An emotional Jack Aitken earned his third win of the season in a thrilling FIA Formula 2 Sprint Race at Monza, dedicating his lights-to-flag victory to fellow Renault Academy driver, and friend, the late Anthoine Hubert. The Campos Racer was harried right to the chequered flag, narrowly finishing ahead of fellow Brit, Jordan King, and Championship leader Nyck de Vries.
On a still drying track, the polesitter made an astounding start, soaring into the distance unopposed, as those behind him tussled for the final podium spots. De Vries was amongst a collection of drivers to bolt off the line, but traffic into Turn 1 forced him to remain seated in sixth. King and Callum Ilott found the space to blitz past Giuliano Alesi in P2, to emerge in a British 1-2-3.
Despite his superb start, King soon closed the gap between himself and Aitken in P1, displaying the impressive power of his MP Motorsport machine, on the unique Autodromo Nazionale Monza circuit.
The 25-year-old took a look at the right of Aitken, but opted against the move, instead choosing to bide his time and further reel in the Renault F1 junior. His team urged him to make the move sooner rather than later, and on the next tour of the track, he thundered past the Campos driver down the pit straight. Aitken had an instant answer to King’s speed though and forced himself back down the side of him, but he went wide and had to hand back the position.
The fight behind them quickly intensified, as Turn 1 continued to prove tricky for the young drivers. De Vries, Sérgio Sette Câmara and Luca Ghiotto struggled with the corner and came together. De Vries was lucky to escape unscathed, but the Brazilian suffered a puncture and Ghiotto lost chunks of his front wing. Sette Câmara was forced to retire, while the Italian pitted for a replacement and returned in last.
This brought out a Virtual Safety Car and when racing resumed, Aitken sent it down the side of King to reclaim the race lead down the pit straight. De Vries emerged ahead of Alesi for fourth.
Aitken was yet to put the battle between himself and his fellow Brit to bed and the 25-year-old had another attempt at rounding the Campos racer, but the angles tightened. Aitken went wide, while King was forced to slow around the corner, allowing Ilott to sneak through for second.
Yet again, Turn 1 proved difficult to master and De Vries locked up on his attack of the corner. He wobbled and flew through the grass, before eventually slowing enough to return safely, behind Nobuharu Matsushita in fifth place.
The same happened to Ilott on the final lap, who locked up on entry, The Sauber Junior Team by Charouz racer then lost control on the grass and snagged his tyre, when grazing the barrier. This tore up his rubber and heartbreakingly ended his race, from second.
Meanwhile, Matsushita had been handed a 5s penalty for a VSC infringement, which hauled him back to fifth and allowed De Vries into third, behind Aitken and King, who cruised to first and second at the chequered flag. The trio proudly displayed the French flag on the podium, in honour of Hubert.
Behind the three of them, was Guanyu Zhou in fourth and Matsushita in fifth. Mick Schumacher, Alesi and Louis Delétraz completed the points’ positions.
De Vries stretches his Championship lead to 59 points, following a second podium finish of the weekend. Nicholas Latifi remains second on 166, 10 points ahead of Luca Ghiotto in third. Aitken is two points behind in fourth, and Sette Camara two more behind in fifth. In the Teams’ Championship, DAMS lead on 317 points, ahead of UNI-Virtuosi on 270. ART Grand Prix are third with 231 and Campos Racing fourth on 183. Carlin sit fifth with 177.
De Vries could potentially wrap up the title in Sochi at the end of September, when racing resumes in Russia.