Liam Lawson has capitalised on a Prema disaster to keep his improbable FIA Formula 3 championship hopes alive with an admirable second-place finish* in the final race of the weekend at Monza.
The Kiwi thus adds another strike to his podium tally for 2020, taking the total to six – the most of any driver in the field this season.
What made the result even sweeter was the fact that the Prema trio all run into incidents of their own, with none troubling the scoreboards in a frenetic home round for the Italian outfit.
Championship leader Oscar Piastri was tipped into a spin on Lap 11, retiring from the race on the spot. Then a contentious collision involving Frederik Vesti and Logan Sargeant four laps from home ruled out the remaining two Premas as they tangled while battling for fourth.
Lawson has thus ensured he is mathematically still in the hunt for the championship but will likely require a similar result in both races at Mugello if he is to snare the crown from the brink of nowhere.
From the start, the young Kiwi made good progress from the third row of the grid to sit fourth by the end of the opening tour with Lirim Zendeli making a charge from P4 to the lead.
Unable to make an impression in the first few laps on Jake Hughes for the final podium position, Lawson made good use of the DRS assistance to drag himself alongside the Brit on the run into Turn 1 on Lap 5, executing a wily lunge around the outside to elevate himself inside the top-three.
That same lap also witnessed the first of several lead changes between Zendeli and second-placed Enzo Fittipaldi. The pairing refusing to give each another respectable room and in doing so it allowed Lawson to latch onto the back of the battle.
Lap 7 saw Fittipaldi try to squeeze himself past the leading Trident down the inside at Turn 1. The move looked to have promoted the Brazilian to the lead but the endplate of Zendeli gently nudged the left-rear of Fittipaldi on the exit of the chicane and he picked up a puncture, dashing his hopes of a race win.
Ultimately it gifted Lawson second before the Kiwi almost immediately powered himself into the race lead.
It was only temporary as the other benefactor of the clash, Hughes, was able to use the DRS to swiftly claim the lead one lap later to become the fifth different leader in the opening ten laps.
The drama was finally abated when Race Control deployed the Virtual Safety Car to clean up an awkward collision involving championship leader Oscar Piastri at Turn 1. The Australian was pitched into a spin and buried in the gravel by Alexander Smolyar.
From the restart, Lawson looked to be a step behind Hughes who effortlessly established a race-winning margin while Lawson was content to run just over a second ahead of the duel for third behind. The margin between Hughes and Lawson at the line was 1.8-seconds, the Red Bull Junior exhausted with his efforts after the race as he admitted he “gave it the best he could.”
That battle for third involved yesterday’s race winner Vesti and the feisty Sargeant and it ultimately came to an abrupt end with a seemingly inevitable collision at the Ascari chicane on Lap 19 of 22.
Sargeant suffered a race-ending puncture while Vesti was haemorrhaging positions left, right and centre as he soldiered on with a wounded front wing. He was eventually compelled to retire when race officials showed him the black-and-orange flag.
Theo Pourchaire was therefore gifted the final podium spot and the Frenchman also enters the final round with an outside chance of winning the championship.
*Lawson received a 10-second penalty for forcing Zendeli off the track at Turn 1. He is reclassified 7th.