An emotional Jack Aitken earned his third win of the 2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship season in a thrilling Sprint Race at Monza, dedicating his hard-charging victory to fellow Renault Academy driver and friend Anthoine Hubert who was killed barely a week before at Spa-Francorchamps.

The Campos Racer was harried right to the chequered flag, narrowly finishing ahead of British compatriot Jordan King (MP Motorsport), and championship leader Nyck de Vries (ART Grand Prix).

On a still drying track, the reversed-grid pole-sitter made an astounding start, soaring into the distance unopposed, as those behind him tussled for the final podium spots. De Vries was among a collection of drivers to bolt off the line, but traffic into Turn 1 forced him to hold steady in sixth. King and Feature Race pole-sitter Callum Ilott (in the sole Sauber Junior Team entry) found the space to blast past Trident’s Giuliano Alesi in P2, to emerge in a British 1-2-3.

Despite his superb start, King soon closed the gap between himself and Aitken in P1, displaying the impressive power of his MP Motorsport machine, on the unique Autodromo Nazionale Monza circuit.

The 25-year-old took a look at the right of Aitken, but opted against the move, instead choosing to bide his time and further reel in the Renault F1 junior. His team urged him to make the move sooner rather than later, and on the next tour of the track, he thundered past the Campos driver down the pit straight. Aitken had an instant answer to King’s speed, however, and forced himself back down the side of him, but he went wide and had to hand back the position.

The fight behind them quickly intensified, leading to Aitken being issued a bad sportsmanship flag for repeatedly weaving along the straights to break the tow to King.

Turn 1 continued to prove tricky for the young drivers. De Vries, Sérgio Sette Câmara and Luca Ghiotto struggled with the corner and came together. De Vries was lucky to escape unscathed, but Sette Câmara suffered a puncture and Ghiotto lost chunks of his front wing. Sette Câmara was forced to retire his DAMS, while the Ghiotto limped his UNI-Virtuosi back to the pits for a replacement front wing and returned in last place.

Their contact and resulting debris brought out a Virtual Safety Car and when racing resumed, Aitken sent it down the side of King to reclaim the race lead down the pit straight. De Vries emerged ahead of Alesi for fourth.

Aitken was yet to put the battle between himself and his fellow Brit to bed and King had another attempt at rounding the Campos racer, but the angles tightened. Aitken went wide, while King was forced to slow around the corner, allowing Ilott to sneak through for second.

Yet again, Turn 1 proved difficult to master and de Vries locked up on his attack of the corner. He wobbled and flew through the grass, before eventually slowing enough to return safely, behind Nobuharu Matsushita in fifth place.

The same happened to Ilott on the final lap, who locked up on entry. The Sauber Junior Team by Charouz racer then lost control on the grass and snagged his tyre, when grazing the barrier. This tore up his rubber and heartbreakingly ended his race, from second.

Meanwhile, Feature Race winner Matsushita had been handed a five-second penalty for a VSC infringement, which demoted him to fifth and allowed de Vries into third, behind Aitken and King, who cruised to first and second at the chequered flag. The trio proudly displayed the French flag on the podium, in honour of Hubert.

Sprint Race podium - 2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship Race of Italy

Race-winner Aitken (flanked by King and de Vries) displayed the French tricolor in honour of Anthoine Hubert.

“It was definitely an emotional weekend for everybody,” Aitken said after the race. “I think that for a lot of the guys and girls in the paddock, it was a nice distraction in a way to get back to work.

“For sure, to end the weekend like that, with a win, especially for everyone in Renault, I think we were all hoping for a good result, to do [Anthoine] justice. That was quite a relief in the end, to come away with that.

“Qualifying was very difficult for us. We got caught out in those changeable conditions and we were a bit unlucky as well.

“We knew we had a bit more pace than that, but the Feature Race was really hard work.

“We had a slow puncture for most of the race, which was really slowing us down, so we targeted P8 for the reverse grid pole and just about managed it. That was obviously key to getting the win [today].”

Behind the three of them, was Guan Yu Zhou in fourth and Matsushita in fifth. Mick Schumacher, Alesi and Louis Delétraz completed the points’ positions.

De Vries stretches his Championship lead to 59 points, following a second podium finish of the weekend. Nicholas Latifi remains second on 166, 10 points ahead of Luca Ghiotto in third. Aitken is two points behind in fourth, and Sette Câmara two more behind in fifth.

In the Teams’ Championship, DAMS lead on 317 points, ahead of UNI-Virtuosi on 270. ART Grand Prix are third with 231 and Campos Racing fourth on 183. Carlin sit fifth with 177.

De Vries could potentially wrap up the title in Sochi at the end of September, when racing resumes in Russia.

2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship – Italy Sprint Race Final Classification (21 laps)
Driver Team / Entry Laps Result Pts
1. Jack Aitken Campos Racing 21 34:26.288 15
2. Jordan King MP Motorsport 21 + 2.764 12
3. Nyck de Vries ART Grand Prix 21 + 6.530 10
4. Guan Yu Zhou UNI Virtuosi Racing UNI-Virtuosi Racing 21 + 7.612 8
5. Nobuharu Matsushita Carlin Motorsport 21 + 8.189 6
6. Mick Schumacher de Prema Racing 21 + 8.541 6
7. Giuliano Alesi Trident Racing 21 + 12.851 2
8. Louis Delétraz Carlin Motorsport 21 + 13.389 1
9. Nikita Mazepin ART Grand Prix 21 + 13.941
10. Nicholas Latifi DAMS 21 + 23.091
11. Marino Sato Campos Racing 21 + 23.561
12. Callum Ilott Sauber Junior Team by Charouz 21 + 41.390
13. Mahaveer Raghunathan MP Motorsport 21 + 52.478
14. Tatiana Calderón BWT Arden 21 + 53.021
15. Luca Ghiotto UNI Virtuosi Racing UNI-Virtuosi Racing 21 + 1:32.691
Not Classified Team / Entry Laps Reason
DNF. Sean Gelael Prema Racing 9 Retired
DNF. Sérgio Sette Câmara DAMS 6 Collision

Championship Points:

  • Championship points are awarded on the results of the Sprint Race’s top-eight finishers on a 15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 sliding scale.
  • Mick Schumacher is awarded two bonus championship points for posting the fastest lap of the Sprint Race by a top-ten finisher.

Post-Race Penalties:

  • Nobuhara Matsushita – who provisionally finished P3 – was issued a five-second time penalty for a Virtual Safety Car infringement.

Images and text via FIA Formula 2 Championship

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Geoff Burke

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