Frederik Vesti beat Jake Hughes and Lirim Zendelli to victory in the Mugello feature race, as Logan Sargeant drew level with Oscar Piastri in the title standings.
With plenty of championship positions on the line, the race began with a relatively cautious start. Zendelli, Hughes and Vesti, starting from the top three, held their positions into the first corner, while most of the top ten behind them followed through more or less in order. However, Enzo Fittipaldi was shuffled down from his starting position of fourth off the line by Sargeant and Theo Pourchaire.
Zendelli and Hughes, battling for seventh in the standings, began to pull away from the rest of the pack in the opening phase of the race as both set fastest laps early on. While Zendelli initially held a one-second gap over Hughes, a mistake on lap 4 gave the HWA driver a chance into Turn 1 at the start of lap 5.
Zendelli held the position around the outside, but was unable to keep Hughes behind for long. After trying another move on lap 6, Hughes finally got by for first a lap later, hanging on around the outside to take Zendelli into the chicane after Turn 1.
This began a game of cat and mouse between the Trident and the HWA, as Zendelli came back at Hughes on lap 7 to retake the lead before being passed by Hughes again on lap 13.
This close fighting for the lead allowed Vesti to draw up enough to join the battle in the second half of the race. On lap 14 Zendelli went deep into Turn 1 trying to repass Hughes, and this put Vesti within a few tenths of the Trident. A lap later, Vesti moved around the outside into Turn 1 and moved ahead of Zendelli into second.
Vesti wasted little time in going after Hughes, and he tried to take the lead at the start of the next lap. Hughes held the inside into Turn 1 to see Vesti off, but a mistake from Hughes later in the lap gave Vesti the opportunity to take first place on lap 17.
Hughes briefly retook the lead on the penultimate lap with another overtake around the outside of Turn 1, but Vesti came back at him at the same corner on the final lap and got back ahead. With few overtaking opportunities later in the lap, Vesti was able to hold on and beat Hughes to his third win of the year.
Zendelli had held on to third for most of the race after dropping behind Vesti. But the consequences of his hard battle with Hughes earlier on meant that he ran out of tyre life in the later stages, and ended up losing third place to Pourchaire on the final lap.
While Vesti battled for the race win, his Prema teammates Sargeant and Piastri were fighting hard to better their respective championship positions going into tomorrow’s title-deciding sprint race.
After getting up to fourth at the start, Sargeant was unable to keep pace with the top three and ended up fifth behind Pourchaire by the end of the second lap. As Pourchaire then set off in pursuit of the podium, Sargeant’s race settled into one with Fittipaldi to hold fifth place.
Sargeant stayed ahead for most of the race, but Fittipaldi got ahead on lap 17 as Sargeant struggled with oversteer from his fading tyres. Sargeant retook fifth on lap 19, but was unable to hold on to the place and Fittipaldi got back through on the final lap for his best finish of the season so far.
Finishing in sixth wasn’t such a loss to Sargeant, however, as his main rival Piastri failed to score at all. Relegated to 16th on the grid due to a penalty from the Monza sprint race, Piastri’s job was to make as many moves as possible and try to salvage reverse grid pole for tomorrow.
But despite making early progress, picking off the likes of Matteo Nannini, Alex Peroni and Dennis Hauger in the early phase of the race, Piastri’s pace slowed after passing Richard Verschoor for 12th on lap 13. It took Piastri another five laps to take 11th place from Jack Doohan, by which point tenth-placed Liam Lawson was too far ahead for Piastri to reel in by the chequered flag.
With Sargeant scoring eight points for sixth, the two Premas are level on 160 points in the championship. Piastri is still ahead on results countback, but he will start tomorrow’s crucial reverse grid race just outside the points, while Sargeant will start from fifth place.
As for the other outside title contenders, only Pourchaire is still able to win the championship tomorrow. His podium has in fact bettered his chances, as the ART driver is now only nine points behind Piastri and Sargeant on 151.
Full race result:
|1||Frederik Vesti||Prema Racing||25|
|2||Jake Hughes||HWA Racelab||18|
|3||Theo Pourchaire||ART Grand Prix||15|
|4||Lirim Zendelli (FL)||Trident||14|
|5||Enzo Fittipaldi||HWA Racelab||10|
|6||Logan Sargeant||Prema Racing||8|
|7||Aleksandr Smolyar||ART Grand Prix||6|
|9||Sebastian Fernandez||ART Grand Prix||2|
|10||Liam Lawson||Hitech Grand Prix||1|
|11||Oscar Piastri||Prema Racing|
|12||Richard Verschoor||MP Motorsport|
|13||Jack Doohan||HWA Racelab|
|14||Dennis Hauger||Hitech Grand Prix|
|15||David Schumacher||Carlin Buzz Racing|
|16||Matteo Nannini||Jenzer Motorsport|
|18||Federico Malvestiti||Jenzer Motorsport|
|19||Calan Williams||Jenzer Motorsport|
|20||Alex Peroni||Campos Racing|
|21||Lukas Dunner||MP Motorsport|
|22||Sophia Floersch||Campos Racing|
|23||Cameron Das||Carlin Buzz Racing|
|24||Clement Novalak||Carlin Buzz Racing|
|25||Alessio Deledda||Campos Racing|
|26||Roman Stanek||Charouz Racing System|
|27||Michael Belov||Charouz Racing System|
|28||Bent Viscaal||MP Motorsport|