F2 Open Wheel

Front Runners DQ’d, Penalized Following Belgium

The Formula 2 drivers’ championship battle is now headed in a new direction, in due part to post-race developments at Spa-Francorchamps.

Title contenders Charles Leclerc and Oliver Rowland were disqualified following the Belgian feature.

Their Dallara GP2-11 cars could not pass scrutineering after the competition because the planks at the bottom were badly worn and not enough of the wood remained for a suitable sample.

Leclerc had dominated, finishing 26.6 seconds ahead of Artem Markelov, who narrowly beat Rowland at the final corner of the event.

The Brit was in second before dropping well behind the Monegasque racer and could not hold off the Russian, who avenged his self-made crash while fighting with him the month previous at Hungary.

Stewards gave both a five-second time penalty for their behavior during the overtaking phase, as Rowland was deemed to have forced his rival off track, and Markelov gained an advantage by speeding through the run-off area and claiming second.

Final Classification

This result now shows Markelov as the winner, his third of 2017, ahead of Russian Time teammate Luca Ghiotto. The victor finished 5.9s ahead of Ghiotto on track, with the amended gap now just 0.9s.

Antonio Fuoco inherits the final spot on the podium, with Racing Engineering’s Gustav Malja and Nyck de Vries fourth and fifth.

Sergio Sette Camara moves up to sixth, as Roberto Merhi takes seventh and Norman Nato’s eighth. Connecticut’s Santino Ferrucci finishes in the points for the second time in three races in ninth, ahead of Campos’ Robert Visoiu.

It doesn’t do much for title competitiveness – with Leclerc’s lead still a massive 54 points with just 161 remaining in the season. The interesting note is the contest for second as Rowland and Markelov are now separated by just eight.


FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @PatersonCameron

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

F2 Open Wheel

Championship Fight Develops at Halfway Mark

With almost half of the 2017 Formula 2 season gone, it looks like there could be three drivers battling for the title.

Prema Racing’s Charles Leclerc, DAMS’ Oliver Rowland, and Russian Time’s Artem Markelov stand in the top-three of the Drivers’ Championship after five of 11 rounds.

Leclerc added a fifth pole and fourth win to his collection in the Austrian feature event, moving onto 151 points, 49 ahead of Rowland and 52 clear of Markelov.

Each of these racers is falling into using different tactics as they fight to become the latest F2 champion after Luciano Bacheta in the MotorSport Vision-run category in 2012.

Leclerc’s Fast Starts

The Ferrari academy member is keeping one step ahead of his rivals at every round thanks to the four points given for pole. These alone have added an extra 20 to his lead.

Additionally, this has allowed him to win three of five feature races and take the largest number available – 25 – negating any loss to rivals in the next.

He has an average position of 1.5 in the first event and 2.33 in the sprint but has failed to complete the second twice. His total of three retirements is the most of any driver currently in the top-eight of the championship.

Leclerc did not complete the last sprint after hitting the rear right tire of teammate Antonio Fuoco with his left front at a green flag restart.

“We couldn’t have done better, every time we were on-track we were the fastest and even in race two we were very quick,” he said. “It was close at the start and we managed to avoid the stopped car but then later in the race we had contact and I couldn’t do much about it.”

Rowland’s Consistency

Despite having four podiums from the first 10 chances, the Renault-supported racer’s scoring achievements have been noticeably steady.

He has finished three features in fourth, fifth and seventh, having an average position of fourth so far, and has been clinical when needed. The 42 points gained in sprint events in Monaco and Austria when Leclerc has failed to finish have been crucial in keeping him in the battle.

Rowland knows that he has to improve in qualifying to help hunt down the Monegasque rival. The Brit has only started in the front two rows of the grid once in Monaco in third.

“At the moment, it’s quite hard to catch him, especially with his pace in qualifying: we need to address that, and if we can start taking four points and the feature race we’re not even halfway in, so there’s no reason why we can’t turn it around,” he said in the Austrian post-race press conference. “We made a good step here in qualifying and the race again, and we’re finding stuff all the time, so fingers crossed as it’s a home race and it’s only 50 points: one bad weekend for him and a good one for us and we’re back in it, but we need to stay focussed on our job.”

Markelov’s Emergence

Markelov’s win in the Austrian sprint is the only time he’s won two rounds in a GP2 or F2 campaign.

The Russian veteran, in his fourth year of second-tier European open-wheel racing, has top-10 finishes in every contest so far. Only Alexander Albon and Jordan King has the same reliability record.

He has just entered the fight for the championship, now just five points behind Rowland as both rivals have lost out at periods.

A gain of 43 has been made in events where Leclerc has suffered a DNF, while he is the only driver other than the leader to claim more than one fastest lap. He has set the fastest time on four occasions – adding another eight onto his total.

Markelov believes he also needs to develop in qualifying, where he has only finished in the top-five twice in Monaco and Azerbaijan, after starting Austria’s feature in 15th.

“It [the win] is actually a good boost for me for the next race, and I need to improve my qualifying compared to this race because it was a bit of a disaster, so if I get a good qualifying I can fight again for the top-three in Silverstone,” he said.


FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @PatersonCameron

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

F2 Open Wheel

Markelov Sprints to Victory in Austria

Russian controls sprint race from lights to flag
Artem Markelov dominated this morning’s FIA Formula 2 Sprint Race at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria for a fine win which saw the likeable Russian close up on championship rival Charles Leclerc, who retired midway through the race, as he was greeted by the chequered flag ahead of Alexander Albon and Charles Leclerc.
The win was set up at the start, which saw a long hold before the lights went out to release the Russian, who easily controlled a fast charging Albon with Rowland in his wake: the start was too long for Ralph Boschung, who stuttered as he tried to go and was swamped by the grid before Raffaele Marciello drove into the back of the slower car, forcing the Italian into retirement and the safety car to emerge on track.
The race was live again on lap 5 with Markelov easily controlling the restart: further back Leclerc was looking to move forward and dispatched Jordan King for P5 and a ringside seat for the battle ahead of him. Rowland was looking for a way past Albon, who was not in the mood to hand out presents: the DAMS man stuttered and Antonio Fuoco went to the outside of him at turn 4 but was squeezed onto the kerbs before stumbling back into teammate Leclerc, who had nowhere to go and spun into retirement after contact between the pair, prompting a VSC period.
The marshals did their customary quick job of removing the car and the race was live again 2 laps later, with a number of drivers very close together as the track went green: Nyck De Vries ran inside and through a fight between Luca Ghiotto and Gustav Malja, who came together with the Swede sailing into the gravel and the Italian resuming the fight and moving back past the Dutchman.
With his teammate controlling the race from the front, Ghiotto was on a charge to recoup something from a disappointing weekend: on lap 11 he dispatched Robert Visoiu for P7 before slicing past Nicholas Latifi a few laps later by running outside and switching back at turns 5/6, blasted past King on lap 19 before closing on Fuoco, easily claiming the inside line at turn 4 for P4 a lap before Visoiu and De Vries tripped over each other at the same place, with both running through the gravel and losing a probable points finish.
But at the flag it was Markelov who collected all the plaudits for a fine win ahead of Albon and Rowland, with Ghiotto in P4 after an astonishing drive to finish just ahead of a disappointed Fuoco. King was promoted to 6th following a 5 second time penalty for Latifi for speeding in the pitlane, with the Canadian finishing his run of podiums in P8 behind Norman Nato, who celebrated his birthday with more points for 7th.
As disappointed as he was with the retirement, Leclerc could at least be consoled with an extended lead in the Drivers’ Championship, moving up to 151 points ahead of Rowland on 102, Markelov on 99, Latifi on 72 and Ghiotto on 66 points, while in the Teams’ Championship PREMA Racing and DAMS share a seat at the top of the table on 174 points each ahead of RUSSIAN TIME on 165 and ART Grand Prix on 130 as they look towards next week’s Round 6 of the 2017 Championship in Silverstone.
Sprint Race Provisional Classification
Artem Markelov
Alexandre Albon
ART Grand Prix
Oliver Rowland
Luca Ghiotto
Antonio Fuoco
PREMA Racing
Jordan King
MP Motorsport
Norman Nato
Pertamina Arden
Nicholas Latifi
Sergio Canamasas
Sergio Sette Camara
MP Motorsport
Sean Gelael
Pertamina Arden
Nabil Jeffri
Louis Delétraz
Racing Engineering
Nobuharu Matsushita
ART Grand Prix
Gustav Malja
Racing Engineering
Nyck De Vries
Robert Visoiu
Campos Racing
Not Classified
Ralph Boschung
Campos Racing
Charles Leclerc
PREMA Racing
Raffaele Marciello
Fastest Lap
Artem Markelov
on Lap 21
F2 Open Wheel

Breaking Down Markelov’s Strategy to Victory in Bahrain

Artem Markelov put his name down in history as the first winner of the rebranded FIA Formula 2 championship, capturing the Bahrain feature race in style.

It was the Russian’s first victory since winning the feature race in Monaco last year in GP2, but unlike those confusing circumstances after a virtual safety car period, this was down to work from himself and his team to work a flawless pit stop and maintain grip for the final laps of the race.

The Russian driver performed a one-stop strategy to move from an early third up to first. He started seventh on the grid but quickly moved to fourth and found a way past Rapax’s Nyck de Vries into Turn 1 on Lap 1 before chasing down Charles Leclerc and Norman Nato.

This order turned around after a pit stop sequence mid-race. Leclerc started from pole and wrestled back first from Nato on Lap 8 after losing it for five laps and decided to be the second of the frontrunners switching from medium Pirellis to softs on Lap 15, one lap after the Frenchman.

followed by Artem Markelov (RUS, RUSSIAN TIME) Photo: Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2. ref: Digital Image _W6I0310
Photo: Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2

Rookie Leclerc admitted after the race that this was an error and he should have stayed on his initial set of tires for longer to help defend late on.

“In the prime tires we were quite confident and I moved back on Norman before pulling a gap on him,” he said. “When I started to have a little bit of degradation I called the pitstop but it was a little bit too early. We paid the price in the final part of the race. At the end of the second stint we struggled a lot but I managed the situation. I think we have to learn from today to have a better run tomorrow.”

Markelov stayed out for two further laps and initially looked to be losing vital time and falling out of contention for victory as Nato passed Leclerc for the lead, moving 8.6 seconds behind Leclerc into third. He was around three or four seconds slower out on track before he went to pit road, with Nato going on to set fastest laps and Markelov moving 11 seconds behind the leader on Lap 20.

Leclerc’s pit stop had even been the fastest of the trio, spending a combined time of 34.371s on pit road, 0.468s faster than Markelov and 0.976s above Nato’s time.

It was within the final ten laps that the Russian made his move to attack. He cut the gap to just over 10 seconds behind on Lap 24 as he took the fastest lap of the race at that point, a 1m46.038s and appeared to start to use his new rubber’s grip later than his competitors. This would give him a great amount of performance with no capacity for error with just a few laps remaining.

Photo: Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2
Photo: Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2

The risk of running longer and hoping no other circumstances such as a virtual safety car or safety car period cutting his time to get to the lead would be rewarded as the gap steadily decreased before dramatically falling in the final five laps. Leclerc fell into lapping in the 1m49s, with Markelov almost 2.2s faster after taking 1.3 from the gap on Lap 27. Markelov found another 3.2s despite only lapping in the low 1m47s on the following lap before passing before taking DRS down the start-finish straight on Lap 29.

His next piece of work was to catch Nato, lapping 2.6s faster on Lap 29 with a time of 1m46.973s, as Leclerc fell into the 1m51s. The Russian put the gap down to just 0.6s allowing him to get a good view of the Arden gearbox in front and develop a move around the inside of turn 4 to take the lead with just over a lap to go.

Markelov’s advantage in the final two laps was so large that he won with a 7.8s gap over Nato and 13.7s clear of Leclerc in one of his best displays to date in the second tier of European open-wheel motorsport.

The previous lap times stood out in his driving and handed him an extra two points for the having the fastest lap of the top-10. This puts him on 27 points after the first race of the year and on top of a championship for the first time since the end of the Baku weekend in GP2 last June.

Russian Time’s streak of winning a race in every season they have competed in GP2 or F2 has also now been extended, with the team now doing so for five straight years.


FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @PatersonCameron

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

F2 Open Wheel

Markelov Blasts to Bahrain Win

Russian gamble pays off for first F2 victory

Artem Markelov gambled on a different tyre strategy to his rivals at the first FIA Formula 2 Championship feature race this afternoon at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, mastering the scorching conditions and the life of his tyres to blast past Norman Nato and Charles Leclerc in the closing stages of the race for a masterful win.

The Russian made use of a stronger car in the extreme desert heat to run longer on his prime tyres than any of his rivals, gambling that the time he lost between their stops and his would be returned to him, and it was a choice that paid off handsomely.

But the work Markelov put in early in the race built the platform for his victory. While poleman Leclerc led the grid away when the lights went out, the Russian was the star of the start, slicing by his rivals from P7 to run outside front row starter Nyck De Vries and through behind Nato for P3 at the first turn, ahead of the Dutchman, Nobuharu Matsushita, Luca Ghiotto and Jordan King, with those starting on the right clearly losing out by starting off the racing line.

Nato was a man on a mission, sliding inside Leclerc at turn one on lap 3 for the lead, but had to concede again at the same place 5 laps latter and the Monegasque driver reclaimed the position, but Markelov bided his time (and tyres) behind the pair, while teammate Ghiotto set the early fastest lap to demonstrate the pace the RUSSIAN TIME pair had on tap as he deposed Matsushita for P5.

The teams have a lot of data from this circuit after testing extensively here just 2 weeks ago, but not in the heat radiating down today: the biggest question of the day was who would manage their tyres best, and what would be the optimum tyre strategy? The option tyres lasted longer than expected for those starting on the opposite strategy, and with Nato stopping on lap 15 and Leclerc next time round to cover him it seemed that the rulebook was being upturned.

But Markelov saw an opportunity, and stayed out for two laps longer than the leader despite the danger of losing too much time in between. Nato mugged Leclerc in those laps for the lead before setting a string of fastest laps, further proof that the Russian’s strategy was risky, but he re-emerged in P3 and set about regaining the time lost: after his outlap he was 8.5s behind Leclerc, but the gap shrank lap on lap and as the front pair’s tyres fell away, Markelov came into his own.

The Russian easily dispatched Leclerc on lap 29, demolished a 3.3s gap to Nato within a lap before grabbing the lead next time through and running away, greeting the chequered flag 2 laps later and almost 8 seconds to the good over the disappointed Frenchman, with Leclerc a further 6 seconds back. Behind the top 3 King muscled his way past countryman Oliver Rowland for P4, with Alexander Albon having a strong second half of the race to move up to P6 at the flag ahead of a frantic battle between Ghiotto, Matsushita and Antonio Fuoco, who mugged a deeply dispirited De Vries on the final lap for P9.

And as the celebration commenced the paddock cheered in admiration for a sparkling drive in brutal conditions by Markelov, who started brightly before staying out of the battle for the lead ahead of him and held onto his tyres for longer than anyone else, then put in a simply stunning drive to hunt down a victory against the odds. With temperatures expected to be high once again tomorrow for the sprint race, the eyes of the paddock will be watching the Russian nervously to see if he can repeat his efforts.

F2 Open Wheel

Ghiotto, Markelov Sign on at Russian Time

A busy week of confirmations continued as for the third time in three days a GP2 team confirmed their line-up for 2017.

Russian Time has confirmed that Luca Ghiotto will join Artem Markelov at the team for the 2017 GP2 season.

Markelov, 22, finished 10th in the standings last year, winning the first race of his GP2 career in a dramatic Monaco feature race finish. He will pilot their No. 6 car.

The new season is his fourth year at the team. He is set to have 87 career starts in the series at the end of 2017, which would put him sixth on the list of highest number of appearances in the series.

Ghiotto, 21, also ended up on the top step of the podium during 2016, claiming his maiden win at the Malaysian feature race. The 2015 GP3 vice-champion replaces compatriot Raffaele Marciello, piloting the No. 5 machine.

His move to the team marks the first time in his racing career that he has not driven an Italian team’s car after working with Prema, Drago, and Trident during his career to this point.

Their driver combination is currently the only one on the grid to feature two drivers who have previously won in the series. Just one driver has historically won during a season for the Russian team, with two drivers yet to claim victory.

The new season is Russian Time’s fifth in the series since joining the grid in 2013.

Current 2017 GP2 Series Grid (TBA = To Be Announced):

Prema Racing: #1 Charles Leclerc, #2 Antonio Fuoco

Racing Engineering: #3 Louis Deletraz, #4 Gustav Malja

Russian Time: #5 Luca Ghiotto, #6 Artem Markelov

ART Grand Prix: #7 Nobuharu Matsushita, #8 TBA

DAMS: #9 Oliver Rowland, #10 Nicholas Latifi

Campos Racing: #11 TBA, #12 TBA

MP Motorsport: #14 Jordan King, #15 Sergio SetteCamara

Trident: #16 TBA, #17 TBA

Rapax: #18 TBA, #19 TBA

Pertamina Arden: #20 Norman Nato, #21 Sean Gelael

Hilmer Motorsport (TBA): #22 TBA, #23 TBA


The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.