We said yesterday that Russian Time would have its work cut out to achieve a podium finish in the first F2 feature race of the season after a difficult qualifying day, but Russian Renault F1 test and development driver Artem Markelov clearly hadn’t read that script! The 23-year-old lined up 17th on the grid, stalled, and was forced to start from the pit lane, from where he produced one of his trademark fighting race performances to finish a fabulous third behind Carlin drivers Lando Norris and Sergio Sette Camara.
Four laps into the 31-lap race Artem was up to 11th and 13.5s behind leader Norris and by the time the chequered flag fell he was 5s closer despite spending the entire race battling through the field – a remarkable drive.
New F2 rookie team mate Tadasuke Makino had a tough F2 baptism after a contact with former Russian Time driver Luca Ghiotto resulted in a puncture and restricted him to a lapped 19th place when the chequered flag fell.
Artem Markelov: «After a problematic opening day we did a lot of overnight work and I want to thanks the guys in the team. The car felt good from the start and I was able to attack all the way through despite the need to take care of the tyres. I got my nose briefly in front of Camara at the start of the last lap but a lock-up took the last out of my option tyres. But, from the pitlane, I’m happy with a podium!”
Tadasuke Makino: «My start was pretty good but I took a hit at the hairpin and then struggled a bit for traction. After Artem overtook me I was following him and the pace was not bad, but then Ghiotto hit me, for which he got a penalty, and effectively finished my race. Disappointing.”
Svetlana Strelnikova (Team principal): «What can you say? Artem keeps on producing these tremendous race performances and today’s was one of his very best, particularly on an abrasive circuit where you have to be mindful of the tyres. The cards did not fall for Tadasuke today and he had to do three-quarters of a lap with a puncture, but at least he got some race mileage under his belt. I wish him better luck tomorrow.”