Oscar Piastri drove like a champion through the Italian Grand Prix meeting to extend his lead in the FIA Formula 2 championship with his first Feature Race win.
After claiming pole position and four points on Friday, Piastri was solid and smart in fourth and seventh from the two reverse-grid Sprint races before executing a clinical destruction of his rivals in the race that really counted.
“Not bad for a rookie,” his mentor Mark Webber jokes as Piastri returns to victory lane with the Prema team.
It was never as easy as it looked, with compulsory pitstops and two compounds of tyres to race, as well as a string of Safety Car incidents. The race eventually finished behind the Safety Car but it was the previous re-start, when Piastri locked a front wheel at the end of the main straight, which was the biggest threat to his win.
“I tried to throw it away with my lock-up,” Piastri jokes to his crew on the slow-down lap.
After the mishap he re-set and drove strongly away from Guanyu Zhou, who is second in the series, and British driver Dan Ticktum, who carved through opponents after a late change to soft-compound Pirelli tyres.
Piastri is now the subject of Formula One speculation although it is Zhou, who is a member of the Alpine Academy alongside the Aussie, who is more likely to graduate thanks to his Chinese homeland.
Piastri has been building momentum through the series, after arriving as a rookie but also the reigning FIA Formula 3 champion, and showed real maturity with his approach to the whole Monza weekend.
“We got P4 in Race 1, a very very eventful race with quite a lot of crash avoidance which kept things interesting. Making up six spots from our starting position was pretty solid, but it could have been a bit better. Regardless, it was still a good race. We kept it clean and scored good points, which was the aim,” he says.
“In Race 2, we scored P7 and the fastest lap. Could have been better, could have been worse.”
With Webber watching from the Prema team’s pitwall, Piastria jumped into the lead from pole position and led the Feature all the way to the end, apart from the laps after his compulsory tyre change.
Zhou tried hard but could not stop Piastri stretching his points advantage, just four before Monza but now out to 15 with three more meetings in 2021.
“It was tough. it was tough out there. The whole race we had similar pace. I was catching him maybe a little bit. But congrats to him,” Zhou says.
Piastri also admits it was tougher than it looked.
“It was tricky out there. We were quite fortunate with the Safety Car timing. I just managed my tyres. The last Safety Car was almost my undoing, but I managed to hold one and get the win,” he says.
“I’m pretty happy. Leading the championship is always pretty good and extending it is even better. I like to think I’m ticking a few boxes. it feels good.”
There are three more rounds and nine races in the Formula 2 championship, at Sochi in Russia, Jeddah in Saudi Arabia on an all-new circuit, and Yas Island in Abu Dhabi on the same weekend as the Formula One finale for 2021.