Second win of weekend hands Briton championship lead as Afanasiev and Bratt complete the podium
Jolyon Palmer put the gloss on an already superb weekend by claiming his second victory – a clean sweep that also gives him the overall championship lead – here in Monza.
Palmer has been the man to beat for almost the entire weekend, having claimed pole position and then victory in the first race before taking another pole for race two. A good start helped him to maintain position and from there he never looked back, taking victory just under four seconds clear of Sergey Afanasiev in second.
Second position had looked to be Will Bratt’s in the closing stages of the race, but with one lap to go Afanasiev pulled off a superb move at Curva Grande to steal the position. Bratt was forced to settle for third, his second podium of the year.
Bratt initially got by Afanasiev off the line to grab second going into turn one for the first time. There was carnage behind as Mihai Marinescu stalled on the line and Nicola de Marco then spun in avoidance of the Romanian’s stricken car. The incident ended a tough weekend for the Italian at his home event as he failed to complete a single racing lap in either race.
The chaos continued on lap two when the fight for fourth place raged on at the turn one chicane. Dean Stoneman attacked Philipp Eng and seemingly outbraked himself into the turn – the result was a punt in the rear for Eng, who was then also collected by the unfortunate Johan Jokinen. The Dane was out on the spot while Eng limped back to the pit lane and ultimately into retirement.
Kazim Vasiliauskas saw an opportunity to attack Stoneman after the melee but the Lithuanian made his own mistake – spinning out of the race on the approach to the second Lesmo. Stoneman eventually settled into a comfortable fourth although he remains under investigation by the stewards for his part in the Eng accident.
Fifth place became the new scene of excitement as five or six cars battled intensely for position. Kelvin Snoeks had briefly held fourth before Stoneman nipped by, but the Dutchman soon dropped to fifth and he had Jack Clarke all over him. The pair swopped positions twice at Parabolica and then at turn one, but Snoeks hung on. Clarke made another failed attempt to get by, which left him open to attack from Armaan Ebrahim, Benjamin Bailly and Paul Rees. With such a fantastic a tow at the legendary Italian venue, the trio all got by Clarke in less than a lap! The Briton had gone from fighting for fifth to ninth position in a blink of an eye, and he would later drop out of the points altogether after seemingly being down on power late on.
Snoeks maintained fifth on the circuit, but he was given a drive through penalty for not respecting the track limits shortly after. It was all academic however, as the Dutchman retired after contact with Ebrahim prior to taking his penalty. The Indian continued to claim his best ever result with fifth, whilst Bailly and Rees followed closely behind. Ivan Samarin, Ricardo Teixeira and Benjamin Lariche also enjoyed a great battle as the trio rounded out the top ten – covered by less than 1.5 seconds.
Back at the front, Palmer remained consistent throughout the race but there was to be late drama in the race for second place. Will Bratt had suffered from clutch problems as early as lap three and although the Briton did well to stay in touch, he eventually lost out to the charging Afanasiev.
Palmer’s third win of the season now gives him a 12 point advantage in the overall standings, although the Briton is not getting carried away at such an early stage. "It was a perfect weekend," Palmer said. "This win was more straightforward than yesterday’s: there was no safety car, and I just managed to find another gear to drive to the chequered flag. At Marrakech I think Philipp and Dean both thought it was a two horse race the championship – it’s obviously not, I’ve had a great weekend and it proves the championship is very open. It’s great to be leading at this stage but there’s a long way to go."