Oliver Rowland took his maiden Formula 2 win in Saturday’s dramatic feature race in Monaco. The Briton took advantage of a Safety Car period and from technical issue encountered by local hero Charles Leclerc to take victory and cut Leclerc’s title lead to just three points.
Amid concerns over his clutch, Leclerc had a scruffy getaway from pole position but held fended off a better start by Alexander Albon to hold the lead in Sainte Devote. From there he built a gap to second-placed Albon as the pair exchanged fastest laps until Nicholas Latifi retired his car in the tunnel and brought out the Safety Car.
Albon quickly reacted by pitting for the Super Soft compound tyre, emerging in seventh while Leclerc opted to stay out. Now having to build a gap to Albon who was on the faster compound, Leclerc was on a mission, quickly pulling six seconds clear of Rowland and setting blistering lap times, before series returnee Robert Vișoiu and Louis Delétraz collided going into Mirabeau, ushering another Safety Car period.
PREMA was forced to react this time and pitted Leclerc just before the safety car procedure slowed the cars down, but his gap to Rowland was insufficient and he emerged in fourth behind Rowland, Artem Markelov and Nobuhara Matsushita, who had all pitted under Safety Car conditions and emerged ahead of the Monegasque driver.
To make matters worse for Leclerc, a suspension failure meant he was forced to stop for repairs and to retire a lap later. This meant that Rowland’s lead was only challenged by Markelov in second and after the Safety Car was pulled in, Rowland had to keep the Russian behind.
Markelov was unable to make a move, crossing the line just eight-tenths of a second behind an ecstatic Rowland, who managed to counter his traditional poor luck to a maiden victory at the season’s highest-profile race.
Matsushita’s calm and cunning drive carried him to a podium finish in third, ahead of Alexander Albon in fourth as the Thai’s strategy was compromised by the second safety car period.
Luca Ghiotto made use of a converse Super Soft/Soft strategy and a number of brazen overtaking moves to climb up to fifth, ahead of Gustav Malja in sixth, Nyck de Vries in seventh and Johnny Cecotto Jr. who will start Saturday’s Sprint Race from reversed-grid pole after finishing eighth.
Jordan King and Sergio Canamasas rounded up the top ten while PREMA is under investigation for release Leclerc’s car from the pits in an unsafe condition.
Rowland’s points tally from this race pus him on 74 points in the Drivers’ Championship, just three behind Leclerc’s 77, while Markelov sits third with 52 points.
The sprint race starts on Saturday at 16:10 local time (GMT +2).
|2017 FIA Formula 2 Championship Race of Monaco – Feature Race Final Classification (41 laps)|
|2.||Artem Markelov||Russian Time||41||+ 0.864||18|
|3.||Nobuharu Matsushita||ART Grand Prix||41||+ 13.769||15|
|4.||Alexander Albon||ART Grand Prix||41||+ 19.738||12|
|5.||Luca Ghiotto||Russian Time||41||+ 24.657||10|
|6.||Gustav Malja||Racing Engineering||41||+ 28.082||8|
|7.||Nyck de Vries||Rapax||41||+ 28.453||6|
|8.||Johnny Cecotto Jr.||Rapax||41||+ 29.125||4|
|9.||Jordan King||MP Motorsport||41||+ 45.552||2|
|10.||Sergio Canamasas||Trident||41||+ 46.581||1|
|11.||Antonio Fuoco||PREMA Racing||41||+ 47.818|
|12.||Ralph Boschung||Campos Racing||41||+ 50.772|
|13.||Sean Galeal||Pertamina Arden||41||+ 53.964|
|14.||Nabil Jeffri||Trident||40||+ 1 lap|
|15.||Louis Delétraz||Racing Engineering||39||+ 2 laps|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Sérgio Sette Câmara||MP Motorsport||33||Mechanical||4^|
|DNF.||Charles Leclerc||PREMA Racing||26||Suspension|
|DNF.||Norman Nato||Pertamina Arden||23||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Robert Vișoiu||Campos Racing||20||Collision|
* For claiming pole position for the Feature Race (4 pts)
^ For posting the fastest lap of the race and finishing inside the top-ten (2 pts)
Image via FIA Formula 2 Championship