|It was another hot day at Monza for today’s 30-lap Feature Race with air and track temperatures of 31° and 41° respectively, warmer than it had been on Friday. Following yesterday’s Qualifying two drivers, Giovinazzi and Jeffri, were penalised for technical infringements which meant that Jordan King was promoted to 5th on the grid and Norman Nato to 8th and then, with Alex Lynn having a problem and starting from the pits, this effectively promoted Norman to 7th. The two Racing Engineering drivers were starting on the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft compound tyres, as were all the other top ten qualifiers, and they would switch to the Pirelli P Zero White medium compound at their mandatory pitstops.
Norman made a good start and was able to gain a place into the first corner as he passed Evans and he completed lap one right behind his teammate Jordan and on lap three he passed him for 5th and on lap five he used his DRS to pass Sirotkin into the chicane to take an impressive 4th position which immediately became 3rd as Markelov missed his braking into the chicane. By lap eight Norman was just one second behind Pic with Jordan 3.4 seconds further down the road and one lap later he dived into the pits to change to the medium tyres, the first of the front-runners to do so. The young Frenchman resumed the race in 13th place but as the other cars took their stops he was soon back up to 8th place which was effectively 2nd behind Gasly.
On lap fourteen the gap to Gasly was 3.2 seconds with Canamasas 6.3 seconds behind the Racing Engineering car but a Safety Car period three laps later as Pic and Canamasas made contact and both cars left the track closed the gap to the leader. This meant that a number of the cars ahead of Gasly and Norman were able to take advantage of the Safety Car and take their pitstops and there was now some confusion as the Safety Car had picked up Gasly and Norman as the leaders but the timing screens had them in 4th and 5th. After several laps Gasly, Norman and the other cars were waved past the Safety Car as it then picked up Marciello leaving them in 4th and 5th with six laps remaining.
As the cars began racing Norman was looking to pass Gasly but he needed to be careful as Ghiotto was right behind him but the young Frenchman was pushing hard and on lap twenty-five he set the fastest lap of the race so far with a time of 1:34.342 and he was now just 0.7 seconds behind Gasly. The two men now began to lap within a few hundredths of a second as they began to close on the cars ahead but the laps were running out and Norman crossed the finishing line in 5th.
Jordan made a clean start and was able to keep his 5th place into the first corner and at the end of the first lap he was 0.5 seconds behind Sirotkin and 0.4 seconds ahead of his teammate Norman Nato but on lap three Norman used his DRS to pass Jordan demoting the young Briton to 6th. Jordan was soon ahead of Sirotkin and he was now battling with Markelov and he passed the Russian to take 4th but the Russian Time driver regained the place using his DRS but once again Markelov missed the chicane as Jordan ran side-by-side with him and the Racing Engineering car was now 4th.
Jordan took his pitstop on lap eleven dropping to 14th place and he was soon setting some fast laps as he began to move back through the field. On lap seventeen Jordan was up to 9th as the Safety Car period began and as racing resumed he was 7th but right behind the six cars in front. Cars were running side-by-side as Jordan pressed Ghiotto while ensuring that Evans, who was behind him, could not find a way to pass him but the Racing Engineering driver soon began to pull away from the New Zealander. Jordan was still fighting hard but there were not enough laps left and, despite setting his fastest time on the final lap, he had to settle for 7th at the flag.
Today was very much about what might have been and if the first three drivers had not been able to take advantage of the Safety Car Norman would have finished at least 2nd and Jordan could have been 4th. Tomorrow’s Sprint race will see Jordan start from 2nd and Norman from 4th on the reversed grid and, with the speed they have shown today, both men are in with a strong chance of winning the race.
Sebastien Viger, Technical Director: “A good start from both our drivers, but Turn 1 in Monza is always a bit messy, so we could not really take advantage of it. However, both drivers were able to show a strong pace on the option tyres. Jordan started to lose pace earlier than Norman, so we called him for his mandatory pit stop, he decided to stay on track and we were obliged to pit Norman the following lap. Thus, Jordan had to wait for another lap, which was not ideal compared to his direct competitors on track. He had a strong pace after his pit stop, being virtually in fourth position, but the Safety Car picked up the wrong leader and basically gifted the prime tyre starters, who had not yet pitted, the lead. This also compromised Norman’s second place finish, he drove a faultless race but sadly enough he only finished in fifth position. The pace of both cars was good today and without the Safety Car incident, we could have seen a very strong result for our team.”
Norman Nato: “The start was good and I gained some positions, but didn’t risk anything as I wanted to be a good position to fight my way up and my pace was really strong on the option tyres. It’s a bit like in Spa, everything went really well, until the Safety Car. I was in second and fighting for the win, when I could not really understand why, behind the Safety Car, I dropped to fifth and we had a new race leader. During the last laps of the race we fought with drivers on option tyres, who were not really supposed to lead the race. To summarise, P5 is a disappointment when you know you were fighting for the win.”
Jordan King:: “The start was quite good and there was not really anywhere for me to go in Turn 1. Then I thought my pace was reasonable on option tyres, we just struggled with some straight line speed to make some progress. We maybe pitted a bit too late to go on to prime tyres, but after that my pace was good. I was just unfortunate with the Safety Car which lost me places.”