The glamour and drama of Monte Carlo welcomes the fourth round of the 2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship, two weeks after the season’s exciting third instalment in Barcelona.
|Circuit de Monaco|
|Location||Monte Carlo, Monaco||Circuit Length||3.337 km / 2.074 mi|
|Opened||1929||First F2 Race||1998 (as International F3000)|
|Direction||Clockwise||Lap Record||1:19.309 – Charles Leclerc – 2017|
|2018 Pole Position
||Alexander Albon||2018 Race Winners
||Artem Markelov (Feature)
Antonio Fuoco (Sprint)
“It’s Monaco! It’s a very special and unique place. It’s a street circuit, which are always very challenging, and it’s very different to other tracks because it only has one kind of trajectory. Unlike the other street circuit on the calendar – Baku, in Monaco you have one line and as soon as you’re out of that the risk of you crashing becomes very high.
“It’s a very challenging track, and also very physical. It’s mentally draining during the race, but at the same time it’s also a very special place because nothing is like Monaco.
“Track position is crucial because overtaking is so difficult, so Qualifying is important. However, everyone always likes to think everything comes down to Qualifying but I think it’s been proven that the races are long enough to be able to recover and a lot of things can happen.” – Nyck de Vries (ART Grand Prix)
|2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship – Race of Monaco Schedule|
|Dates||23-25 May 2019||Free Practice Session 1||Thu 09:15-10:00|
|Qualifying (Group A)||Thu 13:20-13:36||Qualifying (Group B)||Thu 13:44-14:00|
|Feature Race (42 laps)||Fri 11:30-12:30||Sprint Race (30 laps)||Sat 17:15-18:00|
Session times quoted in Central European Summer Time (GMT + 02:00)
Rewind to 2018
Last year’s pair of races in Monte Carlo delivered plenty of drama and more than just a little bit of controversy along the way. The history books will record Artem Markelov (Russian Time) and Antonio Fuoco (Charouz Racing System) as the victors, although in truth almost half the field had a claim to victory at one point or another over the weekend.
DAMS’ Alexander Albon continued a fine run of qualifying form to secure another pole position and led PREMA’s Nyck de Vries off the line at the start of the Feature Race. There was drama before the first turn when Fuoco shoved Luca Ghiotto (Campos Racing) into the wall. The Ferrari academy driver – much to his own incredulity, but no one else’s – was swiftly hit with a drive-through penalty.
Championship leader George Russell had struggled over the Monaco weekend and ended his race in the barriers with an unsuccessful divebomb attempt on Nirei Fukuzumi (BWT Arden). It was a rare blot on the Briton’s ultimately championship-winning season.
A Safety Car interruption – brought out by Carlin’s Lando Norris tipping Ralph Boschung (MP Motorsport) into the barriers at Anthony Noghes. That prompted a number of drivers to head to the pits, and in the ensuing rush to pit lane Albon was spun at its entry by de Vries. Both would retire from the race.
That left Markelov in the lead, with the Russian opting not to make his compulsory pit stop during the Safety Car and instead faced with the daunting task of needing to build a gap of over 24 seconds to Sean Gelael – the PREMA Racing driver being the first in the queue to have made his pit stop – in order to keep his lead.
Markelov did exactly that once the race resumed, quickly building a gap of over 27 seconds to the Indonesian before pitting at the end of Lap 34 and rejoining 1.7 seconds ahead of the PREMA Racing driver.
With a fresh set of Supersofts at his disposal, Markelov once again put the hammer down and built a gap of more than ten seconds in the remaining laps until the chequered flag. Gelael finished in second place, earning the second F2 podium of his career, while former F1 driver Roberto Merhi completed the podium thanks to Norris’ pit lane penalty.
Fuoco redeemed himself after a clumsy Feature Race performance by claiming victory in a crash-strewn Sprint Race the next day. The Italian was penalised for turfing Luca Ghiotto into the pit wall at the start of Friday’s Feature Race but recovered to finish in eighth place, earning pole position for the reversed-grid Sprint Race.
He scorched off the line to lead the field into Sainte Dévote, defending against championship leader Lando Norris for the remaining 30-lap race that was punctuated by several Safety Car interruptions before finishing under full-course yellow flag conditions.
Both he and Norris were subsequently awarded post-race time penalties equal to the time advantage they had gained under one of the VSC periods, which saw Norris demoted to third place after the race. Fuoco’s penalty did not strip him of his hard-fought win, however.
Norris’ penalty promoted Fuoco’s Charouz Racing System teammate Louis Delétraz to second place, giving the Czech team a 1-2 finish in its debut Formula 2 Championship season.
The Monaco Form Guide
The Formula 2 Championship provided the drama in Spain that the Formula 1 grid failed to deliver. With Nicholas Latifi clinching his third victory of the season, the Canadian leads the Drivers’ Championship standings on 93 points, with Luca Ghiotto a rather hefty 26 points behind in second place. DAMS leads the Teams’ Championship standings on 126 points, and are 25 points ahead of second-placed UNI-Virtuosi Racing.
Monaco’s narrow streets provide a fierce test for the Formula 2 field, and in the past this has been a platform for a championship tilt to be destroyed or reignited in equal measure. Key to success this weekend will be qualifying well and staying out of trouble – the latter in particular has proven a challenge for almost every driver at one point or another this season.
The weekend’s dark horse driver with be Artem Markelov, who is making a one-off appearance for the MP Motorsport team while regular driver Jordan King contests the Indianapolis 500. The Russian, who finished runner-up in the 2017 Formula 2 season, is renowned for his ability to nurse a set of tyres and used this approach to superb effect with victory in last year’s Feature Race.
Images via FIA Formula 2 Championship
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