the Temple of Speed, victorious from third on the grid.
Drugovich had to watch Théo Pourchaire’s attempts to deny him the title but, unfortunately for the ART Grand Prix driver, the race did not go his way, allowing the MP Motorsport driver to become 2022 FIA Formula 2 Champion with three races to go.
Frederik Vesti kept calm under pressure to hold on to second after losing the lead to Vips, whilst Jehan Daruvala fought his way through from fifth to put his PREMA Racing car on the podium. After losing out off the line, Logan Sargeant found his way back through to fourth, as Richard Verschoor gave Trident something to smile about at their home race in fifth.
Liam Lawson overcame several duels at dusk for sixth, ahead of Jack Doohan and David Beckmann, who claimed the final point on offer in eighth.
AS IT HAPPENED
The scene was set for another enthralling Sprint Race, with a golden hour of evening sunshine flittering through the trees surrounding Monza. Searching for his first return to the podium since the Le Castellet Feature Race, Vesti lined up on the reverse grid pole with fellow rookie Sargeant for company on the front row.
Meanwhile, a post-Qualifying penalty for setting his best time under single waved yellow flags meant that Championship leader Drugovich would start from P12, two spots ahead of his closest rival Pourchaire. The MP Motorsport driver knew that if he kept things clean and held the Frenchman behind him that the title would be his with three races spare.
As the five lights went out, Vesti timed his getaway perfectly to hold on to the lead into the opening chicane. It wasn’t as strong a start for Sargeant who got bogged down off the line, allowing Vips, Iwasa and Daruvala to get the jump on the American driver. Further back, Tatiana Calderon and Olli Caldwell tangled into Turn 1, triggering an early appearance from the Safety Car.
Drugovich’s day turned on its head off the line as the Brazilian driver wouldn’t even make it to the end of a dramatic opening lap. After attempting to pass Amaury Cordeel on the outside of Turn 5, the pair made contact and the Brazilian found himself running wide into the gravel with a broken suspension. As the orange MP Motorsport car trundled into the pits, Pourchaire’s charge continued, and the Brazilian watched events unfold on the pit wall.
Attempting to break the tow on the restart three laps later, Vesti sent it late on the brakes into Parabolica, but Vips left it even later to lunge up the inside of Turn 1 and snatch the lead from the ART driver. The Estonian pulled clear of the Dane’s clutches to leave Vesti heading up a DRS train behind.
Drivers were locking horns up and down the order, with the Van Amersfoort Racing duo tangling with Lawson. The Carlin driver went side-by-side dueling with Beckmann for ninth, which allowed Cordeel to close right in, but the Belgian driver had Pourchaire looming large in his mirrors. Knowing that time was of the essence, the black and white ART car pounced to take 11th.
Having lost one car out of the running, MP Motorsport soon had its second retirement. Making contact with Campos Racing’s Ralph Boschung, Clément Novalak damaged his front wing at the exact same chicane Drugovich’s race came to an end earlier on.
In the fight at the front end of the field, Daruvala repaid the favour to Sargeant to retake fourth after losing it at restart. However, it was Armstrong and Verschoor who were giving each other a run for their money. Going wheel to wheel through Parabolica, the pair tapped wheels into Turn 2 before the Trident driver eventually managed to find his way through to sixth on Lap 12, but it was clear the New Zealander wasn’t letting this fight go.
With a queue forming behind him it was clear Iwasa was struggling to hold third, and it wasn’t long before he was dispatched by fellow Red Bull junior Daruvala, Sargeant and Verschoor in relatively quick succession.
The title fight turned on its head once more, as Pourchaire’s fightback took a fatal knock. Battling Hauger to hold on to P11, the ART car took a trip through the gravel on the exit of Turn 2 sending him tumbling down the order to P16.
Attempting to claim sixth from Iwasa, Armstrong was forced to multitask, eyeing up a move on the Japanese driver whilst defending from Doohan behind. Once the Hitech had made his way through, the Virtuosi Racing driver patiently waited for his turn, which quickly came as he breezed past Iwasa around Turn 11. The DAMS driver’s descent down the order continued as Lawson went deep on the brakes and snook up on him from a long way back to snatch eighth.
With the race approaching its final three laps, it was time for Armstrong, Doohan and Lawson to squabble over sixth. Forcing the Hitech driver to go on the defensive into Turn 1, Doohan tried to apply the pressure as Armstrong skipped across the run-off area and held the position. This left the door wide open for his compatriot Lawson to take full advantage, nailing his run out of the chicane to pass the Alpine Academy Driver for seventh into Turn 4.
Despite the chaos unfolding behind, Vips looked untroubled out front, comfortably out of DRS range to Vesti behind. Although the ART driver pushed his tyres late on to try to catch up with the silver Hitech, there was nothing he could do to stop the Estonian claiming a comfortable first victory of his 2022 campaign, as Daruvala made his return to the podium.
All eyes then turned to the MP pit wall as the chequered flag came out - Drugovich knew that despite his retirement he’d done enough to take the title in a commanding fashion and celebrations erupted from the Dutch crew.
Sargeant kept himself out of trouble to take fourth ahead of Verschoor, Lawson, Doohan and Beckmann who rounded out the top eight points scorers. Armstrong had crossed the line in sixth but received a five-second time penalty for going off track and gaining a lasting advantage, demoting him to P10.
KEY QUOTE - Jüri Vips, Hitech Grand Prix
“Really happy to get the win today to just maximise the weekend so far after a poor Qualifying yesterday, we stuck with the yellows in the end. A good day today, got past at the start, then just controlled an easy race from then on to be honest, no major dramas and happy to get a win.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP VIEW
With 233 points to his name, Drugovich has wrapped up the fight for the 2022 Drivers’ title with three races remaining. Sitting 69 points adrift of the Brazilian, Pourchaire’s attentions will turn to holding on to second as Logan Sargeant has the chance to close up the 29-point gap further in the Feature Race. Not far behind in fourth and fifth are Jack Doohan and Liam Lawson on 125 and 122 points respectively.
MP still hold the lead of the Teams’ Championship on 269 points, however, Vesti’s podium has allowed ART Grand Prix to close their advantage to six points, with Carlin a further six points behind the French team. Hitech Grand Prix have strengthened their hold of four on 200 points to PREMA Racing’s 197.
Jack Doohan will be lining up on pole when the penultimate Feature Race of the 2022 season gets underway on Sunday at 10:05 local time.