VICTORY FOR YVAN MULLER AS JOSÉ MARÍA LÓPEZ CLAIMS TITLE*!
Despite the overnight rainfall, the track had dried by the time the sun was high in the Motegi sky. The stiflingly hot and humid conditions nonetheless made conditions difficult for the drivers.
In the opening race, Yvan Muller and José María López started from ninth and tenth positions on the grid. When the lights went out, the Citroën Total drivers moved through the field and up into seventh and eighth places. A few corners later, Yvan also managed to grab sixth place from Tom Chilton. It wasn’t long before Pechito followed suit!
Yvan then tried to find a way past Nick Catsburg. This gave Pechito a chance to close on and overtake his team-mate after a minor coming together. Shortly afterwards, Catsburg’s determined defence was breached and the two team-mates set off in pursuit of Thed Bjork, who suffered the same fate!
Fourth and fifth respectively, López and Muller obtained the best possible result given their starting positions. The scored important points towards both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ World Championships.
After the damaged bodywork components were quickly replaced, the two works Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs lined up on the front row of the start grid for the main race.
Pechito made a perfect start to enter the first corner ahead of Yvan. Setting a blistering pace for the rest of the field, the two men wasted little time in moving clear. In truth, the two leaders were very comfortable at the front as they headed towards a one-two finish.
But with two laps to go, the no. 37 Citroën C-Elysée WTCC moved aside to let the no. 68 car past. Certain to win the title by finishing as runner-up, José María López handed victory to his team-mate.
For the first time this season, Yvan Muller therefore crossed the finishing line as the race winner. This enabled him to draw level with Tiago Monteiro in second place in the Drivers’ World Championship.
Second-placed Pechito López scored enough points to claim a third consecutive drivers’ title, as he now has an unassailable 120-point lead.
In the Manufacturers’ standings, Citroën moved a little bit closer to a sixteenth world title, having already won five Cross Country Rally World Cups, eight World Rally Championships and two World Touring Car Championships. The next round, held in Shanghai (24-25 September), should prove decisive!
NATO GRABS THE SPRINT RACE VICTORY AT MONZA
When the lights went out poleman Mitch Evans had a poor getaway while Jordan King looked to have claimed the lead from P2, but his Racing Engineering teammate had other ideas: Nato eased up the inside into Turn 1 to steal the top spot, while behind them Luca Ghiotto was squeezed between Evans and a fast starting Gasly, with the Red Bull tester nabbing P3 ahead of his rivals.
The field headed for Della Roggia together, and it was soon clear that they were too close: Oliver Rowland tapped Ghiotto into a spin and retirement (picking up a 10 second penalty for the move), with Gustav Malja similarly pushing Evans out of the race (and picking up the same penalty) before also knocking an element off Giovinazzi’s front wing as he looked to get away again, prompting a brief VSC period to remove the stricken cars.
When the race ran live again on lap 2 the order at the front was Nato from King, Gasly, Malja, Giovinazzi and Nobuharu Matsushita, with the Italian quickly taking revenge by claiming the Swede’s scalp on lap 5. The PREMA pair were on their usual hot pace as Gasly hunted down King for lap after lap before striking on lap 9: the Frenchman went outside into Turn 1 to be inside for the chicane exit, before running side by side all the way to Della Roggia for the inside line and P2.
Further back Markelov was repeating his weekend long speed, making short work of mugging Matsushita for P6 and looking for more, as King slowly fell back into his rivals clutches: Giovinazzi eventually stole his podium on lap 17 at Turn 1. Malja was pushing the Briton all round the track, finally getting side by side with him up to Della Roggia on the final lap before cutting the corner, handing a run to the Russian. Up front Nato, Gasly and Giovinazzi ran their own pace to fill the podium, while King just denied P4 to Markelov despite a lunge at the line. Malja’s time penalty promoted Alex Lynn to 6th after mugging Matsushita on the line, while Nicholas Latifi grabbed the final point of the race.
Gasly rebuilt his lead in the drivers’ standings over teammate Giovinazzi a little, leaving Monza with a lead of 174 points to 164, while Marciello remains third on 138 ahead of Sergey Sirotkin on 115 points, King on 112 and Nato on 107, while in the teams’ standings PREMA Racing pulls further away from RUSSIAN TIME, 338 points to 224, ahead of Racing Engineering on 219 points and ART Grand Prix on 175 as thoughts turn to the penultimate round of the season in Malaysia.
De VRIES TAKES HIS MAIDEN WIN AT MONZA
Aitken had a look at his teammate Dennis on the penultimate lap but had to run wide at T1 and lost ground. Meanwhile, De Vries’ lead was up to almost 2s as he continued to lead the field. Maini saved the best until last when he passed Palou on the final lap to grab sixth place.
JENSON BUTTON WON’T RACE IN F1 IN 2017, BUT COULD STILL RETURN IN 2018…REALLY!
Stoffel Vandoorne confirmed as Fernando Alonso’s team-mate at McLaren in 2017; McLaren retain option on Button for 2018
“I definitely need a break,” Button told a news conference. “In 2018 the team have an option for me to drive.”
McLaren described the new arrangement as a “innovative three-driver strategy” which keeps all three drivers on their books for at least another season.
“There is no reason why he [Button] shouldn’t come back and race in 2018,” said McLaren chairman Ron Dennis.
“This is an innovative way of keeping all the advantages by having Jenson still in the team.
“We will see where are in a year. Jenson doesn’t have a desire to drive for other F1 teams. He had offers from other teams for next season but rejected them.
GIOVINAZZI WINS AT MONZA
When the lights went out all eyes were on poleman Pierre Gasly, who eased away from the fight for P2 between Artem Markelov and Arthur Pic, which saw the Frenchman come off worse and cut the first chicane before returning ahead of the Russian, his countryman Sergey Sirotkin, teammates Jordan King and Norman Nato and local hero Luca Ghiotto, while behind them Giovinazzi only just avoided the stalled car of Sean Gelael before heading on his way once again.
Nato made short work of passing his teammate and Sirotkin to get a better view of the spat between Pic and Markelov, which saw the pair struggling with the first corner as their soft tyres wore down: Marciello and Giovinazzi started on the harder compound and were soon moving forward as their rivals pitted, with the latter easily slicing through his way through the field to close up to his countryman. Up front Gasly was able to easily pull away from his rivals even he had to observe the rules of physics as he finally pitted on lap 12, easily emerging ahead of his pitted rivals and around 20 seconds behind new race leader Marciello.
As the Red Bull man made inroads into the gap up to the front it became clear that the Italian would not be able to pit and return within the ever shrinking gap, but on lap 15 Pic tried to overtake Sergio Canamasas on the inside of Parabolica, with the pair coming together and the Spaniard pitched into a lurid roll: both drivers were out on the spot, and the safety car boards were shown immediately.
The top three on track (Marciello, Malja and Giovinazzi) still had to pit, and took the opportunity to come in as soon as possible: unfortunately for their rivals the safety car didn’t stop in front of the trio as they reemerged but instead in front of Gasly, taking a few laps to deal with the stricken cars before waving the field through and taking up station in front of Marciello, who was able to save rubber on his new soft compounds for when it really mattered, the race restart and the closing laps.
The field took up position behind the trio for a lap 23 restart, and to add a degree of complication the lapped Gelael was between Giovinazzi and Gasly on track, giving the field someone else to overtake as the laps remaining rolled down to zero. Marciello controlled the restart despite pressure from Malja into the first chicane, and with two laps remaining Giovinazzi finally pushed past the Swede on the front straight for P2. With little to lose he then muscled his way by his countryman on the final lap, locked up enormously into the chicane but just held position before tearing away to win by 1.4 seconds at the flag, with Malja a fine third half a second back.
Behind them Gasly was gutted to have lost what looked to be his win, but held on despite enormous late pressure for P4. Behind him countryman Nato crossed the line side by side with Ghiotto, who made a last corner bid for glory but stayed 6th despite finishing with the same time as his rival, ahead of King and with Mitch Evans hanging on for P8 and tomorrow’s pole despite a late charge from Oliver Rowland and Markelov, who had to make do with 9th and 10th respectively.
Gasly will at least have the comfort of maintaining the lead in the drivers’ standings over teammate Giovinazzi, although the Italian has now closed the gap to 8 points, 162 to 154, ahead of Marciello on 138 points, Sirotkin on 115 and Rowland on 106 points ahead of tomorrow morning’s Sprint Race.