Liam Lawson has been unable to capitalise on his pole-position start in the first FIA Formula 3 race of the weekend from Monza, falling to sixth at the chequered flag in a chaotic opening affair.
Lawson fell to third in the opening handful of laps, unable to match the pace of his quicker rivals behind before a mid-race clash with Matteo Nannini damaged the Hitech GP car and he battled to keep himself in the points-paying positions.
Victory went to Frederik Vesti who claimed the lead on lap 19 of 22 from Theo Pourchaire and also ensured Prema are crowned teams champions of 2020.
Lawson has also lost some more ground on new championship leader Oscar Piastri who put in a spectacular charge from 15th to 3rd. The Kiwi’s improbable title hopes are still alive but he will need a strong result in tomorrow’s reverse top-10 race to ensure the fight goes all the way to the final round at Mugello.
Having been promoted to pole following multiple post-qualifying penalties, the Kiwi was forced to hop over the kerbing at the first chicane as second-placed Nannini put up a daring contest for the lead.
Revitalised with a fresh wave of motivation after being robbed of pole yesterday, Pourchaire had immediately clawed himself into contention for the lead as he breezed past Nannini on Lap 2. The Frenchman then utilised the DRS assistance to demote Lawson to second on Lap 4.
The typically frenetic midfield tussle at Monza was beginning to liven up with championship contenders Sargeant and Piastri mired in the final two points-paying positions in 9th and 10th.
Upfront, Lawson was slowly beginning to lose touch of Pourchaire and two laps later he relinquished third to Jake Hughes. Unfortunately, the margin to the front two was pushed out beyond DRS range when Lawson survived a clumsy clash with Nannini at Turn 1.
The overzealous lunge by Nannini resulted in race-ending damage for the Italian while Lawson soldiered on with wounded bodywork on the right-hand sidepod, yielding another position to Vesti one lap later as a consequence of the incident.
The runaway duo at the front then had their lead eradicated in a blink of an eye with the deployment of the Safety car to recover the stricken ART of Sebastian Fernandez who had buried himself in the gravel at the Ascari Chicane.
Erstwhile championship leader Sargeant then found himself facing the wrong direction at Turn 4 off the restart when he was pitched into a spin. The American did manage to avoid stalling the car but had fallen to the very back of the field. He would recover to finish 14th.
Pourchaire was unable to ditch the field from the restart like he had in the opening half of the race and he was powerless in his defence to Vesti who usurped the French driver for the lead with a late lunge at Turn 1 three laps from home.
A similar move was playing out behind as Piastri had charged towards the top-five and bullied himself past Lawson on the same lap. The manoeuvre put the Kiwi in an awkward position and David Beckmann slipped ahead into fifth.
From there Lawson was unable to fight back and he crossed the line 7.9s behind Vesti. He also drops back behind Beckmann for fourth in the standings but will start ahead of the German in tomorrow’s final race which is set to begin from 7.30 pm NZT.