I started eighth, dropped to ninth, but then fought up to the podium in front of the Italian Grand Prix crowd. I said to my DAMS engineer on the radio after the race that I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to finish third!
I came to Monza knowing I had a three-place grid penalty hanging over me from the previous weekend at Spa. But Monza is a track where you can overtake, so I was pretty confident. Straight away I was fastest in free practice.
'We worked a lot over the summer break on our one-lap pace ... it was good at Spa, and at Monza our form was like the final sign-off for what we’d worked on.'
Unfortunately qualifying was a bit of a mess, with a late red flag and lots of traffic. We did a drive-through in the pit lane to get out of traffic, but we should have known in hindsight that when the pit lane is empty you're going to be at risk of being called to the weighbridge, and that's what happened to us. After the red flag there was time for one flying lap, and this was my fifth lap on my set of tyres... I was at the front of the queue, so I knew I wouldn't get a tow, which is crucial at Monza. But apart from one small mistake at the last corner it was a good lap and fifth was the best we could hope for in the circumstances – although obviously that became eighth on the grid with my penalty.
We’ve also been working on starts and, although mine were better at Monza and more consistent, they’re still not quite there. Also, my team-mate Kevin Jorg had an oil-sensor problem on the first lap, I got stuck right behind him, and now I was ninth…
I got back up to eighth before we had an early safety car, and after that I could see that those of us in the top eight had broken away from the pack. I didn’t want to start fighting straight away and risk the second group catching us, so I bided my time. And then I picked them off one by one.
It was almost unfair how quickly I could catch them all! My car was working brilliantly, I set fastest lap and it felt like I could outbrake anyone from anywhere. Into the closing stages I’d got up to third, including passing all four ART Grand Prix guys, and now I only had Jake Dennis and Jack Aitken in the Arden cars in front. But by this stage I’d lost the best from the tyres. I caught Jack with a lap to go, but he made a small move to defend the first chicane and I decided then that I wasn’t going to risk going for second unless he made a really big mistake.
Third place put me sixth on the reversed grid for the sprint race, and I was just a few metres into this when I got a big hit from Jack that sent me airborne. I think he might have been reacting to something else, but what can you do? I'd just been steering dead straight. I think my hand must have hit the pit limiter button because that kicked in, and I was last by the time I got to the first chicane.
There was quite a bit of suspension damage that made it very hard to drive, but I still managed to come through to 10th. That was better than not finishing, but I knew I could have been fighting for the win if everything had gone well. We're not in the hunt for the championship now, so all I want is the accolade of wins, poles and fastest laps.
Next up is Sepang in Malaysia in a month's time. I've not even driven it on the sim, but with two long straights it should mean good racing for GP3. I'm really looking forward to it.