McLaren-Honda Formula 1 junior Lando Norris took honours in an epic Formula 3 European Championship opener at Monza after dropping as low as fifth at the start.

Norris, the 2016 McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner, wriggled through the field in a classic Monza slipstreamer, passing Carlin team-mate Jake Dennis for second place on lap seven of 20 at the Roggia chicane, with Dennis having to run down the escape road.

While the battling had been going on, polesitting Force India protege Jehan Daruvala had pulled out a 2.5-second advantage in his Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen.

But Norris began chipping away at the Indian's advantage, and within six laps he was in Daruvala's tow.

The move came at the beginning of the 16th lap, with Norris pulling off a well-judged pass into the Rettifilo chicane.

But Daruvala did not let his team-mate get away, keeping the pressure on and finishing 0.649s adrift, although he was struggling at the Ascari chicane and Parabolica so could never quite get close enough for a proper retaliation.

"I didn't get the best of starts, again," said Norris, who now jointly leads the championship with Joel Eriksson, "but I kept my head down and tried to catch Jehan.

"It was pretty tough, it took quite some laps, but I got a good exit from the last corner and into his slipstream, although I still had to defend into the second chicane."

Once Dennis had been passed by the fourth Carlin car of Ferdinand Habsburg and the Motopark machine of Eriksson, he fell back into a frantic scrap for fifth.

Ahead of him, Eriksson faced a four-second deficit to the duo in front but, far from making inroads on the fighting leaders, he was forced to defend from Habsburg, and the Austrian got through with four laps remaining to complete an all-Carlin podium.

Dennis, who at present is only in the Carlin team for the first three rounds, dropped away from the leading quartet and made life difficult for lead Prema Powerteam driver Callum Ilott.

That in turn allowed Ilott's team-mates Mick Schumacher and Guan Yu Zhou into the bunch, and it was Zhou who emerged to take fifth from the sister Prema cars of Schumacher and Maximilian Gunther.

Ilott finished down in ninth, sandwiched between the Hitech GP machines of Ralf Aron and Jake Hughes.

Meanwhile, Dennis - who seemed to lack pace once the leading quartet had got through - finally dropped out of this battle when Gunther punted him up the Rettifilo escape road, the Briton retiring to the pits next time around.

11:34 am
April 2017