Théo Pourchaire was cool whilst others around him succumbed to the pressure in a chaotic Sprint Race 1 at Monza, taking his second win of the season from fourth on the grid, with title challenger Guanyu Zhou charging up six places from eighth on the grid to second, and Christian Lundgaard was another who underwent an incredible recovery drive from nineteenth to take the final podium spot.
Jüri Vips had stolen the lead from reverse polesitter David Beckmann when the lights went out, but both succumbed to what tends to be a familiar story especially drivers with less experience – tyre degradation both would finish the race in eighth and 10th, respectively.
Their struggles allowed Pourchaire – who had managed his tyres considerably better to pounce on their misfortune and take the lead, the Frenchman would cross the finish line with a 4.3 second advantage over second placed driver Zhou who had too much ground to make up by the time he got past Vips but the Chinese driver can still be happy as he did close the gap to Championship leader Oscar Piastri, who finished in fourth, ahead of Liam Lawson in fifth.
Lundgaard was incredible, charging through the field and after having a torrid time in qualifying more than made up for this in race pace, coming through from nineteenth to take the final podium spot.
Speaking ahead of the race, David Beckmann had been uncertain of retaining the lead, and this lack of confidence played into Jüri Vips hands as the Estonian made a great getaway from second and ensured his Hitech was in the lead in Turn 1.
The whole field made it through the opening lap unscathed, but this lack of chaos would prove to be short-lived as Dan Ticktum locked up under pressure from Pourchaire and missed his braking point. The former Williams academy driver tried to get his car back onto the track but was then tagged by Felipe Drugovich and spun around.
The Safety Car made a first appearance of the weekend to allow time to clear the Carlin off the track whilst Drugovich had to dive into the pits to undergo repairs to his front wing. Zhou quickly found his stride after the green flag was waved, setting the fastest lap and moving into sixth ahead of Robert Shwartzman. There was heartbreak for his teammate, though, as Drugovich who has already had to pit for repairs lost control of his car at Ascari and went skidding into the gravel, bringing out a Virtual Safety Car.
Lawson ran into trouble as a move on Pourchaire for P3 failed to pay off and left him with a damaged front wing. A pit stop to repair damage was necessary leaving the Kiwi driver in last place.
Back at the front, Pourchaire was hounding down the back of Beckmann for second place and his persistence paid off as the Campos driver locked up at Turn 1 and had to take the escape road, which dropped him to fourth. Pourchaire was hoping to use this momentum and pace he had to steal first from Vips as well, but a Safety Car brought a halt to his chase of the Hitech in first position as Roy Nissany spun and then stopped on track.
At the halfway point, the top ten was drastically different to how it had started, with Vips leading Pourchaire, Zhou and Beckmann. Shwartzman was in fifth but had a five-second time penalty to add to his finishing time after he was judged to have left the track and gained an advantage by the race stewards. Lirim Zendeli was on the chrage up to sixth from 11th, whilst Lundgaard had made it to P7, ahead of Piastri, despite starting all the way down in 19th.
However, the chaos would not stop. Vips was struggling for grip and lost the lead to Pourchaire at the restart, with the Frenchman taking the inside line at Turn 1 and being the last of the late breakers.
Beckmann’s tyres were completely gone, and he plummeted down the order at the restart. Vips was desperately trying to avoid the same fate, clinging onto second ahead of Zhou, but was visibly struggling, wobbling all over the road.
Pourchaire on the other hand had successfully managed his tyres and had set two successive fastest laps and built up a six-second advantage by the time Zhou eventually got passed the Hitech and grabbed second place, Vips succumbing to the pressure and going deep into Turn 1, which forced him down the escape road.
Zendeli’s race had to come to a stop faster than he’d have liked with three laps to go as he pulled his MP Motorsport to a stop at the side of the road and clambered out, which resulted in a yellow flag, allowing fans and drivers alike a brief few moments to catch their breath.
From here the chaos thankfully subsided as Pourchaire took the chequered flag for a second win of the season. Zhou had managed to cut the gap to just 4.3 seconds at the flag, perhaps showing what could have been but would have to settle for second ahead of star performer Lundgaard. Despite spending the majority of the race towards the back of the top 10, Piastri was in fourth at the flag, in turn doing his Championship hopes no harm.
Recovering splendidly from the front wing that dropped him to the back of the grid, Lawson finished fifth, with Shwartzman sixth after his penalty had been applied. Bent Viscaal claimed seventh, as Vips managed to hang onto a points’ place – taking eighth.
Pourchaire stated how chaotic the race had been but was satisfied with the number of moves he had made, congratulating the team after both drivers had managed to get on the podium, demonstrating the high race pace of the car. The Frenchman as per usual made sure he thanked those supporting him at the Sauber Academy and will be hoping for more glory in the not too distant future.
“That was a crazy race, with a lot of good overtakes from P4 to the race win. There was a podium for my teammate as well from P19. The car was really good, and the team are really happy. I don’t know what to say, I just want to thank the team and thank Sauber Academy. I hope we can do the same in the second race.”
|1||Theo Pourchaire||FRA||ART Grand Prix||21 Laps|
|2||Guanyu Zhou||CHI||UNI-Virtuosi Racing||+ 4.360|
|3||Christian Lundgaard||DEN||ART Grand Prix||+ 6.929|
|4||Oscar Piastri||AUS||Prema Racing||+ 7.694|
|5||Liam Lawson||NZL||Hitech Grand Prix||+ 9.767|
|6||Robert Shwartzman||RUS||Prema Racing||+ 10.747|
|7||Bent Viscaal||NED||Trident||+ 11.504|
|8||Juri Vips||EST||Hitech Grand Prix||+ 12.789|
|9||Jehan Daruvala||IND||Carlin||+ 13.168|
|10||David Beckmann||GER||Campos Racing||+ 15.232|
|11||Marcus Armstrong||NZL||DAMS||+ 15.646|
|12||Jake Hughes||GBR||BWT HWA Racelab||+ 18.840|
|13||Alessio Deledda||ITA||BWT HWA Racelab||+ 20.397|
|14||Ralph Boschung||SWI||Campos Racing||+ 1 Lap|
|15||Lirim Zendeli||GER||MP Motorsport||+ 3 Laps|
|DNF||Richard Verschoor||NED||MP Motorsport||DNF|
|DNF||Felipe Drugovich||BRA||UNI-Virtuosi Racing||DNF|
|DNF||Enzo Fittipaldi||BRA||Charouz Racing System||DNF|
|DNF||Guilherme Samaia||BRA||Charouz Racing System||DNF|