Luck didn't go Jack Doohan's way on a chaotic FIA Formula 2 weekend at the Italian Grand Prix, the Australian's alternative tyre strategy for Sunday's 30-lap Feature race at Monza advancing him to sixth place, but seeing him drop out of title contention.
Jack arrived in Italy with an outside chance of staying alive in the title fight until the last round in Abu Dhabi after Feature wins in Budapest and Spa either side of the mid-season break put him right back in the hunt. But qualifying at Monza saw the Invicta Virtuosi Racing driver stuck down in 14th place on the grid after a messy session where drivers continually looked to find a slipstream, which saw several front-runners, including Jack, qualify well out of position.
Jack advanced to ninth place from 14th in Saturday's 21-lap Sprint race, and with nothing to lose on Sunday, started the 30-lap Feature with the alternative tyre strategy, using the medium-compound Pirelli rubber for the opening stint.
The race was continually interrupted by safety cars, with five stoppages seeing the field rarely get into a rhythm. Jack advanced to second when he elected not to change tyres during the second safety car period on lap seven, and eventually swapped his medium tyres for supersofts for a charge to the finish during the fourth safety car period on lap 23.
Jack vaulted from 11th to seventh within two laps when racing resumed, but a fifth safety car on the penultimate lap put an end to his chances of progressing further. He finished seventh on the road, but was elevated one place when Dutchman Richard Verschoor (Van Amersfoort Racing) was given a five-second penalty for an unsafe release in a pit stop.
"It was a difficult weekend," Jack said.
"Unfortunately we had a problem out of our control that was making us lose a lot of time and a lot of performance, it was a little bit difficult to manage but there wasn't much we could do.
"I had to just get on with it and try to take opportunities from others making mistakes, because it was very difficult to overtake. All in all, to get P6 (in the Feature) was major damage limitation. I was pretty happy we were able to do that.
"I think we spent at least half, if not more, of the 30 laps under the safety car, which is quite crazy. From P14, fighting forward on the alternative strategy, we really lost out massively with the three long safety cars happening in the first half of the race, meaning we had no advantage whatsoever. We had a tyre advantage at the end so I was at least able to get through to finish P6, but that was with one-and-a-half laps of live racing, so slightly annoying."
Eight points for sixth place in the Feature weren't enough to keep Jack in mathematical contention for the title, falling 53 points behind series leader Theo Pourchaire (ART) with a maximum of 39 points available in the season finale in Abu Dhabi in late November.
FIA Formula 2 World Championship: Round 12 Italy results
Sprint race (21 laps): Started 14th, finished 9th
Feature race (30 laps): Started 14th, finished 6th
2023 F2 World Championship standings: 138 points (4th overall)
Next F2 event: Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi (November 25-26)