Anthoine Hubert became the season’s first rookie winner by the finest of margins in the FIA Formula 2 sprint race at Monaco. The Frenchman survived a late attack from second-placed Louis Delétraz whose front wing was just inches behind the BWT Arden’s at the checkered flag. Fellow rookie Guanyu Zhou finished third to claim his second podium in F2.
At the start of the race, Hubert, on a new set of soft tires, made a good getaway to wrest the lead from Delétraz, while Zhou sailed around the outside of Artem Markelov into Turn 1 for third. Also on fresher tires, Ralph Boschung snuck into seventh ahead of both yesterday’s feature race winner Nyck De Vries and Sérgio Sette Câmara.
The safety car brought a brief stop to the racing after Luca Ghiotto made contact with Tatiana Calderon at Turn 5, effectively ending Colombian Calderon’s day.
Racing resumed, but not for long: Ghiotto’s luckless weekend would continue when he entangled himself with Mahaveer Raghunathan at the hairpin and ended both his own, and the MP Motorsport man’s race. The marshals were swift in clearing up the mess, but Hubert was even quicker: Not only did he hold onto the lead at the restart, he went on to set the fastest lap.
Despite his pace out in front, the 22-year-old had not been able to distance himself from the remainder of the front four, and just 2.5s separated the quintet, who were all in search of their first F2 win.
The title fight was then given a shake-up: Mechanical issues forced Boschung into retirement, while Matsushita dropped to ninth, which elevated De Vries to sixth and handed him the virtual championship lead.
Just over 10 laps remained and it all went wrong at the back: Sean Gelael failed to slow for the Nouvelle Chicane and rammed Giuliano Alesi, which ended the Trident man’s race.
The front four had pulled away by then from the Campos of Dorian Boccolacci in fifth, but in front, Hubert still couldn’t shake the unrelenting Carlin of Delétraz. Despite Zhou’s continued presence in his mirrors, Delétraz stuck to the tail of the Renault Junior driver with just minutes remaining.
The Frenchman had been mistake-free all race, but a momentary wobble on the final lap threatened to derail his race as he kissed the barrier. Delétraz had been waiting for this mistake, but was unable to capitalize as Hubert managed to steady his Arden, keep Delétraz behind and and head for the checkered.
Hubert’s brushing the wall seemed to be Delétraz’s final chance, but the Swiss had other ideas and attempted a daring lunge at the flag, Carlin-run maching darting to the left on the final straight and edging to Hubert’s left, but his bid ended just inches behind at the line.
Behind, Zhou held on for third in front of Artem Markelov, Boccolacci, Sette Câmara, De Vries and Nikita Mazepin.
Out of the points, but eligible for the fastest lap, Nicholas Latifi clawed further pace from his DAMS to snatch the quickest time right at the end to remain atop the F2 driver’s championship standings with 95 points, followed by De Vries with 94.
The series will resume at le Circuit Paul Ricard in France in just under a month’s time, when Latifi and De Vries are sure to face up against one another once again.