Tatiana Calderon out of Monza race 1
F2 racer Tatiana Calderon retired from the feature race in Monza, in a very difficult weekend for Arden Motorsport.
One week after the tragic events at Spa Francorchamps, Formula 2 resumed the track action in Monza, Italy, for this weekend's Italian Grand Prix.
Tatiana Calderon faced Arden Motorsport toughest week as the team's single entry in Monza, with also Sauber Jr Team by Charouz and Trident lining up a single car in the aftermath of the Belgian GP horrific crash. Charouz (and Sauber development program driver alongside Calderon) Juan Manuel Correa is still recovering in ICU and was transferred to London in the previous days.
In a hugely rain-affected Friday, Calderon could not complete a single qualifying lap after a series of constant red flag situations. She later ended her qualifying efforts in the gravel at Variante Ascari and was forced to start from the back of the grid in 16th place.
With championship leader Nyck De Vries stripped of his 4th place due to a fuel infringement, the ART driver had to line up on the last row alongside Calderon.
It was the usual frantic Monza start, with first-time poleman Callum Ilott managing to stay ahead after the dreaded first chicane, and most of the field managing to complete the first lap relatively unscathed. Nikita Mazepin was squeezed under braking and had to take the escape road at the first corner, losing many places in the process and having to pit for a new front wing. Calderon opted for a cautious approach and turned last but without damages.
Ilott led Zhou and Matsushita after the first lap, but the Chinese Virtuosi driver went deep into Prima Variante, making the way for the fast charging DAMS drivers behind. Deletraz spun at the same corner and retired.
Tatiana Calderon managed to pass Raghunathan and brought herself up to P14, while Matsushita attacked Ilott for the lead in some action-packed first few laps. The Japanese made the move stick at La Roggia chicane after a stunning side by side battle.
At lap 5, Calderon spun at the second chicane and had to retire. A very unfortunate race for the Colombian,who will start tomorrow's second race from 16th on the grid.
Pit stops started as soon as lap 6, with Ilott, Sette Camara and Zhou taking the way of the pitlane to switch on the prime tyres. Matsushita and Latifi pitted one lap later, as the Canadian championship contender locked-up heavily at the pit entry.
This paved the way to Ghiotto, King and Schumacher, as they climbed the order and went into the top positions, having opted for the alternate strategy.
With home hero Ghiotto in the lead, Schumacher overtook King for second, as the Brit made a small mistake at the exit of Parabolica.
Nicholas Latifi found himself in a favourable position with championship rival De Vries having to recover through the field, but the Canadian saw his advantage disappear when he engaged in a fierce battle with Zhou: the two made contact under braking at La Roggia, leaving Latifi with a damaged front wing and Zhou with a punctured rear-right tyre. De Vries, in the meantime, had already climbed the order until P9.
Mick Schumacher started losing power on the main straight, losing many places. He limped back to the pits and the Prema engineers worked extensively around the engine area before sending the German out on track again, six laps down.
Sette Camara received a 5 seconds penalty for cutting the second chicane during his battle with De Vries, before the Dutchman went past the Brazilian on the main straight soon after. Meanwhile, Matsushita and Ilott battled for a very important 5th place: they will later ragain the top two positions when Ghiotto and King eventually pitted for their mandatory pit-stop.
Ghiotto was looking good to make the alternate strategy work, but had a slow stop and lost precious seconds, allowing Matsushita to retake the lead. King and Aitken also dived into the pitlane to switch on the softer compound, leaving De Vries in an impressive third place.
Started from 17th, the championship leader moved past Ilott, but started to worry about Ghiotto's remarkable comeback as the Italian gained almost two seconds per lap on his competitors. When he did catch the group ahead of him, Luca passed Sette Camara on the main straight and Ilott at Ascari. His blistering pace allowed the Italian to replicate the same move one lap later on De Vries, who avoided risks at all costs.
Matsushita, 7 seconds ahead, safely made it through the chequered flag, winning his sixth race in the series ahead of Luca Ghiotto and Nyck De Vries. The Ducthman turned a difficult Friday into a masterful drive, bringing home a podium and taking his championship lead to 49 points over Nicholas Latifi.
Jack Aitken takes P8 and reverse grid pole for tomorrow's sprint race, and Indian driver Mahaveer Raghunathan scored his first championship point with 10th.
In a very emotional podium ceremony, the French anthem was played in honour of Anthoine Hubert, as most of the Formula 2 community holded back tears under the iconic Monza rostrum.
The second race of the weekend will go green tomorrow at 10:50 local time, with Colombian Calderon looking forward to score her first top-10 of the season.
Ph credits: Formula 2 media