The penultimate race of the season did not disappoint with the excitement kicking off from the get go.
With Lawson on pole he explained before the race that he was slightly perplexed with the setup of the grid as he had confused the positioning of P1 in relation to the first corner.
Thinking it was on the left, which would hand the advantage to the polesitter heading into the hairpin, but in reality he was positioned on the right. Liam explained that from the rolling start he would put importance of holding his line into the first turn.
What ensued was definitely unexpected. Kelvin Van der Linde dived on the inside of Lawson into turn 2 bumping Lawson wide. But Kelvin was caught up in the following drama of drivers behind trying to push through dropping him down to 7th whereas, Lawson continued wide holding on momentarily to his 1st place spot.
Arjun Maini also tried to take his chance up the inside but ending up shunting the side of Lawson picking up some slight steering damage. The coming together of all drivers ended up with the front runners miraculously continuing issue free.
Although, some drivers midpack collected the debris and ended up retiring early due to a puncture, notably Mike Rockenfeller.
Just down the track into turn 4, Philip Ellis picked up first place off Lawson with fellow Kiwi Nick Cassidy profiting heavily off the hairpin drama moving from P8 into 3rd following Lawson.
The 18 kilograms of success ballast started to show their influence on lap 7 as Max Gotz went past Lawson on the inside. Lawson did not hesitate to move over as he tried to avoid the risk of contact.
On lap 22 Lawson tried a move up the inside of Philip Ellis for 3rd place but made sight contact and Ellis spun out of the corner going off towards the barrier pushing Lawson into 2nd and Cassidy into 3rd.
Directly after the two Ferraris avoided the spin, Gotz who was in the lead, and Lawson made their mandatory pit stops.
Lawson came out just in front of Kelvin Van der Linde after a swift sub 8 second stop. Then Auer, who had just pitted, came out in front of Lawson but the rookie made it past him into the first hairpin. Meanwhile, Cassidy who was a lap ahead was just behind Kelvin trying to help Lawson in any way he could.
Lawson moved up past Auer, who was struggling with his added 25kg of success ballast, into the first hairpin moving into net 2nd in the race.
Unsuspectingly, out front Arjun Maini was yet to pit and went in on lap 27 coming out ahead of Lawson pushing the championship leader into the final podium spot.
Cassidy played the team game throughout the race and helped Lawson in any way possible in terms of blocking or slowing drivers down. He finally pitted on lap 65 with just 1 minute of racing left.
While Cassidy pitted, Kelvin in 4th, picked up the pace and used what tyre life he had left to push towards Lawson.
AF Corse completed an efficient stop and Cassidy came out just in front of Kelvin Van der Linde with an immaculate pit strategy taking crucial points away from the second championship contender
But, the strategy didn’t last long with Kelvin getting past just a lap later with minimal contact between the pair. The South African was furious over the radio shouting: “Is this really how they’re going to play the game!”
Last lap flag came out and Max Gotz, racing at his rome circuit, saw the chequered flag after his final tour of the street ciruit with Lawson extending his lead coming home third.
Liam’s post race interview:
18 points ahead of Kelvin, are you happy? The main point was to extend your lead right?:
“Absolute bonus to extend the lead, we wanted to get as many points as we could. But really, what a crazy race … the start was insane. It was quite tough honestly, our pace was good considering the ballast, the pit stop was good and … actually Nick absolutely saved me there because Kelvin was catching up and he helped me bridge that gap again on the last laps. But really happy with the day.”
Tomorrow will be super exciting because it could be you, it could be Kelvin, and now it could also be Maxi [Gotz]:
“Nothing’s done yet we have to focus on quali, we’ll have weight again and we just need to focus on getting those points.”
How will you sleep?:
“Definitely getting an early night tonight. Work on improving the car again for tomorrow and then just push for the title!”
Here are how the drivers finished:
Updated points standings heading into the final qualifying and race:
Featured image source: youtube.com/dtm