Joel Eriksson preserved his FIA Formula 3 European Championship lead at Monza this weekend, clinching his second win of the season.
Eriksson had seized the early championship initiative thanks to a successful opening round at Silverstone two weeks ago, and proved that his UK form was no fluke by powering to a set of pole positions and a dramatic race win as the field regrouped in Italy.
After opening up proceedings with fourth place in the first of the weekend’s trio of races, the 18-year-old Swede came to the fore in qualifying for races two and three, snatching pole position for both encounters – at a track he was racing at for the first time of his career.
Eriksson then sealed a lights-to-flag win in Race 2, but it wasn’t without drama: the Team Motopark racer first surviving a brief scare as he ran over debris at the Lesmos on lap three, and then overcoming late pressure from nearest championship rival Lando Norris (GBR) in the closing stages.
”This is actually a bit of a dream coming true for me,” says Joel Eriksson. ”I’ve always wanted to win a race at Monza; it’s such a legendary and fast track, so this is definitely a special achievement. It was a very good race for us and it went perfectly according to plan. I was pacing myself after opening up a small gap in the first few laps, and even though Lando came pretty close in the end, I always felt in control.”
Again on pole for Race 3, Eriksson was looking to repeat his winning formula, but a poorer start dropped him down the order and left him in fifth place after the first couple of laps.
He swiftly overtook Ferrari F1 protégé Guan Yu Zhou (CHN) for fourth, however, and had dragged himself alongside Maximilian Günther (GER) in a fight over the final podium position when he got pushed wide on the entry to the first chicane and was forced to dive down the escape road.
The incident meant Eriksson lost touch with Günther, eventually coming home in a solitary fourth place.
In testament to his continued strong pace, Eriksson – who takes away a slender one-point championship lead from Monza – set the fastest lap of the race.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect to be leading the championship after these first two rounds,” Eriksson admits. “Both Silverstone and Monza were brand new tracks to me, and the team had limited data from them too, so I have to say this actually exceeds my expectations at this very point of the season. From now on, we’ll be going to circuits that I know, and that is going to be helpful – although I’m certainly not taking anything for granted. We have to keep working hard to make sure we can continue to win as many races as possible.”
The next round of the FIA F3 European Championship takes place on the narrow streets of Pau (France) on May 19-21.
RESULTS (top five)
FIA F3 European Championship | Rd. 2
1: Lando Norris (GBR), 20 laps
2: Jehan Daruvala (IND), +0.649s
3: Ferdinand Habsburg (AUT), +5.360s
4: Joel Eriksson (SWE), +5.803s
5: Guan Yu Zhou (CHN), +17.245s
1: Joel Eriksson (SWE), 20 laps
2: Lando Norris (GBR), +0.735s
3: Mick Schumacher (GER), +9.037s
4: Maximilian Günther (GER), +13.533s
5: Ferdinand Habsburg (AUT), +14.829s
1: Callum Ilott (GBR), 20 laps
2: Lando Norris (GBR), +0.736s
3: Maximilian Günther (GER), +2.705s
4: Joel Eriksson (SWE), +9.074s
5: Ferdinand Habsburg (AUT), +9.762s
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (top five)
After 6 of 30 races
1: Joel Eriksson (SWE), 104 p.
2: Lando Norris (GBR), 103 p.
3: Callum Ilott (GBR), 76 p.
4: Maximilian Günther (GER), 72 p.
5: Mick Schumacher (GER), 43 p.