Callum Ilott took a stellar victory at Monza this afternoon, keeping a feisty Lando Norris at bay.
Maxi Günther secured is first podium of the weekend, after he escaped the clutches of Joel Eriksson during the 20-lap race.
Ilott made a stunning start from 3rd on the grid to slot between Eriksson and Norris, while Guan Yu Zhou came through from 4th to temporarily slot in behind Ilott. Zhou held 2nd spot for the first four laps, as Eriksson, Norris and Günther passed and repassed each other for 3rd, 4th and 5th.
Norris was the first to break Zhou, when he took 2nd from the Chinese driver on the entry into Lesmo 1 on lap five. It would take another five laps for Eriksson and Günther to take the Prema man, when the Swede passed Zhou after Curve Grande and Günther did the deed after Ascari.
Meanwhile out front Ilott’s lead over Norris continued to fluctuate between 1.0s and 1.6s, as the Carlin man closed in on Ilott, only for the leader to draw away again. But the margins were mere tenths.
For a time the pair swapped personal best laps, before settling into a consistent run in the mid-to-late 1’44s. Where Norris closed up in sector one, a change of brake pads prior to the race gave Ilott more confidence in the second sector, allowing him to rebuild the gap.
Norris did close in on the lead in the final four laps, with the Carlin man sitting just 1.0s adrift of Ilott in the last miles; however he could not close on Ilott, who was simply imperious.
Günther’s slow start to the season took a slight upward turn, as he took the flag just 1.9s after Norris to complete the podium. Once past Zhou, the German racer pressured Eriksson, while Zhou, Hitech’s Ralf Aron and Carlin’s Ferdinand Habsburg latched onto their tails. Eriksson could only fend Günther off for two laps and the Prema Powerteam racer stole 3rd place on lap twelve and built a significant gap thereafter.
Although he leaves Monza with a championship lead of one point, this was a disappointing end to Eriksson’s weekend considering he started on pole with two fresh left tyres.
After he was passed by Günther, he dropped 6.3s behind the Prema racer, but did manage to keep a fighting Habsburg at bay until the end.
After spending much of the race at the tail end of the points, Mick Schumacher scored a solid 6th place for Prema Powerteam. The German made the most of the tussle between Zhou, Pedro Piquet and Nikita Mazepin to jump from 9th to 7th on lap 15, before deposing Aron of 6th on lap 17.
Piquet followed through a lap later and claimed 7th, when Aron lost three places two tours from the end. Aron would at least take one spot back when he passed Zhou on the penultimate lap to finish 8th, while Jehan Daruvala also took Zhou to score a 9th place finish.
It was a lucky result for Daruvala, who was involved in a right front/left rear wheel locking clash with Keyvan Andres Soori on lap 7. Thereafter Daruvala passed Joey Mawson, Marino Sato and Mazepin to claim two points.
Zhou eventually crossed the line a disappointing 10th place – a disheartening result considering how high he ran early in the race.
Jake Dennis and Jake Hughes both retired at the end of the first lap, following an incident, while Harrison Newey blew a decent qualifying position when he ran off at Curve Grande on the opening lap. The weekend only got worse for van Amersfoort Racing at the end, when Mawson and Sato collected each other in the Retifilo chicane, ending Mawson’s race there and then.
The victory lifts Ilott to 3rd in the point standings, just 28 behind Eriksson as the series moves to the streets of Pau in three weeks time.