Joel Eriksson secured his 2nd FIA European F3 race win of the season at Monza this morning, heading Lando Norris following a tense battle between the duo.
After a good start, Mick Schumacher came home 3rd to score his first Formula 3 podium.
On paper, it must have seemed like an easy effort for Eriksson. The Swede initially got away well, only to lock up on the approach to the Retifilo chicane, but led from start-to-finish thereafter, while Norris and Schumacher fought over 2nd place. This allowed Eriksson to build a crucial 3.3s lead in the first eight laps.
In his mirrors, Schumacher jumped Norris off the line, as once again the Briton struggled was slow away. The Carlin man also briefly lost a place to Callum Ilott at the beginning of lap two, only for Ilott to miss the Retifilo chicane and drop back behind Norris.
From there, Norris chased Schumacher and ran him close until lap six, when he forced a way past the Prema Powerteam racer in Lesmo One.
Once in clear air, Norris asserted himself and began to take minor chunks out of Eriksson’s lead, bringing it down to 3.1s by lap ten and then 2.0s by the end of lap 15. Now in the slipstream, Norris made some inroads, even setting the (then) fastest lap just two tours from the end and was within one second of the lead when he eventually ran out of time.
Eriksson for his part drove a sublime race. Always maintaining a smart pace in the early-to-mid 1’44s, the Swede proved his ability to maintain tyre life, while setting a speedy enough pace to keep Norris at bay.
In the final two laps, Eriksson closed in on Joey Mawson – delayed by a mid-race pitstop – and gained enough of a tow to help steady the gap to Norris and win by just 0.7s after twenty tours.
The win gives Eriksson a seven-point advantage over Norris after five races, with the Motopark man starting from pole position for race 3 later today.
After falling to 3rd, Schumacher enjoyed a quiet race, with the German teen dropping over 9s down to the race winner, but still holding a 4.5s gap to 4th placed man Maxi Günther.
Günther started 7th which became 6th when Ferdinand Habsburg through his Carlin off the road exiting Curve Grande on lap one. That became 5th when Ilott went off the track on lap five and then 4th when he passed Jake Dennis a lap later.
For a time, a large train collected behind Günther and he momentarily dropped back a place when a charging Harrison Newey joined the fight for 4th, but the German retook the position on lap ten and held it to the flag.
The fight behind Günther was intense, with Newey, Dennis, Ilott and Guan Yu Zhou all joining the fight, followed closely by Jehan Daruvala and the recovering Habsburg. Dennis and Newey would take each other out of the reckoning with a collision on lap 13, while Habsburg passed Daruvala (lap 8), Zhou (lap 12) and Ilott (lap 13) to jump back up to 5th.
Amidst this Ilott lost out to Zhou and spent some of the final laps keeping Daruvala at bay and the trio would eventually take the chequered flag line-astern, with Zhou (6th) leading Ilott (7th) and Daruvala (8th).
Ralf Aron came home 9th in the Hitech GP machine, ahead of teammate Nikita Mazepin, who took 10th despite starting a lowly 15th due to penalties in qualifying.
David Beckmann pitted early, while Mawson (both van Amersfoort) pitted early leaving them a lap behind. Pedro Piquet made it another tough day for van Amersfoort when he spun out on lap six.