The FIA Formula 2 Championship travelled to Monza for the ninth round of the season, following on from last weeks event at Spa-Francorchamps.
Norman Nato and Sean Gelael hit the track on the fastest circuit of the season for Qualifying on Friday afternoon after a productive Free Practise session.
In the warm temperatures, hooking up a strong lap with a low downforce setup – whilst avoiding traffic was essential.
The session however was marred with multiple red flag stoppages, preventing many drivers from getting into a rhythm and achieve their full potential. A mixed-up grid was created, with the two championship contenders in the mid-pack.
The two Pertamina Arden drivers were also affected by the stoppages, both on their best lap when the red flag was called, meaning Nato would start 15th and Gelael from 18th.
Race one was delayed after adverse weather conditions affected the Formula One Qualifying session, causing a two-and-a-half-hour delay – but still allowed the race to take place at the end of the day, now under wet and treacherous conditions.
The opening laps were about learning the conditions with the cars on low downforce, now on wet tyres with a low grip surface. Gelael adapted well to the conditions, as he cut through the field well – confident in his Arden machinery as he made his way through the pack seamlessly as one of the fastest on the circuit.
Nato endured a difficult start as the pack bunched up through the first two chicanes, putting him out of position and jostling for position.
It was clear from the outset that the tyres were not wearing out as fast as expected, despite the track drying out from so many cars circulating. All drivers were attempting to make their pitstops as late as
possible. As Gelael made his pitstop, he emerged in a strong 7th position and began to move away from his rivals behind. Nato had struggled to make the same progress and was marred in 16th position as the race would not fall for him in the same way.
However on lap 20, championship contender Oliver Rowland’s rear wheel had detached following his pitstop, resulting in his retirement and the Safety Car to be deployed.
The race was resumed with a two lap showdown, which saw the two leaders Nyck de Vries and Charles Leclerc collide, causing them both to drop down the field.
At the end of the chaotic race, Gelael finished a season best 6th position, earning himself a well deserved eight championship points. Teammate Nato followed home in 14th position.
The Sprint Race saw Gelael start from third position on the grid after the top eight finishers were reversed. Nato started 14th for the now dry conditions on Sunday morning.
Gelael made a brilliant start to vault himself into the lead of the race as the cars approached turn one, holding off his rivals despite an upper front wing element becoming detached in the process.
Gelael held the lead in the opening laps of the race, holding onto it for five laps before the DRS activation gave the advantage to the drivers behind.
Nato was embroiled in a battle with Rowland and championship leader Charles Leclerc, as all three drivers tried to battle their way through the pack and into the points paying positions.
By half distance, Gelael was still at the sharp end – nursing a car developing understeer in the slow speed corners with that front wing damage in 6th position. Nato was up to 12th position
after repassing Rowland with DRS down the main straight.
As the race reached the closing stages, some drivers were beginning to struggle with tyre life, notably Leclerc who had used up the best of his rubber to move up the grid. Nato had preserved his well and moved up into 10th position, hunting down the championship leader.
Gelael crossed the line to take 6th position at the chequered flag. Nato finished just behind Leclerc, right on his gearbox in 10th position.
FIA Formula 2 now heads to Jerez, Spain in a standalone race alongside the GP3 Series on the 6-8 October for Round 10 and Races 19-20 of the 2017 Season.