Frederik Vesti withstood late pressure from Victor Martins to win the Formula 2 sprint race at Monza while chief title rival Theo Pourchaire climbed from 10th to fourth.
Starting from third, Prema driver Vesti was in thick of the lead battle immediately, with reversed-grid polesitter Ralph Boschung slightly slow off the line.
Having been sandwiched in between Vesti and Richard Verschoor approaching turn one, Campos Racing’s Boschung locked up and missed the chicane, rejoining in fourth behind team-mate Kush Maini.
Verschoor initially grabbed the lead, but a better exit from the first chicane allowed Vesti to draw alongside and then move ahead through Curve Grande.
Points leader Pourchaire gained two places and survived contact with Hitech GP’s Jak Crawford after bouncing over the inside kerb at turn one.
The safety car was deployed at the end of the lap after Amaury Cordeel spun to a halt at Ascari, with Boschung swamped at the restart four laps later. He continued to struggle, and tumbled to the rear of the field.
Vesti meanwhile continued to lead, and Pourchaire was on the move, dispatching Isack Hadjar from sixth into turn one.
Martins was also on the offensive, diving inside Maini for third into turn one, while his ART Grand Prix team-mate Pourchaire took fifth from Crawford at the second chicane.
At the race’s halfway stage Martins produced another late-braking move to pass Verschoor for second, with Vesti having pulled out a 1.8-second lead, but moments later the safety car was deployed for a second time.
Roy Nissany and Juan Manuel Correa had been involved in a feisty battle, making initial contact at turn one, and a further collision at the second chicane spun Nissany to a halt.
Racing resumed once more with six laps to go. Despite facing pressure from Crawford, Pourchaire pulled off a stunning overtake on Maini into the second chicane for fourth. Pourchaire then closed onto the tail of the lead trio in the closing laps, with Vesti trying to break the tow from closest pursuer Martins at the front of the train.
Vesti held on until the chequered flag for his fifth win of 2023, with Martins, Verschoor and Pourchaire finishing close behind.
Maini was fifth, while Hadjar passed Hitech team-mate Crawford for sixth on the final lap, but the pair both were demoted out of the points by time penalties at the chequered flag.
Prema’s Ollie Bearman recovered from a bad start to take sixth, profiting from an off at Ascari in the latter stages for Dennis Hauger, who had been trying to pass Hadjar.
DAMS’ Arthur Leclerc prevailed in a three-wide final lap tussle to finish seventh ahead of Roman Stanek, who was the final point-scorer. Jack Doohan and Clement Novalak rounded out the top 10.
Leclerc’s team-mate Ayumu Iwasa had his remote title hopes dented by an issue forcing him into the pitlane before eventually retiring.
Race result (21 laps)
|2||Victor Martins||ART Grand Prix||+0.556s|
|3||Richard Verschoor||Van Amersfoort Racing||+0.996s|
|4||Theo Pourchaire||ART Grand Prix||+1.754s|
|5||Kush Maini||Campos Racing||+3.939s|
|9||Jack Doohan||Virtuosi Racing||+9.428s|
|11||Isack Hadjar||Hitech GP||+10.539s|
|12||Dennis Hauger||MP Motorsport||+10.728s|
|13||Jak Crawford||Hitech GP||+11.181s|
|16||Josh Mason||PHM by Charouz||+16.288s|
|17||Jehan Daruvala||MP Motorsport||+18.903s|
|18||Juan Manuel Correa||Van Amersfoort Racing||+21.976s|
|19||Ralph Boschung||Campos Racing||+24.194s|
|Ret||Roy Nissany||PHM by Charouz|
|Ret||Amaury Cordeel||Virtuosi Racing|
|Fastest lap: Martins, 1m34.308s