Monaco GP2: Markelov robs Nato of win in VSC farce

Artem Markelov provisionally claimed the first win of his GP2 career by gaining time on erstwhile leader Norman Nato behind the virtual safety car in a chaotic Monaco race.

Monaco GP2: Markelov robs Nato of win in VSC farce
Podium: winner Artem Markelov, RUSSIAN TIME, second place Norman Nato, Racing Engineering, third place Oliver Rowland, MP Motorsport
Norman Nato, Racing Engineering leads Sergey Sirotkin, ART Grand Prix
Artem Markelov, RUSSIAN TIME
Artem Markelov, RUSSIAN TIME
Norman Nato, Racing Engineering
Norman Nato, Racing Engineering
Norman Nato, Racing Engineering
Oliver Rowland, MP Motorsport
Alex Lynn, DAMS
Winner Artem Markelov, RUSSIAN TIME celebrates with champagne
Winner Artem Markelov, RUSSIAN TIME celebrates with champagne

Opting to stay out later than anyone on a prime-option strategy, Markelov, who had started in P15, got a serious boost from the numerous crashes to gain a ton of time under VSC and emerge ahead of Nato after his pitstop.

Having topped his qualifying group to secure a front row start, Nato eased past slow-starting poleman Sergey Sirotkin to lead into Ste Devote.

But the Russian quickly recovered from the poor getaway, holding off Nato's teammate Jordan King and setting out after the Frenchman, who he followed closely over the opening laps.

Eventually, Nato established some breathing room, heading Sirotkin by a second on lap 11 as King dropped off the duo.

At that point, Sirotkin allowed himself a mistake, cutting the Nouvelle Chicane and dropping back - but it took the Renault test driver just five laps to recover the lost time.

Meanwhile, in a battle that would later decide the podium, Oliver Rowland attempted a rare overtaking move on Mitch Evans into Nouvelle Chicane, the Kiwi cutting the corner to stay ahead - which would later result in a five-second penalty.

As the race approached halfway, Pierre Gasly, who had been relegated to a pitlane start from missing the weighbridge, clobbered Arden's Jimmy Eriksson, the debris from the accident the first of the race's many virtual safety car periods.

The VSC was soon lifted, with Sirotkin gaining massively on Nato - only for his ART Grand Prix machine to fishtail on exit of Piscine and smack the wall, making it a second consecutive feature race retirement for the Russian.

That made it a Racing Engineering 1-2 out front as the VSC came out again while Sirotkin's car was removed - and, as the race went back to green, it was immediately back to VSC conditions for a crash for Nabil Jeffri at La Rascasse.

That would be far from the end of the race's drama, with King hitting the wall in the next green flag stretch and retiring in the pits, giving provisional second place to Rowland, who had passed Evans on one of the VSC restarts.

The frontrunners, all running a prime-option strategy, pitted with around 10 laps remaining, Nato being the latest to do so - and the Racing Engineering driver's stop went poorly, costing him a sizable gap he had built up over Rowland, even if he did rejoin just ahead.

The slow stop did have more serious repercussions, however, as Markelov, staying out late and having run 20 seconds behind Nato at that point, started gaining time on worn primes, before a VSC came out for Luca Ghiotto's Trident car shedding debris.

That VSC period soon ended, only to be immediately replaced by another VSC as Ghiotto came to a halt on track - and it is during that hold-up that Markelov gained time on Nato.

Pitting as the track went green for the final time, Markelov emerged ahead of Nato and held him off on cold tyres to take the chequered flag in first.

Nato and Rowland completed a provisional podium, ahead of Alex Lynn, Evans, and Markelov's teammate Raffaele Marciello.

An option-prime strategy saw Antonio Giovinazzi take seventh, while Marvin Kirchhofer, on a similar strategy, took the reverse-grid pole after Ghiotto's retirement.

Nobuharu Matsushita and Daniel de Jong completed the points.

Race results

Pos. Driver Team Time/Gap
1 Artem Markelov Russian Time 1:01:27.183
2 Norman Nato Racing Engineering 1.541
3 Oliver Rowland MP Motorsport 3.187
4 Alex Lynn DAMS 8.239
5 Mitch Evans Pertamina Campos Racing 11.723
6 Raffaele Marciello Russian Time 15.025
7 Marvin Kirchhofer Carlin 21.153
8 Nobuharu Matsushita ART Grand Prix 21.582
9 Daniel de Jong MP Motorsport 22.343
10 Arthur Pic Rapax 23.333
11 Antonio Giovinazzi* PREMA Racing 25.037
12 Sergio Canamasas Carlin 30.192
13 Sean Gelael Pertamina Campos Racing 31.295
14 Gustav Malja* Rapax 39.900
15 Pierre Gasly PREMA Racing 49.748
16 Philo Paz Armand Trident 1 Lap
Ret Luca Ghiotto Trident  
Ret Jimmy Eriksson Arden International  
Ret Jordan King Racing Engineering  
Ret Nabil Jeffri Arden International  
Ret Sergey Sirotkin ART Grand Prix  
Ret Nicholas Latifi DAMS  

*Giovinazzi and Malja were handed five-second post-race time penalties for gaining unfair advantage at Turn 10 and 1 respectively.

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