Adrian Quaife-Hobbs gave his rivals a driving lesson with a mature, aggressive drive to lead from lights to flag in changing conditions at this morning’s sprint race in Monza, dictating terms all race long to win by almost two seconds from Alexander Rossi and Julian Leal.
The win was set up at the start when poleman Rossi had a poor getaway, leaving the road clear for his fellow front row starter Quaife-Hobbs to easily lead into the chicane. James Calado stalled from P3, tightening the track for his rivals, while Sam Bird made a strong start to get alongside Stéphane Richelmi: the pair touched in the corner with the Brit skittering over the kerbs and the Monegasque breaking his front wing, leaving the track clear for Leal to push through, with Rossi sitting behind the slowed pair.
Behind the American Tom Dillmann held off Series leader Fabio Leimer, while a superb start for Rio Haryanto put him in points contention ahead of Johnny Cecotto and Sergio Canamasas as the race order shook itself out while, back at the front, Quaife-Hobbs set a string of fastest laps while the three drivers behind him squabbled among themselves.
Around lap 7 the rain started to fall, leaving everyone with a big decision to make: was it going to be heavy enough for wet tyres and, if so, when to make the switch and pick up a march on the others? Calado had nothing to lose and made the switch while everyone watched his times. In the slippery conditions Leal ran deep at the first chicane, with Bird following him, leaving the road clear for Rossi to scoot through into second.
Soon enough the rain stopped again, and with it the times started to tumble: Quaife-Hobbs and Rossi were soon swapping fastest laps as the American tried to close the gap, but the Brit had it all under control, picking up the pace as needed to slide home the winner 1.8 seconds ahead of Rossi, with Leal soaking up race long pressure from Bird to bring home another podium finish. Dillmann had a quiet race to finish P5, with Leimer picking up the fastest lap on the final tour, ahead of Haryanto and Cecotto, who held off Dani Clos for the final point.
Although Bird closed the gap slightly in the drivers’ championship, Leimer holds on to the lead with 159 points to 153, while Coletti and Nasr’s race long battle today made no difference to their point scores, at 135 and 130 respectively, ahead of Calado on 119 points. RUSSIAN TIME extend their lead in the teams’ championship over Racing Engineering by 237 points to 221, ahead of Carlin on 198 and DAMS on 165 as the field looks forward to the next round in Singapore in two weeks time.