EuroFormula Open – Autodromo Nazionale Monza
2019 EuroFormula Open champion Marino Sato came out on top of a thrilling slipstreaming battle at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza to win the opening race of the final weekend of the season.
Double R Racing’s Linus Lundqvist had taken his maiden pole position but lost the lead at the start to Carlin’s Teppei Natori, with Nicolas Kjaergaard moving up to second ahead of the Motopark duo of Cameron Das and Sato. Lundqvist ended the opening lap in fifth.
Das moved up to second before Kjaergaard returned the favour, before Sato made a great move around the outside of Das at the second Lesmo to move up to third before the duo moved up to the tail of Natori, who had managed to edge away at the front of the field. Kjaergaard fell to fifth behind Lundqvist as the leading pack split briefly into two groups.
With five laps to go, the battle at the front was resumed with Lundqvist and Kjaergaard back in contention. Lundqvist passed Das for third, before Sato and Natori battled it out for the lead. Yuki Tsunoda made it a six-car train, with Kjaergaard and the Japanese racer also making their way ahead of Das. Kjaergaard then moved up to third on lap fourteen of sixteen ahead of Lundqvist.
Sato made a decisive last lap move on Natori into turn one having failed to keep ahead with the same move a few times prior, the Japanese racer taking his ninth victory of the season, while Tsunoda found his way ahead of Kjaergaard for the final spot on the podium and ensure a Japanese driver one-two-three result.
Lundqvist was only able to claim fifth ahead of Das, while Lukas Dunner caught up with the train ahead of him late on but was unable to better seventh for Teo Martin Motorsport. The Austrian also survived contact with Fortec Motorsport’s Calan Williams on the start and finish straight to keep himself in contention for second place in the championship standings.
Niklas Krütten finished eighth for Motopark ahead of series debutant Kyle Kirkwood of RP Motorsport, while the top ten was completed by Double R Racing’s Jack Doohan. With Kirkwood eligible for points, Carlin’s Billy Monger was able to take the final point on offer despite finishing outside the top ten in eleventh.
Lawson got the better of fellow Red Bull Junior Tsunoda to win the final race of the season, a race that was interrupted by a big crash between Hahn and Doohan that required a safety car.
Natori initially led from pole position but was overhauled by Lawson after just a couple of laps. However, it was not all plain sailing for the New Zealander as Sato, Tsunoda and Carlin’s Christian Hahn all joined the pack at the front of the field.
Tsunoda, coming from a lowly tenth on the grid, was able to get ahead of Natori for second before passing Lawson for the lead around the outside of the second chicane. However, it was soon after the pass for the lead where the safety car was deployed.
Hah ran wide at the second Lesmo corner and came back onto the track directly into the path of Doohan, who was pitched into a scary looking roll. Luckily both drivers were able to walk away, but it neutralised the race and ensured there was only two laps remaining when the green flag fell once more.
At the restart, Lawson was able to get the jump on Tsunoda and take his fourth victory of the year, with Tsunoda ending second ahead of Natori, who was able to hold onto third.
Lundqvist took fourth ahead of series champion Sato, while Kirkwood claimed an excellent sixth ahead of Krütten. However, Krütten was handed a time penalty for pushing Williams off the track at Ascari, promoting Dunner to seventh, with Ido Cohen (Carlin), Rui Andrade (Drivex School) and Williams completing the top ten.
Kjaergaard and Monger were running fifth and sixth just prior to the safety car restart but the later struck the back of his Carlin team-mate heading into Parabolica, spinning the Dane into the barriers. Car issues for Monger meant the Briton ended the year with a fourteenth-place finish.
With Kirkwood, Cohen, twelfth-place finisher Lorenzo Ferrari (RP Motorsport) and thirteenth-place finisher Filip Kaminiarz (Drivex School) all ineligible for points, the penalised Krütten and Monger completed the points scorers.
The win initially gave Lawson second place in the championship behind Sato, but the penalty post-race for Krütten promoted Dunner up to seventh, enabling the Austrian to deny Lawson by a solitary point. The win was enough, however, for Lawson to win the rookie title ahead of Lundqvist.
It was the final race with the Dallara F317 chassis before EuroFormula Open revert to the 320 chassis in 2019, and Lawson will go down in history as giving the chassis its final victory.
“That’s brilliant, a very nice way to end the season,” said Lawson. “It was not an easy race at all. The Carlin cars were running less downforce so it made them very hard to pass in a straight line but we were all over them through the rest.
“Yesterday we had good pace in Qualifying, to be honest I should have got pole. In Race 1 I was just trying to stay out of trouble in the early laps. But that didn’t work out so well and then trying to come back I got hit and suffered damage so that was the end of that.
“It was great to turn things around today. Again the Qualy pace was quite good and the race was very tight, a tough battle all the way. All credit to Yuki, he made a great drive through and passed me for the lead just before the Safety Car came out. I then managed to pass him on the restart and hold on for the win.
“It means a huge amount to win the last race of the season, to take second in the championship and the rookie title. Thanks to the Motopark guys for a superb car and I’d like to dedicate the win to John Fairhall, a great supporter of mine who died earlier this year.”