The FIA Formula 2 Championship heads to its second street circuit event of the year, supporting this weekend’s Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix. With five different winners over the six races held to-date in 2018, Monte Carlo’s tight and twisty streets could well prove a turning point in this year’s championship battle.

The Circuit

Circuit de Monaco - 2018 Formula 2 Race of Monaco

Circuit de Monaco
Location Monte Carlo, Monaco Circuit Length 3.337 km / 2.074 mi
Opened 1929 Direction Clockwise
Capacity 37,000 Lap Record 1:19.309 – Charles Leclerc
2017 Feature Race Winner Oliver Rowland (DAMS) 2017 Sprint Race Winner Nyck de Vries (Rapax)

With overtaking opportunities at a premium and the abundance of tight, technical sections, the slightest mistake by any driver will be punished by the claustrophobic barriers, making this a true test of each driver’s skill.

Artem Markelov (RUSSIAN TIME): “Monte Carlo has a really nice atmosphere, and I always find that takes some of the pressure out of your head for the race. When you sit in the car and you’re at the steering wheel, and try to go on the first lap the feeling is a little bit scary, but after some laps that goes. I quite enjoy this track, the people are nice so it’s a great place to be. I’ve been a bit lucky with virtual safety cars in the past, but hopefully I’ll get lucky again!

“There’s definitely some tracks on the calendar which are harder on the tyres than Monaco, but the key on this circuit is getting a good flow; getting into a good rhythm and trying to repeat it all the time so you don’t make any mistakes. I find the best places to overtake at Monaco are at the Rascasse, the Nouvelle Chicane after the tunnel, and I think it’s possible at the Casino as well.”

The Event

2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship Race of Monaco – Schedule
Event Dates 24-26 May 2018 Pirelli Tyres
Free Practice Thu 09:15-10:00 Qualifying Thu 13:20-14:00
Feature Race (42 laps) Fri 11:30-12:35 Sprint Race (30 laps) Sat 17:20-18:10

Session times quoted in Central European Summer Time (UTC / GMT + 02:00)

Rewind to 2017

Friday’s Feature Race proved to be a dramatic affair. It was the race that runaway championship leader Charles Leclec – a native of Monaco – wanted to win more than ever, but the PREMA Racing driver would ultimately be denied.

The Monegasque driver had delivered a textbook performance, romping to pole and leading the field away at the start ahead of Alexander Albon and Oliver Rowland. Leclerc pulled away from the field, posting faster and faster laps to extend his lead and give himself a comfortable margin for the compulsory pit stops. A collision between Robert Vișoiu and Louis Delétraz triggered a Safety Car and Leclerc pitted, however he rejoined the track in fourth place. Worse was to come when it emerged he had a loose wheel, forcing him back into the pits as the race was restarted. He would retire soon after, bitterly disappointed to be robbed of a win on home soil. Rowland went on to claim victory, with Artem Markelov and Nobuhara Matsushita completing the podium.

Saturday’s Sprint Race was won by McLaren junior driver Nyck de Vries, who got the jump on Rapax teammate and reversed-grid pole-sitter Johnny Cecotto to lead the field into Sainte-Dévote. Cecotto was left to defend second place from Gustav Malja, with the top three finishing in that order. With his Feature Race DNF meaning he would start from P17 on the grid, Lerclerc’s home outing did not get any better. He copped a 10-second penalty for colliding with Norman Nato, and later retired from the race.

The Form Guide

The round at Monaco is a rather unique affair on the Formula 2 Championship calendar in terms of its scheduling and format. With the Formula 1 Grand Prix’s practice and qualifying split between Thursday and Saturday, that leaves the Friday for the aspiring F1 drivers to take centre stage.

Given the Circuit de Monaco’s very short lap length, qualifying takes on a two-part format that is unique to this event. Drivers are split into two groups based on their car numbering, with all even-numbered cars in one session and odd-numbered cars in the other. The fastest overall driver across the two groups will be awarded pole position, while the fastest driver in the other group will start from second place on the grid. Thereafter, the drivers in the same group as the pole-winning driver will start from the odd-numbered grid positions (third onwards), with the other qualifying group assuming the even-numbered grid slots.

The previous round in Barcelona saw Alexander Albon of DAMS take his second consecutive pole position, but the honours for victory were claimed by George Russell, who battled hard with Nyck de Vries to claim his second F2 win of the season.

Russell’s ART Grand Prix teammate Jack Aitken doubled up on honours for the French outfit in the Sprint Race, overcoming the wet/dry conditions to secure his maiden win. Lando Norris remains at the top of the Drivers’ Championship, 13 points ahead of Albon and 17 ahead of Russell.

Carlin has retained the lead of the Teams’ Championship, but ART have now slashed the deficit to 21 points. With everything to play for in Monaco, a venue unfamiliar to a number of this year’s contenders, there is the potential for plenty of change in the pecking order. The soft and supersoft tyres have been elected by Pirelli for this round, which should add another element of excitement to the races.

Monte Carlo Weather Forecast
Friday 16°C – 21°C Saturday 19°C – 24°C Sunday 21°C – 26°C

Images via FIA Formula 2 Championship

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Geoff Burke

Journalist at MotorsportM8
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