F2 Monaco 2023

Yacht parties, champagne and tears

F2 in Monaco, it’s pretty, glamorous and definitely doesn’t ever come with mass confusion resulting in the whole race result being disputed by basically everyone. Never.

Practice and an after party

Luckily it stopped raining by the time F2 Practice got underway, because I’m trying to live vicariously through the TV and I need glamorous summer Monaco vibes. A yacht with a grey cloudy background? Terrible.

Not very glamorous, but certainly very Monaco-esque, was Roman Staněk crashing into Ralph Boschung, just ten minutes into the session. The red flags and cranes got to work straight away, as did the stewards, who handed Staněk a three-place grid drop for the Sprint Race.

After that, the drivers managed to go round a bit more without causing too much damage to their cars, despite Kush Maini’s best attempts to rip the side of the barriers off. That is until Ollie Bearman ploughed head (nose? front wing?) first into the wall. This time it wasn’t impressive, but that didn’t stop Richard Verschoor from copying him a few minutes later, abruptly ending the session with Ayumu Iwasa fastest, Victor Martins second and Verschoor’s slightly worse for wear car in third. Then they all went to a party (probably).

Qualifying, fashion shows and casinos

As is tradition for F2 at Monaco (and to avoid lots of crashing to give the stewards time to go out to a fashion show or casino), the field was divided into two qualifying groups. The odd car numbers versus the evens, with a ballot to decide which group went first. The fastest driver would get pole position (obviously), while second place would go to the fastest driver from the other group, and so the grid is then formed by alternating positions between the two groups. Each group had a very logical 16 minutes to prove their worth.

The ballot determined that the even numbers had to go first. For those few who don’t keep 100% on top of F2 driver numbers, that meant that Group A consisted of Daruvala, Fittipaldi, Martins, Bearman, Hadjar, Leclerc, Doohan, Nissany, Staněk, Verschoor and Maini, while Group B was Hauger, Maloney, Pourchaire, Vesti, Crawford, Iwasa, Cordeel, Benavides, Novalak, Correa and Boschung.

Group A got underway with home-hero Arthur Leclerc demonstrating that he was just like his superstar brother by unleashing the Monaco curse and crashing into the barriers, prematurely ending his session and securing his place near the back for the rest of the weekend.

After the subsequent red flag, there were six minutes to go and everyone hurried back on track. They all went fast until Jehan Daruvala went too fast into the wall. With only 30 seconds left of the session, they decided to call it a day, with Martins the fastest of the group, Jack Doohan second and Verschoor third.

Next it was Group B’s turn. The time they needed to beat to be the fastest group was 1:21.231, so they all headed out to have a go. After ten minutes, usual Monaco specialist Théo Pourchaire was fastest, but Iwasa had hit a barrier and bent his steering so an imminent and thrilling Bearman-style super lap was expected. Surprise! Iwasa was slower with bent steering. Then surprise! Frederik Vesti suddenly arrived at the top of the timing boards. And then surprise (not really)! Clément Novalak crashed and there were red flags and it was all over. Vesti was victorious, not only having the fastest lap of the group, but with a time of 1:21.053 he was fastest of them all. Vesti’s team applauded him as he arrived back to the pits and everyone (not actually everyone) was happy.

Amalgamating the results of Group A and Group B (which the FIA doesn’t actually bother to do. Thanks FIA for making me do work), revealed that Vesti was on pole, with Martins second and Pourchaire third. Everyone else was sad, disappointed and frustrated.

Sprint Race: Crying on a yacht with champagne and diamonds

After smushing the results from the two qualifying groups together and reversing some of the first ones, Isack Hadjar was on pole for the Sprint Race. Iwasa was second, while Daruvala was third and said he would definitely try to overtake. Oh how we laughed whilst also looking wide eyed and desperate, “Pleeeeeaaassssseee let there be overtaking”.

It was an orderly start for the first half of the lap until Novalak ran into Maini, pushing Maini into a spin and causing standard Monaco issues behind him, as everyone came flying along only to discover a car stopped in the middle of the track. Maini was out, while Boschung and Nissany got stuck and were also out. Leclerc and Hauger were off to the pits to fix their battered cars, along with Novalak who got to experience a pit stop and a ten-second time penalty for being the architect of the whole situation (that’s really what they’re calling the penalty these days) and then a ten-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane. A successful day. The Safety Car was called while the marshals found places to hide all the broken cars behind the barriers.

People on big boats got a good view of lots of stationary F2 cars

As the race got back underway, it looked like we were getting an actually exciting challenge for the lead, as Iwasa attempted an overtake on Hadjar. But no. Hadjar’s car had given up. He dropped like a stone and screamed (probably) all the way back to the pits and then (presumably) found a plush yacht to have a cry on. Hadjar’s demise left Iwasa in the lead, with Daruvala in second and Jak Crawford third.

Excitement levels were low for a little while until Enzo Fittipaldi overtook Amaury Cordeel for tenth place. An overtake! The joy! It seemed even Cordeel couldn’t handle the thrill, as he crashed a lap later. Except actually it turned out he had been rammed by Juan Manuel Correa. Correa got a ten-second time penalty and the Safety Car driver got a call for a job.

After the restart, the distraction of Bearman pitting because he bent something, meant that we (I) missed how Iwasa built a three-second lead in one lap. Three seconds quickly became six seconds and finally a win. “Yay, we are the Monaco winners” he declared, never failing to disappoint in the low-key victory celebrations stakes. When asked about his win he said, “This was my minimum job as a racing driver.” Tell that to everyone else who has ever won at Monaco before drowning themselves in champagne and diamonds (probably).

Feature Race, eating golden cake and dancing with celebrities

Vesti, Martins and Pourchaire were the top three starting the Feature Race and it was Vesti, Martins and Pourchaire who were the top three after the start of the Feature Race too. Surprise! Midfield, Bearman did some overtaking. Genuine surprise! While Hauger just cut the first corner to do a load of illegal overtaking, like someone who just didn’t care anymore. He got a five-second time penalty. Not a surprise!

As the traditional barging and shoving that happens at the start of Monaco races waned and everyone settled into single file, Cordeel pitted to retire with a random car issue (yes, that is the technical term). Leclerc didn’t fair much better, as his brakes broke a few laps later and he headed to the pits to sit in his car and look sad. Meanwhile everyone else also came into the pits to start taking their mandatory pit stops.

Fittipaldi’s car was the next to break, in a dramatic engine blowing plume of smoke kind of way. He found somewhere out of the way to have his malfunction and there was only a short Virtual Safety Car period before it was safe to race again. Not that it really mattered, as Doohan clattered into the barriers shortly after, breaking his car and then crashing even harder, before everything set on fire. A burning car sideways in the middle of a narrow track wasn’t the ideal safety scenario and Zane Maloney narrowly avoided Doohan as the incident happened right in front of him. Martins, however, had no excuse for driving too fast under the double waved yellow flags, dodging to avoid Doohan’s car. Martins swiftly received a drive-through penalty for his dangerous actions. Doohan was thankfully ok, but the barriers were not and a red flag was eventually called to deal with the big clean up.

While everyone psyched themselves up for the race restart, Boschung hung out and had fun with his sponsors, although presumably not the same ones who got banned for having too much fun earlier in the season. I’m sure no one would ever bring their sponsors to Monaco just for a big jolly anyway.

Once everything was fixed, Vesti, Pourchaire and Martins lead the way in a rolling restart, but Martins taking his drive-through penalty promoted Maloney to third place. As the end of the race loomed large, everyone just looked frustrated at being stuck behind the car in front, including Novalak who went for a dodgy overtake and got a five-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.

Vesti, out front, had no reason to be frustrated and celebrated as he crossed the line to win. “This is the biggest dream of mine… in Formula 2”, he told his team. Beautiful words. Pourchaire and Maloney followed behind him and everyone went to eat gold-leafed cake and dance with a massive group celebrities and bankers. I presume, although at this point I feel it’s become abundantly clear I’ve never been anywhere near Monaco.

Most glamorous championship standings

Judging solely on a 30-second glance at Instagram, Novalak won in the most glamorous (yachty-looking) Monaco experience championship, followed by Correa in second (who was with Novalak) and Leclerc third (because he is intrinsically Monaco-y). In the regular F2 championship standings, it’s new championship leader time again as Vesti has a go at the top spot with 89 points. Pourchaire is second (84 points) and Iwasa trails behind a little in third (69 points). Maini (49 points), Hauger and Maloney (both on 48 points) round out the top six, but will probably all be in first place next week after we (they) race in Barcelona.

F2 Monaco 2023
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