RUSSIAN TIME’s Artem Markelov has come out victorious from a dramatic feature race in Monaco after having started P15 on the grid. The Russian who was last to pit on lap 38 sustained huge pressure from Norman Nato in the final laps to take his first GP2 win ahead of the Frenchman. Oliver Rowland completed the podium.
At the start, all eyes were on another Russian as poleman Sergey Sirotkin made a slow gateway. Nato had a much better start from the front row to get into the lead at the first chicane ahead of the ART man and teammate Jordan King. Although under constant pressure from Sirotkin, Nato remained cool-headed and in control of the race managing a small gap which was good enough to keep his rival at bay.
There was more drama behind the top three with Mitch Evans having to hold off a charging Rowland, Alex Lynn soon joining the battle for P4. Feeling the pressure, the Kiwi jumped the chicane at the exit of the tunnel. He remained in front of the Briton but would later pick up a 5s time penalty for gaining an advantage. An incident between Pierre Gasly and Jimmy Eriksson at La Rascasse meant the virtual safety car was deployed long enough to collect the debris. At the re-start, Rowland quickly passed Evans.
Markelov who had already made his way up to P9 was batting hard with Nicholas Latifi for eighth when the Canadian driver clipped the wall in the tunnel. He slowly returned to the pits with a damaged suspension and retired.
At the front, Sirotkin pushed a bit too hard to try and close the gap to Nato: at the exit of La Piscine, the Russian hit the wall and heartbreakingly stepped out of his damaged car. The virtual safety car was redeployed. At the re-start Nato and King led the race much to Racing Engineering’s joy, but it would not last: the Briton also touched the barrier and retired in the pits.
With Evans and Lynn respectively pitting on lap 28 and 29, Markelov was promoted to third behind Nato and Rowland. The MP Motorsport driver stopped for supersofts on lap 30 followed a lap later by Nato who had a slow stop following a problem on the front right tyre. Markelov was thus handed the lead with eleven laps and one mandatory pitstop to go. Behind him, Rowland was hot on Nato’s tail: he tried to overtake the Frenchman but could not complete the move. Nato was then able to build a small gap to the Briton.
The virtual safety car made one last quick appearance on lap 36 as Luca Ghiotto slowed to a stop and retired from P8. At the re-start, Markelov dove into the pits for supersofts and re-joined just ahead of Nato. The Frenchman who could not believe his misfortune tried his mightiest to find a way past the Russian but Markelov on fresher rubber managed to keep Nato at bay and crossed the finish line 1.5s before anyone else.
Emotions ran high on the RUSSIAN TIME pitlwall at the chequered flag whilst Nato was disappointed with second place. Rowland in third enjoyed his maiden GP2 podium whilst Lynn, Evans, Raffaele Marciello, Antonio Giovinazzi, Marvin Kirchhöfer, Nobuharu Matsushita and Danïel de Jong completed the top ten.