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Post-race penalty robs Lawson of Monza podium

A post-race penalty robbed Liam Lawson of 2nd place in Sunday’s FIA F3 race at Monza, Italy.

The Red Bull Junior driver copped a 10-seconds time penalty for contact with Lirim Zendeli early in the race. He was re-classified 8th.

When Lawson crossed the finish line behind race winner Jake Hughes, he thought he’d turned around the misfortune of the previous day, when he dragged home a damaged car in sixth place after starting the race from pole position.

After just a handful of laps in the opening race of the weekend Lawson’s Porter Group/Giltrap Group sponsored car was hit by Matteo Nannini, who tried an over ambitious move on the 18-year-old Kiwi. That damaged the radiator, oil cooler and steering on Lawson’s car.

Race 1 was won by Fredrik Vesti (PREMA Racing), who crashed out of Sunday’s race, from Theo Pouchaire (ART Grand Prix) and Oscar Piastri (PREMA Racing).

“Yesterday, we were in a good position starting from pole and having most of our championship contenders a little further back. That was the day we needed to capitalise, and unfortunately we messed up a bit with the car in the early phase of the race,” said Lawson.

“Then I got massive damage when I got collected, being torpedoed in Turn 1. From there, we had zero info on what we would normally change for Sunday. Normally, you go off what you did in the first race and make changes for the second day, and we didn’t really know.”

Sixth in the opening race put Lawson on grid five for the top-ten reverse grid race, and by mid-distance he had worked his way up to second place.

“I think today’s race was good. It’s a shame now, because there’s things that I would have loved to change on the car that would definitely have improved it for today, but I guess second is still a good result,” said Lawson at the finish, before he was handed the time penalty.

Jake Hughes (HWA Racelab) led Lawson home, then Pouchaire and current championship leader Oscar Piastri.

While Piastri and PREMA teammate Logan Sargeantm, who also crashed out of Race 2, continue to lead the championship, Lawson in fourth still has a mathematical chance of winning the title. The gap to Pouchaire in third is 9 points.

“I think it’s obviously possible to still win [the title], but it’s going to be very, very tough. It is a shame, looking back on a lot of the season, because there’s a lot of times we could have definitely pounced on a lot of the issues we had. We’d be in a really good position now, but that’s how it is.

“I guess we’ll do the best job we can in Mugello and see where we end up.”

In a season disrupted by COVID-19, the final two races will be held at the Mugello circuit in the Tuscany region next weekend. It will be the first time the FIA F3 cars have raced there.