The Monaco round of the 2019 FIA Formula 2 championship brought its fair share of drama and exciting action throughout the weekend – both on and off the circuit, with Nyck de Vries and Anthoine Hubert taking the top step of the famous podium.
But their victories were overshadowed by the confusion that occurred in the Feature race, which saw more than over half the field be a lap down due to the race stewards not being able to follow a crucial procedure.
The Red Flag Confusion
During the ninteenth lap of the Feature race, BWT Arden‘s Tatiana Calderón and Prema Racing‘s Mick Schumacher were battling for position going into the final few corners of the Monaco circuit. Schumacher attempted a pass on the Colombian driver at the inside of La Rascasse, a risky overtaking spot that only the few can pull off. Unfortunately for Schumacher, he didn’t. The German clipped the rear wheel of Calderón’s car, which sent her facing the wrong way at the exit of the corner. Schumacher couldn’t get past the Arden and soon a road block started to form as the rest of the field soon caught up. A red flag was waved as the marshals cleared the cars to the pit lane.
This is where the confusion starts. Race leader de Vries and seven other cars had started their twentieth lap in the race and caught the back of the queue that formed during the red flag. The rest of the field were still yet to cross the line to start Lap 20 and under the red flag, all cars returned to the pits.
The organisers then pushed the cars in order with de Vries starting up front, followed by UNI-Virtuosi Racing‘s Luca Ghiotto and DAMS‘ Sérgio Sette Câmara. Traditionally under red flag conditions, the order and restart starts on the last completed lap from the race.
However, when the race restarted, drivers from ninth place and beyond were a lap down from the front eight. This was because the cars behind didn’t get to unlap themselves prior to the restart, and with the cars pushed back into the order in the pit lane, the lapped cars could not do a lap to rejoin the rear of the field.
The error by the F2 stewards left with effectively, an eight car race for the win and with the top eight yet to do their mandatory pit stops, with most of the field behind having already made their stops.
After the race the result was protested to the stewards. de Vries went on to the win the race, but there were question marks over whether the results were the final classification. After further investigations on the Friday, the stewards failed to find a conclusion and admitted their error in not allowing the lap cars to unlap themselves.
What wasn’t understood was why didn’t the stewards follow the procedure of letting lap cars by behind the safety car? During a safety car periods in Formula 1 the race director often allows the lapped cars to unlap themselves and rejoin at the back of the field before going racing again. This method would have solved the issue and effectively put everyone back on the same lap.
De Vries’ Title Aspirations Are Back On Course
Among the chaos that happened in the Feature race, ART Grand Prix‘s de Vries achieved back-to-back wins, having won the Sprint race in Barcelona and continuing his streak by winning race one at Monaco.
The Dutch driver started his weekend strong by setting the second best time in practice, only beaten by title rival and points leader Nicholas Latifi.
However, in the group Qualifying session, de Vries shone as he set the fastest time overall and his group, clinching pole position in the process. His time of 1:20.676 was enough to take pole away from Sauber Junior Team‘s Callum Ilott, who was fastest in Group A.
Whilst de Vries had the advantage in Group B, having a more grip on track compare to Group A, the Dutch driver had to contest for pole with the likes of Ghiotto and Latifi. Luckily for the Dutch driver, he did enough to capture the top spot.
In the Feature race, de Vries was way ahead of his competitors and was looking like he will take home an easy Monaco win; that was until the red flag came out. His gap was gone and he was still needing to make his mandatory pit stop.
Luckily for de Vries, the rest of the field were a lap down and he only needed to worry about the seven cars behind him, who too were yet to make their stops. He took on a new set of tyres and after the restart, pushed to build a gap away from his rivals. He did enough before he made his stop and even with a mistake by his ART mechanics, de Vries was still leading the race by the pit exit, taking home the win with ease.
In the Sprint race, de Vries couldn’t deliver the same performance as he did with his win the previous day. He dueled with the DAMS of Sette Câmara for the lower points position, ending the race down in seventh place behind the Brazilian but ahead of team-mate Nikita Mazepin.
The Dutch driver had a strong weekend overall and benefited from the disqualification of Ghiotto and Latifi’s struggles in both races to leave Monaco just one point between the Canadian and de Vries in the championship.
The ART driver continued his strong effort from Barcelona and in return, puts himself in a strong position heading into France, a circuit he won last year in the Sprint race.
Markelov’s Return Paid Off
Monaco saw a return of fan favourite Artem Markelov, who made his F2 return with MP Motorsport, acting in as a substitute driver for Jordan King, who was racing in the Indy 500.
Markelov previously raced in F2 between 2014 to 2018, finishing runner-up in 2017. In his five years racing in GP2/F2, he has raced with the Russian Time team, now known as UNI-Virtuosi Racing and is a nine-time winner in the series before leaving for Super Formula in 2019.
However, the Dutch team surprised everyone when they called the Russian’s name back into the series around the streets of Monaco, a circuit Markelov has won around twice.
Despite being away from the F2 Dallara car for six months, Markelov showed he hasn’t lost any speed or ability as he scored all of MP’s points over the weekend.
In practice, Markelov produced the seventeenth best time and in qualifying, and then followed it up with the sixth best time in Group B, placing himself in eleventh place on the grid for the Feature race.
His race started with a ten-second penalty for cutting Turn 1 at the start but aside from that, Markelov was producing relatively good pace to the front runners and thanks to the red flag, was one of eight cars who was on the lead lap and could afford to make their mandatory pit stop.
After the restart, Markelov was at the back of the lead cars until an unusual mistake came from the Russian when he went straight on at the harbor chicane, using the run-off.
This put him down to eighth place and effectively, on reverse grid pole. Whether this was a genuine mistake or a cheeky way of getting himself points and a chance for a stronger result for the Sprint race, we will never know.
In the end, he ended in seventh place due to Juan Manuel Correa’s crash which demoted the Russian from pole. He was later promoted to sixth due to Ghiotto’s disqualification.
For the Sprint, Markelov was one of four drivers who pulled away from the field and in contention for the race win. He remained in fourth place throughout the whole race, trying to find a way pass Guanyu Zhou for third.
In the end, Markelov could only settle for fourth, rounding off a strong and impressive supersub weekend for MP.
Whether we will see him again in the future remains uncertain but it would create a great line-up at MP if Markelov and King partnered together.
A podium appearance in race two would have been a great way to end a return to the series, but his stand-in performance has helped keep the Dutch team’s points scoring tally for car #16 going as King will return for France in four weeks time.
As for Markelov, he will return to the Super Formula series in Japan as he aims to reach Formula 1 in the future.
Hubert Vs Delétraz: A Sprint To The Finish Line
The Sprint race saw a battle between two drivers who were chasing their first win in the series around Monte-Carlo. Hubert and Louis Delétraz endured an epic duel with each other throughout the race, and only got more intense in the final three laps when the leading Arden’s tyres started to degrade, opening an attack from the Carlin driver.
The two drivers battled it out on the final lap, leaving it until the last moment of the race – a sprint to the finish to decide the race winner.
Delétraz in the race towards the line, pulled to the left side of Hubert in a bid to try and pass the Frenchman at the finish line.
The race to the line was extremely close, with the two drivers only separated by 0.059 seconds, with Hubert winning the race ahead of Delétraz.
The Frenchman who won the 2018 GP3 Series captured his first win the series, becoming the first rookie in the 2019 class to win a race.
Hubert’s effort in the final few laps to hold onto the lead with worn tyres and keep three cars behind him at bay was an outstanding effort, similar to Formula 1‘s Lewis Hamilton‘s effort at the Monaco Grand Prix the following day, holding off Max Verstappen for over 40 Laps on worn medium tyres.
Delétraz’s weekend in Monaco rounded off the same as he did last year, with a second place finish. The Swiss driver claimed points in both races and kick started his championship again, after scoring zero points in Baku and Barcelona.
Carlin have struggled in those weekends but made a big turn around in Monaco with Nobuharu Matsushita and Delétraz taking second places. The result pushes Carlin up to fifth in the teams’ championship as they reach the quarter point of the season.
Incidents Reign Monaco Once Again
The twisty and narrow streets of Monaco often means accidents are bound to happen and this year – we saw plenty. Calderón and Schumacher’s accident in the Feature race that caused the red flag was the main highlight over the weekend – caused by Schumacher touching the rear wheels of Calderón, sending her facing the wrong direction.
Latifi was involved in two incidents that heavily impacted his race. The incidents pushed the DAMS driver back in the results and needed to work hard in the Sprint race to ensure his championship lead remains going into France.
After de Vries’ win, the points deficit was to Latifi was reduced to one point. Latifi scored the fastest lap of the race, as well as finishing in the top ten for the two points to count. Whilst de Vries finished in seventh, rewarding him two points, the points gap heading into France now leaves with just one point.
Mahaveer Raghunathan and Jack Aitken couldn’t get away from each other throughout the weekend. In Qualifying, Aitken was heavily impeded in his final lap of qualifying by the Indian driver, leaving the Anglo-Korean driver down in eighteenth place.
The two drivers would meet again in the Feature race when Aitken tried to pass Raghunathan for multiple laps, but wasn’t successful.
They would meet one more time and end in tears for Aitken as the Campos driver was lapping the MP driver, Raghunathan punted Aitken into the barriers at the Loews hairpin, ending his race on the spot. Raghunathan was handed a time penalty as a result for the incident.
The Swimming Pool section last year saw 2018 F2 champion’s George Russell crash at the exit during one of the races.
This year, two names joined the Brit in clashing with the barriers. Dorian Boccolacci hit the wall during qualifying, which in turn ruined a quick lap.
Fortunately for the Frenchman, the Campos driver performed brilliantly in the two races to bring home two fifth places.
This couldn’t be said for Juan Manuel Correa, who during the Feature race was on course for a solid sixth place. But a collision with the barriers ended his race with four laps to go.
It was a disappointing result for the Sauber – with Callum Ilott in the same race losing his front row start before lights out due to an electrical fire in his car.
Ghiotto, due to a technical infringement in the Feature race, had to start the race from the back of the grid. He made progress up the field, but not without incidents.
Ghiotto tried to pass up the inside of Calderón at Mirabeau and was successful, but not without contact as the Colombian driver crashed into the barrier.
The aftermath of the accident saw Calderón needing to have her hand bandage. The Italian driver had one more accident with Raghunathan at the Loews hairpin, attempting to pass the Indian driver on the inside of the tight hairpin. The move wasn’t successful and both cars collided, putting both cars out of the race.
Some of the accidents in Monaco this year were not as bad as previous years, although the incident that caused the red flag played a big role in the results of the Feature race. The aftermath after the accident proved to be a lesson to the F2 stewards and no doubt they won’t be repeating it again if that scenario played out.