Prema’s Oliver Bearman took victory in the Formula 2 Feature Race at Monza, which was blighted by several Safety Car incidents.
Bearman was followed home by Ayumu Iwasa and Theo Pourchaire, with championship contender Frederik Vesti crashing out early on.
Championship leader Pourchaire lined up on pole for the first time since Bahrain, alongside Bearman on the front row, with Saturday’s Sprint Winner esti starting in eighth.
On a glorious sunny Sunday morning at Monza, Vesti needed to go on the offensive to continue to close the gap to Pourchaire at the top of the standings, but would the Prema driver be able to pull it off?
After Saturday’s Sprint, Pourchaire’s lead was cut to just nine points over Vesti in the Championship, 175 points to 166.
It was a good reaction from Pourchaire at the start and he secured the lead into the opening chicane, but Bearman held the inside line at Turn 3 and made his move to take his lead at Della Roggia.
There was then disaster for Vesti who was squeezed and spun round by Roman Stanek going out of Della Roggia and into the first Lesmo, ending the championship challenger’s race and bringing out the Safety Car.
Stanek had just lost out to Victor Martins at Della Roggia and his aggressive defence against Vesti will have huge implications for the championship fight.
For his part in the incident, Stanek was handed a five-second time penalty.
Contributing to the stoppage was Zandvoort Feature winner Clement Novalak, who also spun off into the gravel trap on the opening lap.
With the hazard cleared, racing resumed at the end of Lap 3 and Bearman comfortably led the field to green in front of Pourchaire and Martins.
Bearman’s focus then turned to stretching away from Pourchaire to clear DRS range, with Pourchaire’s goal transforming into capitalising on Vesti’s misfortune by taking as many points as possible with only one more round of the season remaining after the F2 action in Italy.
DRS was enabled at the start of Lap 6, with Pourchaire still within seventh-tenths of leader Bearman.
Further down the order, there was a spin for Arthur Leclerc and his stranded DAMS car prompted another Safety Car on Lap 7, prompting a flurry of action in pit lane as the drivers elected to take their mandatory pit stops and get rid of their super soft tyres.
Jehan Daruvala, Jack Doohan and Iwasa were on the alternate strategy having started on the medium compound tyre and cycled through to the front as a result.
Bearman was then put under investigation for an unsafe release as the Prema driver squeezed Pourchaire toward the pit wall when exiting his pit box, but no further action was taken upon review.
Racing got back underway at the end of Lap 11 with the alternate strategy runners tasked with defending against the rest of the pack, but there was a high-speed crash at the back of the field on the start-finish straight involving Zane Maloney on the restart prompting another Safety Car period.
The Rodin Carlin driver was tagged from behind by Roy Nissany and clattered into the barriers, but luckily was able to get out of the car with Nissany later be handed a drive-through penalty for his part in the incident.
Daruvala, Doohan and Iwasa continued to fight at the front whilst race direction took their time to call the Safety Car into action, with Iwasa winning out in the three-way tussle.
Iwasa and Daruvla then elected to pit under caution, meaning that Bearman inherited the lead once again behind the Safety Car, ahead of Doohan and Pourchaire.
Racing resumed at the end of Lap 15 and Bearman held the lead well, with Pourchaire taking the challenge to Doohan, who was backing up the pack and handing a big advantage to Bearman out in front.
Pourchaire then took second off of Doohan at the start of Lap 18 and set about chasing Bearman for the lead with 12 laps remaining.
Martins then had an issue with his DRS, which got stuck open, prompting him to head to the pits after the black and orange flag was shown to the ART driver.
The Safety Car was then brought out for the fourth time as Kush Maini was tagged by Jak Crawford whilst going for a move around the outside and was sent crashing out with a puncture and front wing damage.
This eroded Bearman’s 2.5-second advantage out front, meaning he had to fight once again when racing resumed at the end of Lap 26.
Bearman nailed the restart and Iwasa snatched second from Pourchaire.
There was then another incident on the penultimate lap as the Virtual Safety Car was called with Crawford stranded at the side of Ascari, after being tagged by Stanek.
The VSC then became a full and fifth Safety Car period, bringing an end to the race under cuation.
Bearman took the feature win (his fourth victory in his rookie season) ahead of Iwasa (who climbed 13 places) and Pourchaire in second and third.
Enzo Fittipaldi took fourth, ahead of Dennis Hauger in fifth and Doohan in sixth.
Daruvala took seventh with Amaury Cordeel in eighth and Ralph Boschung and Stanek completed the top-10.
Pourchaire now holds a 25-point lead over Vesti in the Championship, with the F2 season now on hiatus until the season finale in Abu Dhabi in November.