A brilliant start for Davide Valsecchi at the start of the Monza sprint race on Sunday morning set up a fourth win of the season that means that the Italian driver comes out of this weekend with a convincing lead in the drivers' championship, and very much in control of the title fight going into the final round in Singapore in a fortnight.
Valsecchi's launch off the starting grid as the lights went out proved crucial, as he was able to take advantage of massive wheel spin for polesitter Stefano Coletti in the Rapax. The DAMS car dived straight through the middle of Coletti and iSport's Jolyon Palmer to take the lead, with Racing Engineering's Fabio Leimer trying to follow Valsecchi's lead and finally managing to dispatch Coletti for second place through the first chicane.
Meanwhile on the outside line Marcus Ericsson strayed completely onto the grass verge in order to avoid piling into the rear end of Leimer's car. He found his iSport had no stopping power at all out there, and he straightlined the chicane entirely forcing him to hand back a bunch of positions to the leaders and battle it out with his team mate Palmer when he dropped back in line.
Contact with the back wheel of Leimer's car in the first run through Rettifilo had left Stefano Coletti with damage to the Coloni's front wing that meant that he was unable to hold off the attentions of Palmer for third place on lap 2, but he regrouped and thwarted Ericsson's own aspirations to get past all the way through to lap 16, when Coletti misjudged a half-move on Palmer into the first chicane, ran over the curbs and ended up having to yield the position to Ericsson.
Sniffing a podium chance, Ericsson now took the battle to his iSport team mate Palmer. Next time through the chicane the pair went into the corner side-by-side and both ended up slithering over the curbs, which seemed to dampen their combative zeal for the time being; two laps later and Coletti was able to pull off a nice move on Ericsson to reclaim fourth position from the Swede again, as everyone started to struggle on their worn tyres.
Behind this battle was a growing gaggle of cars engrossed in their own battles, with Johnny Cecotto Jr. tangling with Max Chilton and Julian Leal feuding with Sergio Canamasas, which included Leal getting fully airborne over the curbs at Roggia when he overshot the second part of the chicane as the two fought tooth and nail over the final championship point in the final laps.
Up front, nothing had come close to deposing Valsecchi from the lead ever since that superb start, even though Leimer had kept him honest throughout and the margin between the two was never more than half a second. Palmer dropped off the battle for the lead while preoccupied with his spat with Ericsson, but still managed to stay in third place to the chequered flag to win the final spot on the podium.
The battle for fourth place had one more chapter to be written: Ericsson made a final attempt to claim the position on the last lap, going wheel-to-wheel with Coletti through Ascari only to run slightly wide and lose not only his shootout with the Coloni, but also two more places to Cecotto and Chilton who had been right behind the scrap. Ericsson would finish in seventh place as a result of the shakeout, but at least he could walk away knowing he'd gone for it.
By contrast to Valsecchi's well-timed success at the sharp end of the grid, it was another miserable day for Arden's Luiz Razia. Having failed to finish the feature race on Saturday after a clash with Leimer at Roggia, Razia had been handed a grid penalty for causing the collision which put him at the back of the grid for the start of the second race of the weekend. Ironically that put him alongside Valsecchi's DAMS team mate Felipe Nasr, who had also clashed with Leimer on Saturday and similarly come away with a grid penalty for his pains.