Rowland wins Monaco feature race
Oliver Rowland has claimed an emphatic victory at the Circuit de Monaco in the FIA Formula 2 Feature Race, flying around the fabled streets of the Principality to grab the top step of the podium ahead of Artem Markelov and Nobuharu Matsushita.
The DAMS British driver came back from a relatively slow start to grab the win, closing the championship gap to leader Charles Leclerc – who set the pole position in the Thursday qualifying but failed to finish the race – to just 3 points in the process.
When the lights went out poleman Leclerc just held off front row starter Albon into Ste Devote, with Rowland denying a fast starting Matsushita, who blasted past Markelov at the start, as they headed up the hill towards Casino Square. The front two were in a race of their own as they swapped fastest laps and build a big gap back to the Englishman until a retirement for Nicholas Latifi in the tunnel brought out the safety car.
For those who started on super softs, led by Luca Ghiotto in P9, it was a godsend, but for the others it posed a question, to be answered quickly: change early onto super softs and try to get to the end of the race, or hold onto your strategy and hope that you can build enough of a lead to pit under green later? Albon was the most prominent driver to gamble on the change, emerging in P7 ahead of Ghiotto, promoting Rowland to P2 behind Leclerc in the process.
The race went live on lap 12, and once again Leclerc left the others behind as Rowland eked out a gap back to Matsushita, Markelov, Jordan King and Norman Nato, with Ghiotto trying in vain to find a way past Albon behind them before Louis Deletraz and Robert Visiou came together at Mirabeau, prompting another safety car period which undid those who gambled earlier.
Leclerc was called in just after the collision but before the SC was called, with his pursuers coming in behind the safety car: Markelov jumped Matsushita in the pits but the trio emerging in front of the local driver, demoting him to 4th. Worse was to come for the Monegasque though, as he returned to the pits a lap later with a mechanical gremlin which brought his race to an early end, along with a similar issue for near neighbour Nato.
With the track now clear in front of him Rowland tore away at the restart, building a solid lead which would hold all the way to the flag, with Markelov closing over the final laps but unable to do anything about the Briton in front of him. Matsushita held on for the final podium position ahead of teammate Albon, whose tyre gamble hadn’t paid off but who was able keep Ghiotto at bay for P4, while Gustav Malja took advantage of starting on super softs to push up from 11th on the grid to P6 on the line, just denying a charging Nyck De Vries (who jumped from P14 to tomorrow’s front row) and Rapax teammate Johnny Cecotto jr, with King and Sergio Canamasas closing out the points positions.