Antonio Fuoco held his nerve in a dramatic FIA Formula 2 Championship Sprint Race at Monte Carlo, Monaco, absorbing a swathe of challenges for the lead from Lando Norris and overcoming a flurry of safety cars to claim a maiden victory for Charouz Racing System.
Norris followed home in second to extend his championship lead, while Louis Delétraz took his first F2 podium finish in third place after a stunning defensive drive.
Making a strong start off the line, Fuoco and Norris surged ahead as Jack Aitken bogged down from second place, dropping down the order as Delétraz and Artem Markelov swarmed past.
Almost immediately, a virtual safety car was called to clear the cars of Tadasuke Makino and Luca Ghiotto; Makino struggled to get away, leaving Ghiotto to run into the back of the Japanese driver out of the blocks.
Once the VSC period was declared over, Norris set about challenging Fuoco at the restart, carving into the Italian’s advantage before a safety car was called at the end of the fourth lap; Sean Gelael had clipped the kerb while passing through the Piscine section, subsequently becoming airborne before the Prema driver careened into the barrier. The debris was hastily swept away for a restart at the end of the ninth lap, with Fuoco adeptly holding the lead from Norris and Delétraz.
Behind the leading trio, Markelov was running Arjun Maini incredibly close, attempting a move around the outside of La Rascasse but ultimately running out of room to pass the Trident driver. This was a precursor to his next-lap assault, with Markelov once again using La Rascasse to launch his attack.
Diving down the inside, the Russian driver found just enough space to complete the pass, with Delétraz next in his sights. Closing the Swiss ace down, Markelov once more attempted a move in the penultimate corner, but was ultimately unsuccessful.
Fuoco, after absorbing Norris’s challenges in the first half of the race, had charged into a two-second lead by lap 20, before a second VSC was introduced after George Russell hit the wall on the exit of Piscine.
Full-speed running returned a lap later, with Fuoco nailing the restart to open the lead out by a further second over the Carlin driver. Markelov meanwhile resumed his attack on Delétraz, and seemed set to clear him as they ran side-by-side through Massenet, but the Charouz driver’s sterling efforts in defence kept Markelov at bay.
With four laps remaining, another safety car was called after Alexander Albon collided with Roy Nissany on the exit of the tunnel; attempting a move, the Thai driver fired into the back of Nissany’s car and ended up in the opposite wall after the Nouvelle Chicane – with Nissany left facing the wrong way.
As the cars were quickly cleared, green flag running resumed with Fuoco once more preserving his lead over Norris as Delétraz found breathing space over Markelov.
No sooner had the race restarted, the safety car made its third and final appearance to close out the race; Nirei Fukuzumi had mistimed his braking into La Rascasse and drifted into the wall, with Santino Ferrucci doing likewise seconds later.
Although the safety car pulled in at the end of the final lap, Fuoco was unchallenged and clinched his second F2 victory ahead of Norris, while Delétraz ensured both Charouz drivers would stand on the podium.
Markelov’s best efforts to clear Delétraz came to no avail, and had to be content with fourth as Roberto Merhi cleared Maini to take fifth place. Maximilian Günther grabbed his first points since Bahrain with seventh, as Nicholas Latifi took eighth – with it, the points for the fastest lap.
Norris reaches 100 points to extend his championship lead, as Markelov and Albon complete the top three with 71 points each. ART Grand Prix pair Russell and Aitken complete the top five, currently standing at 62 and 49 points respectively.
Carlin continue to lead the teams’ championship with 146 points, 35 points ahead of ART while DAMS sit on 91. After winning yesterday’s race, Russian Time move up to fourth with 75 points.
The FIA Formula 2 Championship will resume next time out from the 22-24 June at Le Castellet, France, a new venue for the calendar. The drivers clocked in plenty of mileage in pre-season testing at the Circuit Paul Ricard, but the long straights and mixture of corners should provide a stern challenge in racing trim.