Monaco’s feature GP2 race resulted in non-finishes for Russian Time drivers Artem Markelov and Mitch Evans, who both fell foul of contact in an incident-packed event.
Markelov started 13th on the grid and Evans 18th, after a problematic qualifying day, but both men made strong early progress. With the team splitting tyre strategies, Markelov, on Pirelli’s option (supersoft) tyre, was into the top 10 by lap eight, when he made his pit stop for the prime tyre. Shortly afterwards, however, he ran wide over the kerb in the left-hander exiting the Swimming Pool section of the circuit and hit the guard rail, which necessitated and additional pit stop and then retirement.
Evans, who scheduled a longer opening stint on the prime (soft) tyre, set the quickest first sector time when he finally found himself in clear air and rapidly caught British driver Nick Yelloly in the Hilmer Motorsport car. With the race approaching half distance, Evans attempted to outbrake Yelloly into the harbour front chicane but Yelloly turned in and contact but the Kiwi out of the race.
The incident prompted a virtual safety car and the leading runners pitted, with pole position man and early leader Alexander Rossi losing his advantage to Stoffel Vandoorne in the pits. The Belgian ART driver then confidently took another win ahead of the American, with Colombian Julian Leal taking the final podium position. Evans and Markelov now face another difficult challenge from low down on the grid in Saturday’s second race.
Artem Markelov: “I got a decent start with the extra grip from the option tyres and made up a place on the opening lap, but it was frustrating to end the race after contact with the barrier. The track has been altered slightly at that point but you can still get airborne over the kerb, which is what happened to me. I got sideways and I couldn’t stop the car from clipping the barrier.”
Mitch Evans: “I knew it was going to be tough from 18th on the grid, here of all places, but I was actually making good progress. I was quicker than Yelloly, got a good exit from Portiers, was close behind through the tunnel and I thought I was far enough alongside into the chicane for him to have to give me racing room, but unfortunately that’s not how it worked out.”
Svetlana Strelnikova, team principal: “Contact, either with the barriers or another competitor, is an ever-present threat in Monaco and unfortunately neither of our drivers made it to the finish today. That is a blow for us but we will re-group and try to salvage something from another tricky situation tomorrow.”