Jack Aitken soaked up race-long pressure to claim a brilliant third win of the Formula 2 season in the Monza sprint race on Sunday.
The Campos Racing driver made an excellent getaway from pole position to head into the Rettifilo chicane with a clear advantage over the chasing pack. But the famed Italian circuit’s extra-long straights would make it difficult for Jack to pull away from those in his slipstream who benefitted from a significant tow as well as the Drag Reduction System.
Sure enough, Jordan King managed to move ahead at the end of the pit straight on lap seven, but Jack fought back following a virtual safety car period to quickly reclaim the lead.
Over the rest of the 21-lap race, the Renault F1 Team test driver handled everything that was thrown at him by both King and Callum Ilott, including a heart-stopping moment on the last lap when Ilott locked his brakes and only narrowly avoided contact with Jack.
The victory was a special one for Jack at the end of a very difficult week following the accident at Spa-Francorchamps that claimed the life of Anthoine Hubert, a fellow Renault-supported driver. On the podium, Jack unfurled the French tricolore flag and displayed it in tribute with his fellow drivers.
Two rounds remain in the 2019 F2 season, at Sochi and in Abu Dhabi, with Jack’s win moving him up to fourth position in the standings and to within 13 points of second place.
JACK ON… WINNING AT MONZA
“It was just a classic Monza race. I was quite quick in sectors two and three – I think one of the quickest guys out there – but I just kept getting pulled back on the straights and never quite broke out of DRS range. It meant that we were just constantly having to watch our backs a little bit. But it was good fun fighting for Jordan and Callum. It got quite close a few times, but that’s Monza.”
JACK ON… THE WEEKEND UP TO THEN
“Qualifying was held in quite changeable conditions. It was drizzling on and off, but everyone was on slicks. At the moment when the track was driest, we weren’t able to do a lap. We were doing a cool-down lap to cool the tyres, which was maybe a mistake, and then we got blocked on the next lap which should have been our quickest. We ended up 12th on the grid, but we knew we had some pace so we were confident going into the first race. Unfortunately, we had a slow puncture for most of the race on the primes which hampered our progress a little, but we managed to get inside the top eight and get pole for race two.”
JACK ON… AN EMOTIONAL RESULT
“It was an emotional weekend for everybody. In a way it was helpful to get back into the paddock and get back to what we’re here to do: to race and to do that as well as we can. Focusing on that was helpful but I think we were quite relieved to get to the end of the weekend and get a result: to sort of do Anthoine justice in some way, on behalf of Renault and everybody, because we’re all suffering a bit and it was just a nice way to finish of the weekend.”
JACK ON… THE CHAMPIONSHIP
“We’ll have one eye on the guys around us in the championship in Sochi, but it’s so close between four of us now, and in that kind of situation I think you’re best off just trying to get the best result you can, and that’s what we’ll be doing.”
JACK ON… THE F1 RACE
“It was a pretty spectacular race, and a good one to talk about on the F1 Live Twitter show afterwards. It was a great performance by Charles Leclerc to hold off Lewis Hamilton and I think almost everyone was happy for Ferrari to win at Monza. But it was a great result for us at Renault as well with fourth and fifth, we were really happy with that. It’s what we needed to get the season back on track a little bit and everyone did a great job, the car was performing really well.”