Second on Saturday paves way for double points finishArthur Pic produced a stunning display in round nine of the 2014 GP2 Series campaign at Monza last weekend (September 5-7) to claim his second podium of the season in Saturday’s Feature Race before following it up with seventh on Sunday. The Frenchman signalled his intent from the word go at the Italian Grand Prix venue, known as the Cathedral of Speed due to its ultra-fast layout, by topping the timesheets during Friday morning’s free practice. And he maintained that form in the afternoon’s qualifying session when his subsequent benchmark was only bettered in the dying moments. But despite missing out on a maiden GP2 pole position, second place still represented the 22-year-old’s best grid slot of the year. Come the start of Saturday’s Feature Race, Pic’s decent getaway immediately helped him threaten pole-sitter Stoffel Vandoorne as they ran down to the tight first chicane. While the Campos Racing driver’s attempt didn’t quite yield the hoped-for result, it did provide the McLaren protégé ahead with a good insight of what was to come over the next 30 laps. Shod with the medium compound tyres, Arthur delivered a strong first stint by matching the leader’s pace while comfortably keeping 2012 GP3 champion Mitch Evans at arm’s length behind. Indeed, such was his pace that Pic still emerged a net second from his mandatory pit-stop on lap 13 despite losing a couple of seconds.On new tyres he wasted no time making up the lost ground by gradually hunting down Vandoorne ahead. While Arthur proved the faster in sectors one and three, the Belgian’s extra downforce was enough to give him some breathing space through the middle part of the lap. This seesaw battle between the two GP2 rookies would last the entire race, with Pic maintaining the pressure on his rival right up until the chequered flag where just six tenths separated them. Second on Saturday translated into seventh on Sunday’s partially reversed Sprint Race grid, from where Pic once again made a solid start and held position before an accident further back prompted a Safety Car period. Once racing resumed, it wasn’t long before Arthur was involved in a fierce three-car tussle involving GP2 veteran Jon Lancaster and Williams F1 reserve driver Felipe Nasr. Although Lancaster initially got past, Pic quickly replied by stunning the Briton with a commanding high-speed move down the inside at Parabolica. That prompted the Hilmer Motorsport man to exceed track limits on the run down the start/finish straight in his attempt to reclaim the place. Although successful on track, stewards later applied a post-race 20-second penalty for the unfair pass. Pic was able to maintain a strong pace thereafter to come across the line eighth, before Lancaster’s penalty moved him up one spot in the final result. “I’m very happy with our overall performance at Monza,” explained Arthur afterwards. “We were on the pace right from free practice and the car proved competitive throughout the whole weekend. It’s a shame that I caught some traffic in qualifying as we certainly had the speed to secure pole position. “We went with a different set-up to our main rivals so the car had less downforce. On Saturday I managed to stay close to Stoffel until the very end but he didn’t make any mistakes so I never really had a proper shot at overtaking him. Nevertheless, I was still delighted to claim my second podium of the season. “We were slightly less competitive on Sunday but still succeeded in scoring more valuable points after a great battle. But I definitely think we’re now back in the groove after our slight blip at Spa. It’s up to us to carry that momentum into the next event.”Pic’s GP2 Series campaign continues next month (October 10-12) when the championship travels to Russia for the first time, with the Sochi Autodrom hosting the 10th and penultimate round of the season.