F3 Sprint top 3 on Monza race strategy: ‘I was trying to play the long game’

At some circuits, winning an FIA F3 Sprint Race simply requires getting into the lead and pulling out a gap, but in Monza, the effect of the slipstream and the drag-reduction system (DRS) is so strong that being in the lead isn’t always the most advantageous position. A race at Monza, then, is more strategically complex than those at most other circuits on the F3 calendar.

By Michael McClure

Van Amersfoort Racing’s Franco Colapinto led the Sprint Race for all 18 laps, fending off a final-corner challenge from a surging Ollie Bearman. Colapinto’s success, though, came in spite of a safety car from Laps 4 to 8 that bunched up the field and required him to break out of the pursuing pack’s DRS range a second time.

Colapinto explained to F1 Feeder Series that he even tried to let Caio Collet, who was directly behind him for most of the race, through into the lead at one point.

“It was a difficult race, and [one] where you have to think quite a lot more than any other race of the year. I was trying [to get] Caio to overtake me, but he didn’t want, so I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to stay in front’. Fortunately, they started fighting behind, and I got a bit of a gap. That helped me a lot to keep the win, but it’s a lot of stuff going on. Also in the team, the strategy here is much more important than in any other race week.”

Collet looking long-term

Having not challenged Colapinto for the lead, Collet then fell into the clutches of those behind him. Jonny Edgar held the position for several laps after the safety car restart, but on Lap 15, Ollie Bearman executed a double overtake on both Edgar and Collet to move up into second. Collet briefly fell down to fourth but re-passed the Trident driver for third on Lap 17.

Speaking about his conservative approach to the race, Collet told F1 Feeder Series that he ‘was trying to play the long game’ and as such hadn’t been looking rearward.

“To be really honest, I didn’t even see Ollie coming from the outside. When I saw him, it was a little bit too late, and I just got squeezed by him and Jonny. I had to brake a little bit more and cede the position, but it was just due to a mistake from my side in the last corner,” he said. “I think tomorrow’s race will be a nice one to watch from the outside for sure.

Bearman climbs through the field

Bearman charged from seventh to second in the field in what was perhaps the drive of the race. After the safety car restart, he was engaged in a tense battle with Pepe Martí, whom he first passed at Turn 1 on Lap 10 before the Campos driver got him back at the Variante Della Roggia later that lap.

The scenario repeated itself a lap later, but Martí ran wide at Turn 7 that time around and dropped several positions, putting Bearman in clear air.

“Especially with the reverse grid, there’s some people out of position, let’s say. I lost quite a lot of time after the second safety car restart trying to be strategic, but it’s super difficult. I was always passing into Turn 1 and trying to get a mega exit off Turn 1, but no matter what I did, [Martí] had a slipstream of two tenths on me, so he managed to pass again into the second chicane,” Bearman explained.

It’s really tough to manage everything, especially when the DRS hasn’t been enabled yet

Ollie Bearman

“All I wanted was just to be ahead in the chicane and then do the Lesmos because I knew that I could have pulled away. Then I had a pace advantage, but it’s really tough to manage everything, especially when the DRS hasn’t been enabled yet.”

Header photo credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd

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