Robert Shwartzman is within touching distance of becoming champion of the 2019 FIA Formula 3 Championship after taking his third win of the season at Monza in the first race of the weekend.
Like the majority of the drivers, Shwartzman was demoted down the grid to eighth after an infringement in qualifying but sprinted into action from when the lights went out.
Pole-sitter Christian Lundgaard was overtaken at the start by Lirim Zendeli into the Rettifilo chicane. Marcus Armstrong began the race in seventh and was up to fourth by the end of opening lap.
The Kiwi’s sprint through the field continued by passing Richard Verschoor for third on Lap Two at the Della Roggia chicane while Shwartzman moved ahead of Max Fewtrell for fifth.
Further behind though saw Giorgio Carrara and Niko Kari crashing out at Turn One after coming together with Sebastián Fernández, who was given a drive-through penalty for forcing another driver off the track.
Lap Three and Lundgaard retook the lead from Zendeli going into the Ascari chicane before the German retaliated at the Parabolica. Unfortuantely, Zendeli’s left-rear tyre got punctured after touching Lundgaard’s front wing, thus the Sauber Junior Team by Charouz driver having to complete an entire lap with a flat tyre before stopping on the back-straight before the pits.
With all the mayhem happening, Armstrong took advantage and inherited the lead on the next lap. The race order after four laps was Armstrong, Verschoor, Lundgaard, Shwartzman, Jehan Daruvala, Yuki Tsunoda, Pedro Piquet, Fewtrell, Alex Peroni and Jake Hughes making up the top ten.
Two laps later and Shwartzman and Daruvala both got by Lundgaard, who was losing downforce with his broken front wing. The Dane shortly came into the pits for a replacement.
Lap Eight and Shwartzman was up to second by passing Verschoor on the start-finish straight with DRS and now had only Armstrong standing in his way.
Jüri Vips though was involved in a collision at the Della Roggia chicane by running into the rear of Keyvan Andres, lifting the Hitech Grand Prix driver into the air before hitting the barrier on the right-hand side before stopping on the grass.
That brought out the Safety Car on Lap Nine. The order at this point was Armstrong, Shwartzman, Verschoor, Tsunoda, Piquet, Peroni, Hughes, Fewtrell and Liam Lawson.
The race was back underway at half-race distance, as Daruvala got straight into the action by making it a PREMA Racing one-two-three by overtaking Verschoor at the Rettifilo chicane. A problem with DRS though for the remainder of the race would dent the Indian’s chances with Shwartzman and Armstrong.
Peroni moved ahead of Piquet for sixth on Lap Thirteen but David Beckmann‘s season went from bad to worse, as the German limped back to the pits with a mechanical problem and was out of the race.
A couple of laps later dicing for the lead, Shwartzman managed to get himself in front Armstrong before the Parabolica and the championship was edging ever closer for the Russian.
However, the race was effectively ended following an accident involving Alex Peroni at the final corner. The Australian went wide and the sausage kerb flipped the Campos Racing car high into the air and landing upside down on top of the barrier on the exit of the corner before the pit-straight.
Peroni thankfully walked away from the incident but his condition is unknown at this point.
The race finished behind the Safety Car as a result, allowing Shwartzman to lead Armstrong and Daruvala over the line to make it a full-house podium for PREMA at their home event. The Russian got the extra two points for the fastest lap while eighth place Liam Lawson will start from reverse-grid pole for Sunday’s race.
Shwartzman’s lead in the title race has been increased to thirty-five points over second place Daruvala, and forty-two ahead of Armstrong. Therefore, the Russian can seal the Formula 3 title in tomorrow’s race if he can end the event at least forty-nine points clear of everyone else.
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