Liam Lawson’s FIA Formula 3 championship hopes have come to an end in the penultimate race of the season from Mugello.
The Kiwi started 11th and finished 10th in the 21-lap affair, failing to trouble the race leaders as he ran a relatively lonely race which was ultimately won by Frederik Vesti in a last-lap thriller.
His sophomore season has been one of many ups and downs, highlighted by two wins and multiple podiums but overshadowed by painfully frequent mechanical dramas which cost Lawson a complete championship challenge.
Lawson looked feisty off the start from, putting up an opportunistic lunge into Turn 1 but was forced to ease off the loud pedal and after the opening tour had remained in 11th.
The Kiwi then fall outside the one-second DRS window to Jack Doohan in the final points-paying position and was struggling to keep in touch with the HWA Racelab machine.
His pace would eventually come back to him in the final five tours to elevate himself into tenth and reverse-grid pole for tomorrow’s race, resisting a late challenge by Oscar Piastri as Doohan slipped back to 12th.
The most heated battle in the opening stages of the race was the contest for the lead between pole-sitter Lirim Zendeli and Jake Hughes, the latter finally muscling his way into first with a brave move around the outside of his rival at Turn 1 on Lap 7. The pair would then swap positions once more the following lap as they jockeyed for the lead.
Behind, Vesti was lurking behind with the margin fluctuating between one and two seconds.
The lead swapped hands once more on Lap 13 with Hughes using the DRS assistance to drag himself ahead of his rival into Turn 1. Zendeli then fell into the clutches of Vesti and was demoted to third one lap later.
The Prema was blazing once he found himself within earshot of the lead and he quickly put himself in a head-to-head duel with Hughes for the win. The duo traded spots on several occasions but the race was finally won on the last lap with a wily move by Vesti who placed himself in the ideal position along the main straight to steal away the lead into Turn 1.
Erstwhile championship leader Piastri endured a battling race mired in the midfield as he struggled to make headway from his 16th qualifying position, finishing 11th.
Championship contender Logan Sargeant could only manage sixth and thus heads into tomorrow’s final round level on points with Piastri. The only other driver mathematically in contention for the crown is Frenchman Theo Pourchaire who finished third today after a late move on Zendeli.
A positive note for Lawson is he will start the final race of 2020 from pole position. That race is set to get underway from 8.30 pm NZT.