Formula 2 returned for the first race of the third round of the 2017 Season in Monaco this weekend. With overtaking being near impossible around the two mile long circuit, qualifying was key, and with Charles Leclerc claiming his third pole position in three rounds, the Monégasque driver was in prime position to claim his third win of the season.
Oliver Rowland secures maiden Formula 2 win in dramatic Monaco Feature Race
As the drivers lined up on the grid for the second time after the initial race start was aborted for stallers Antonio Fuoco and Sean Gelael, the five lights finally went out and the Feature Race was underway. Charles Leclerc pulled away from his grid slot cleanly despite suffering from clutch issues and took the lead in turn 1, followed by fellow front row starter, Alexander Albon, and Oliver Rowland who started in third.
Within a few corners, the yellow flags were waving following a crash in Fairmont hairpin involving Nabil Jeffri, Sergio Canamasas, and a number of other drivers. Despite the accident, those involved were able to carry on, and the race remained green and continued.
Up at the front, Leclerc began to pull away from Albon and extended his lead, setting fastest lap after fastest lap in first place. This didn’t last long however, with the yellow flags waving once again in sector 2, this time for Nicholas Latifi who had stopped in the tunnel after having a mechanical failure on lap 8. This caused the Safety Car to be deployed and prompted a number of drivers to pit early, including second placed Albon, exchanging his set of soft tyres for a set of supersofts, promoting Rowland into second place and Nobuharu Matsushita into the podium positions.
The green flag waved once again on lap 11 when the Safety Car peeled into the pits, and Leclerc again raced into the distance, pulling away from Rowland by 2.1 seconds by the end of lap 12.
Nine laps later on lap 21, positions began to shuffle in the midfield as Nyck De Vries overtook Racing Engineering‘s Louis Deletraz going into turn 1. Later that lap, Deletraz would come under threat once again, this time from Formula 2 debutant, Robert Visoiu. Launching an attack up the inside of the Mirabeau corner, Visoiu and Deletraz made contact, causing both to run into the outside barrier and Visoiu to retire from the race. This then prompted Leclerc to pit from the lead, with the Prema team predicting the deployment of a second Safety Car.
The Italian team predicted this correctly, and Leclerc pitted at what seemed to be the perfect time, rejoining in fourth place. It was not until the new race leaders of Rowland and Matsushita pitted that Prema’s error became a reality, with the three drivers ahead of Leclerc rejoining in the same podium positions in which they entered the pit lane, leaving the Monégasque driver and pole sitter in fourth place.
When things seemed like they couldn’t get any worse for Leclerc, disaster struck, with the driver suffering from heavy vibrations on his front left wheel. This prompted him to pit once again, with Prema suspecting that the tyre was not attached properly during Leclerc’s pit stop. After rejoining the track, the vibrations continued for Leclerc, showing that it was in fact a suspension failure that was causing the issue, forcing the championship leader retire for the first time this season in what was his home race on lap 28.
While Leclerc’s chances of winning the race vanished before his eyes, the green flag waved once again when the Safety Car peeled into the pits for the second time of the race on lap 25, and Oliver Rowland had the restart that he needed, maintaining his lead from Artem Markelov.
The race saw further retirements in the closing stages, with Norman Nato retiring for Arden and 19 year old Sergio Sette Camara retiring on lap 36 for MP Motorsport.
The battle for the final points paying positions began to heat up in the final few laps, with Sergio Canamasas closing in on an off the pace Jordan King. Despite being considerably faster than the British driver, Canamasas was unable to overtake King but was promoted to tenth place after Sean Gelael pitted on lap 41 from eighth place.
After a perfectly driven final stint on the supersoft tyre, Oliver Rowland crossed the finish line on the 41st lap, securing his first Formula 2 career win and the first Formula 2 win for DAMS. Through this result, Rowland lies in second place in the championship and has closed the gap to Leclerc, with only three points separating the two drivers in the standings.
Artem Markelov crossed the line in second place, securing his second podium of 2017 for Russian Time while Nobuharu Matsushita claimed the final step of the podium in third place, marking his second consecutive top three finish for ART Grand Prix.
After starting on the front row of the grid, Alexander Albon finished in fourth place after his early strategy call to pit in the first Safety Car period was ruined following the second Safety Car on lap 21.
Luca Ghiotto crossed the line in fifth place, while Gustav Malja secured another strong finish for Racing Engineering in sixth.
McLaren Junior Driver, Nyck De Vries, finished in seventh place, marking his fourth points finish in five races for Rapax while his team mate and GP2 veteran Johnny Cecotto Jr finished in eighth place. Through this result, it will be an all Rapax front row for the Sprint Race, with Cecotto securing reverse grid pole.
Jordan King finished in ninth place for MP Motorsport while Sergio Canamasas rounded out the points paying positions in tenth place, marking his first points finish of 2017 and his first points since the 2016 Malaysian GP2 Feature Race.
Formula 2 will return on May 26th for the Sprint Race around the Circuit de Monaco which will see more close and exciting racing, with Johnny Cecotto Jr starting from pole and F2 rookie, Nyck De Vries starting alongside him in second place.
Results from the Monaco Formula 2 Feature Race:
- Oliver Rowland, DAMS, 25 points
- Artem Markelov, Russian Time, 18 points
- Nobuharu Matsushita, ART Grand Prix, 15 points
- Alexander Albon, ART Grand Prix, 12 points
- Luca Ghiotto, Russian Time, 10 points
- Gustav Malja, Racing Engineering, 8 points
- Nyck de Vries, Rapax, 6 points
- Johnny Cecotto Jr, Rapax, 4 points
- Jordan King, MP Motorsport, 2 points
- Sergio Canamasas, Trident, 1 point
- Antonio Fuoco, Prema Racing, 0 points
- Ralph Boschung, Campos Racing, 0 points
- Sean Gelael, Pertamina Arden Racing, 0 points
- Nabil Jeffri, Trident, 0 points
- Louis Delétraz, Racing Engineering, 0 points
- Sergio Sette Camara, MP Motorsport, Ret
- Charles Leclerc, Prema Racing, Ret
- Norman Nato, Pertamina Arden Racing, Ret
- Robert Visoiu, Campos Racing, Ret
- Nicholas Latifi, DAMS, Ret