Liam Lawson has capped off 2020 by scoring his third FIA Formula 3 win with an empathic lights-to-flag domination of the season finale from Mugello.
The Kiwi saw off a hotly contested opening lap and subsequent Safety Car restart to drive away from the field, clinching an unchallenged win by 7.8-seconds.
Though Lawson’s celebrations were slightly muzzled by those of Prema and Oscar Piastri who narrowly claimed the 2020 championship crown by a mere three points over Theo Pourchaire who put in a herculean effort to come agonisingly shy of cinching the title from the brink of nowhere.
The Australian had fallen as low as tenth in the opening stages of the race as Pourchaire charged towards the top-three, where he needed to finish to have any chance of lifting the crown. But a late move on an ailing Alexander Smolyar and a team orchestrated pass on Frederik Vesti was enough to ensure Piastri’s points lead was suffice.
Lawson’s victory was undoubtedly the most dominant of his young F3 career and he leaves a powerful statement on the championship that with a more reliable car he may have had a realistic shot at the ultimate spoils. It also leaves the paddock wondering whether this will be the last of Lawson should he look to make a move to Formula 2 next year.
Should he stay, it will be his third attempt at the crown but comes into the season a respected race winner and a likely title favourite.
From pole, Lawson got the holeshot off the line and he resisted David Beckmann who attempted to brave himself around the outside of the Kiwi at Turn 1.
As the field flashed through the Turns 2-3 chicane, championship protagonist Logan Sargeant was spied skating across the gravel having been squeezed off the road by Sebastian Fernandez. The American’s strong title campaign was thus over within the opening tour after having come into the race level on points with Piastri.
The field then sauntered behind the Safety Car for four laps with Lawson at the head of the queue before the race was restarted on Lap 5 of 21.
Piastri was sat in seventh, one spot ahead of Pourchaire who found himself as the Australian’s sole remaining title contender. But the Frenchman made light work of Piastri into Turn 1 as the Prema was swallowed by a gaggle of cars and slipped back to ninth.
Lawson was running away from the field upfront, setting consecutive fastest laps to extend his margin beyond two-seconds over Beckmann.
Further back, a heated inter-team battle was beginning to spice up the race with Pourchaire sat in fourth just behind his ART teammate Fernandez. The championship crown was tantalising close for Pourchaire who needed a podium result to snare the title as Piastri dropped another spot to tenth.
Pourchaire would find himself ahead of Fernandez and briefly led the championship race.
But Piastri was never out of the fight, muscling his way back into ninth five laps from home before making easy work of Vesti. He would then pip Fernandez at the chequered flag to secure seventh, but all was enough by then as the elated rookie celebrated his maiden championship win.
The F3 field now go into hibernation until the 2021 season with an announcement made earlier in the week that the Macau Grand Prix, which most of the field compete in, will this year be contested by Formula 4 cars.