Making A Mark(elov): Looking at GP2’s Monaco Feature Race
Race fans worldwide were given a stunning GP2 feature race at Monaco.
Artem Markelov won his first GP2 race in the Monaco feature with a superb defense of Racing Engineering’s Norman Nato and MP Motorsport’s Oliver Rowland. Nato and Markelov are now tied atop the points going into the sprint race. Nato holds the tiebreaker due to having a second-place finish compared to Markelov having two fourth-place results.
This should be the standings, with some conflicting reports saying he has 47 points, but Pierre Gasly appeared to claim the fastest lap of the race and should have earned two points. With the addition of Markelov and Rowland, it now means that seven drivers have stood on the podium after the first three races. With three podium-less drivers in the top three of the sprint grid, it could well be ten.
It was a superb win for Markelov, which surprised many due to the amount of time he could find on track. Nobody would have been thinking he would have chance of victory after starting in 15th, but before his pit stop, the Russian’s driving to create enough of gap to lead Nato out of the pit lane was extraordinary and could not be expected on worn tires. He got out of the pit lane in the lead and although Nato and third-place Rowland were very close in the last minute or so of the race, they could not get past as his fresher tires got suited to the track.
Markelov is only three points shy of equaling his entire total from 2016. If he can continue this form, he’ll soon be considered an outside contender for the championship.
With Pierre Gasly finishing 15th and starting from that position in the sprint race, Nato should have a good opportunity to extend the gap to one of the favorites for the championship. Either Nato or Markelov could end the weekend on top of the championship.
It was still a stunning race from Rowland himself to claim the final spot on the podium. He has been displaying superb driving to get past Mitch Evans after a failed move into the Nouvelle chicane after the tunnel, with Evans going across the run-off to deny him the place, something which gave Evans a five-second time penalty. He then managed to catch him off-guard when he was napping on a Virtual Safety Car restart and gain the position.
However, he may not have been on the podium had ART Grand Prix’s Sergey Sirotkin not been in the barrier at the exit of the Swimming Pool complex when running in second place, causing one of the Virtual Safety Car periods seen in the race. This is a second feature race with an error after spinning in Spain for another favorite for the title.
This leaves the Russian with only four points so far this season, gained through his pole position for this feature race, and is 41 points behind Nato and Markelov. This is a difference of almost one feature race and one sprint race win combined (40 points) with 19 races (ten sprint, nine feature) remaining in 2016. This will penalize him further as he will start the sprint race in 21st and have an uphill task to move up to at least eighth to claim his first racing points of the season. If there’s any positive, it’s probably better to have problems at the start rather than the end of a season.
Despite claiming eight points from this first race, this leaves ART behind their rivals in eighth in Teams’ Championship, 54 points behind leaders Russian Time and 52 behind second-placed Racing Engineering.
The only positive for the team is that Nobuharu Matsushita has moved up to eighth place in the classification of the race after post-race penalties are given and will start on pole position for the sprint race and will be the fourth driver in four races to lead the grid. However, so far no driver has started in the position and won a race in 2016.
Overall the stunning action started on Thursday with qualifying an interesting gauge of the lap time within the now six-year-old GP2-11 chassis, with Sirotkin putting in an astonishing time of 1:19.186 to claim his first pole position of the season.
To put this into context, it was just three tenths of a second behind the slowest time set in the second Formula One free practice session that preceded the session when Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein set the slowest time of 1:18.814. This will bring the debate of whether it is great that the GP2 cars are fast and have a lot of talented drivers in its field, or whether the Formula One cars are too slow and should be made quicker.
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