ROAD TO F1: Markelov shines as Norris extends F2 championship lead
The fourth round of the Formula 2 championship took place on the tight and twisty streets of Monte Carlo, and it proved to be a weekend of relentless action. While a number of F1 hopefuls will want to put this edition immediately behind them, it will be fondly remembered by others…
Where do we start? For those who expected 42 laps of excitement, they got their wish. This race had everything – first-lap crashes, two Safety Car periods, superb fightbacks and pit-stop entry collisions. And on a track notoriously tricky to overtake on, there were plenty of positions gained too.
It was Artem Markelov who took the victory for Russian Time, winning his second F2 race of the season in impressive fashion. A lap-15 collision between leader Alexander Albon and second-placed Nyck de Vries on pit entry (as shown below) allowed him to move into P1 and from that moment on, he produced a masterclass to increase his initial 1.9s advantage to 10.7s at the chequered flag.
Markelov's nearest rival was Prema’s Sean Gelael, who himself came up with an extraordinary drive to gain 10 places in Friday’s opening race, finishing ahead of MP Motorsport's Roberto Merhi in third.
Behind the top three, Carlin’s Lando Norris bounced back from a drive-through penalty – handed to him after he knocked Ralph Boschung into the barriers – to again demonstrate his ability with a sensational performance, moving up 11 places to go from 17th on the grid to sixth.
It was, however, a disappointing day for Norris’ fellow Brit George Russell, who won the feature race last time out in Spain. The Mercedes junior, driving in this F2 series for Art Grand Prix, saw his race come to an end on lap seven when he hit the wall at La Rascasse, having botched an overtake on Nirei Fukuzumi.
Chaotic. That’s the only way to describe Saturday’s race, with just ten of the 19 cars running at the chequered flag in Monte Carlo. Ferrari junior Antonio Fuoco was the victorious driver, taking Charouz Racing's maiden F2 win – but he was made to work hard by McLaren protege Norris.
After the race, Fuoco and Norris were both hit with time penalties for breaching Virtual Safety Car (VSC) regulations, with the former deducted 0.8s - but he retained his sprint race win. Norris, however, saw a 1.1s penalty drop him to P3, with Louis Deletraz moving up to second and ultimately securing a one-two result for Charouz.
Similar to Friday's feature race, there were a host of incidents behind the podium finishers. Jack Aitken became the first retirement when a throttle pedal sensor broke on his ART, forcing him out in the opening lap. Gelael then clipped the kerb (as shown below), subsequently becoming airborne and smashing into the barriers, an incident that triggered the first of three Safety Car periods.
Elsewhere, Russell suffered another DNF after the Brit hit the kerb and collided with the wall in the Swimming Pool section. And with four laps remaining, Albon attempted a move on Roy Nissany on the exit of the tunnel – but collided with the back of his rival’s car, forcing both drivers to retire.
It capped off a crazy F2 weekend in Monte Carlo.
DRIVER OF THE WEEKEND – Artem Markelov
What a weekend for the Russian, pictured below during the feature race. He weathered drama and a pair of Safety Car periods to secure victory in the feature race by an impressive 10.7s margin. He followed up on that performance with another impressive drive on Saturday, reminding us again that overtaking is possible in Monte Carlo.
He made a fine move on Arjun Maini at La Rascasse and was then involved in an enthralling cat-and-mouse tussle with Deletraz throughout the race. Ultimately he was unable to get ahead of the Charouz driver, but his bravery certainly kept us on the edge of our seats. On a weekend when many of his title rivals ran into trouble, Markelov kept his nose clean – helping him move up to second in the standings.
THE KEY QUOTE
“I think we showed we have good pace throughout the weekend. Yesterday (Friday) we were a bit unlucky with the drive-through, I think what I did was a bit much on Ghiotto, but we got the drive-through and managed to finish P8 so today we started from the front. Throughout the race we had good pace, I managed to keep Lando behind. I saw him pushing to close up but everything was under control. So I’m very happy, and I’m happy for the team because we finished with both cars on the podium today. This is an excellent result for the whole team.” - Antonio Fuoco, shown below celebrating his win.
Norris sits on an impressive 98 points to extend his F2 championship lead, with Markelov and Albon completing the top three on 71 points each. ART duo Russell and Aitken make up the top five, sitting on 62 and 49 points respectively.
|2||Artem Markelov||Russian Time||71|
The next F2 double-header takes place in support of the French Grand Prix, which runs from June 22-24.
For more information on the FIA Formula 2 Championship, click here.