After some epic racing in Formula 2 over the course of the weekend at Monza, championship leader Oscar Piastri managed to convert his pole position and win his first Formula 2 Feature Race of his career.
By Tyler Foster
Starting from pole for the second consecutive weekend after being fastest at Silverstone, Piastri managed to deal with four safety cars and a short battle with his title rival and fellow Alpine Academy driver Guanyu Zhou, before bringing it home to extend his championship lead to 15 points with three rounds remaining.
“It’s obviously pretty nice to win a feature race. It was a bit of redemption after Silverstone where I would say our pace was actually better but we just didn’t quite get it right on the Sunday. Today the first thing I wanted to do right was get a good start. I think everyone compared to yesterday got a worse start because mine didn’t feel amazing. It was good enough to keep the lead and then our pace was good enough to keep [Guanyu] Zhou out of DRS.”
After the second safety car, most of the field including Piastri pitted. Dan Ticktum led after the restart. While Piastri made it back up to P2 by lap 15 he was unable to overtake Ticktum who showed serious pace throughout. After a third safety car on lap 22, Ticktum pitted giving Piastri the lead. After a short battle between Piastri and Zhou at the restart, Ticktum was scything his way back through the field and looked to fight for the win in the penultimate laps but was halted by a final safety car with two laps remaining.
“It was reasonably calm until the last safety car. I didn’t quite get the brakes in the right window and then locked up into turn one on the front left which is far from ideal around here because the front left does all the work. After that I was a bit hesitant on the brakes and hoped I didn’t flat spot it even more. I had to defend from Zhou going into the second chicane and I was happy I could keep him behind after that.”
“Then I actually saw on the big screen that Dan [Ticktum] was actually passing Pourchaire for 3rd with two or three laps to go so I thought I’d better get a hurry on. At that point I wasn’t managing the gap to [Guanyu] Zhou, I was pushing pretty hard. I knew I had to give it absolutely everything in case Dan was coming but because of the last safety car I guess we’ll never know how that would have finished.”
When speaking to selected media including F1 Feeder Series after the race, Piastri spoke about whether he was worried about Ticktum’s late charge and how much attention he paid to him in the final laps.
“Before he pitted I only really knew where he was when I looked at the big screen with about two or three laps to go. At that point I knew that he still needed to get past Zhou and I had about a second gap in front of Zhou. I knew with the compound difference and the fresher tyres, he would be catching me probably at a rate quicker than that. I was definitely taking it pretty seriously.”
While Piastri never looked massively under threat while in the lead, he certainly had to make his way through those who hadn’t stopped after the second safety car. This was vital to his victory and he was asked whether those overtakes were crucial to his championship fight.
“I took a decent amount of risk. I wasn’t thinking about the championship at all in this race. It was more about securing the win and getting past those cars as quickly as I could. I assumed they wouldn’t put up too much of a fight because we were on different strategies. I wasn’t going to throw it away trying to get past them because I knew I had more pace. I was willing to take a little bit of time [in overtaking].”
Graduating to F1
While Piastri remains focused on the title battle in Formula 2, his on-track success hasn’t seemed to improve his chances of graduating to Formula 1. He was asked whether he could do anymore to help himself get a seat in the premier category.
“I’m running out of things to try and do on track that will make a statement if I’m completely honest. I’m sure winning the feature race won’t hurt those chances at all but there’s a lot of other factors that go into it apart from being quick on track.”
The Prema driver has been consistently quick all year but the level of his results cannot be brought into question. As a rookie, he has only finished outside of the points in two of the fifteen races so far this season. With a podium in each of the last three feature races and a points finish in the last eight races, his consistency is driving him towards another championship title.
“I think consistency has always been a key strength of mine. It was more or less how I won the F3 title last year because my qualifying efforts certainly didn’t do it for me. I think this year our qualifying has been exceptionally strong. The two poles, two 3rd place starts and 7th in Bahrain; we have always started near the front which certainly helps. Our pace has just been good all year.”
“We haven’t really had a round yet where we struggled massively. In Bahrain we struggled a little bit but I think that was more on my side as it was my first weekend. To win championships you have to be consistent; you can’t be winning one day and crashing the next. I’ve been in the championship picture the last two years, so it indicates that whatever I’ve been doing has been working well.”
For Piastri, this win has extended his championship lead to 15 points over Guanyu Zhou. With three rounds to go it certainly is beginning to look as though this battle for the title may come between the two Alpine Academy drivers. However, the Australian disagrees, saying, “It’s definitely not a two-horse race.”
“I don’t know what the standings look like now but I think that if you’re still within 50 points of the leader, you can have a really good weekend and the guys at the front can have a really bad weekend and all of a sudden, you’re well and truly back in the mix. This is only round five of eight, so we still have three rounds to go.”
The next Formula 2 round (Round 6) is in Sochi and will take place between 24th and 26th September. It will also coincide with the final round of the FIA Formula 3 Championship.
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