PREMA’s Frederik Vesti won a red-flagged Monaco Feature Race to take the FIA Formula 2 championship lead.
The race was stopped on Lap 22 following a heavy crash for Australian driver Jack Doohan, which damaged the barriers and saw the Invicta Virtuosi car catch fire.
Danish driver Vesti led the entire race, stopping under the safety car before the red flag, having started from his first pole position of the season.
Vesti, 21, said: “First of all we had a really good start, and then I was just trying to manage the pace and the tyres. I could see I was pulling a gap to the others.”
The 27-points scored this weekend hand the Mercedes Junior driver a five-point lead over ART’s Théo Pourchaire, who finished second.
Pourchaire is under investigation for a pit stop incident where his car fell off the jacks.
Rodin Carlin picked up consecutive Feature Race podiums as Zane Maloney scooped his maiden podium appearance after Victor Martins was penalized for failing to slow for yellow flags.
Japanese driver Ayumu Iwasa, who won Saturday’s Sprint Race and led the championship as a result, finished 10th and falls 20-points adrift of Vesti in the championship.
Vesti keeps his cool to score the second 2023 Feature victory
Having claimed a sensational pole in Qualifying on Friday, Vesti knew the odds were in his favour on the streets of the principality.
Since 2019, the pole sitter in F2 at Monaco has won the Feature Race. But he still needed to make a good start to beat ART’s Victor Martins to Saint Devote.
That he did, and soon Vesti had opened a comfortable lead on the soft Pirelli tyre, which the ART pair behind and Jack Doohan were also running.
In typical Monaco fashion, there was not a huge amount of action at the front, as the drivers were running longer, while drivers such as Oliver Bearman and Ayumu Iwasa started on the super-soft tyre, aiming to make up early places.
We did not get to see how the strategy battle at the front would have played out, thanks to Doohan’s accident on Lap 22 at Massenet corner.
The Australian, who has struggled in 2023, spun at the top of the hill and crashed rearwards into the outside barrier, bouncing back towards the racing line.
He was narrowly avoided by Maloney, who ran fifth at the time behind Doohan, and then his car was missed in a terrifying incident where Martins almost hit marshals tending to the fire that had broken out as a result of the accident.
The initial Safety Car allowed Vesti to pit and retain his lead before the red flag was flown and the race stopped.
Following the restart, Vesti eased away from Martins and Pourchaire to win comfortably.
A Monaco masterclass for @frederik_vesti ??
— Formula 2 (@Formula2) May 28, 2023
‘Maximising each session’ key to Vesti title bid
Mercedes-backed Vesti described taking the lead of the Formula 2 championship as “incredible”, but said his focus was on making the most of each session to power his title bid.
Felipe Drugovich showed in 2022 that consistency is key to winning the F2 title, and while DAMS’ Iwasa has the most wins so far this season with three, two of which have been Sprint Race’s which yield fewer points, Vesti’s consistency has him at the top of the standings.
“My main focus is just maximising every session, if we do that well I’m sure we will have the championship by the end of the year.”
Since failing to score in the opening round, the 21-year-old had scored in every race since, heading into Monaco.
And while he didn’t pick up any points in the Sprint Race on Saturday, the two points for pole position made up for it.
Pourchaire similarly has scored heavily when he has done so, with the former ART teammates set to duel for the F2 championship.
Red Flag beneficiaries
The red flag which allowed several drivers to make their mandatory pit stop, had a number of beneficiaries, which saw Trident driver Roman Stanek finish in the points despite starting last on a track notorious for lack of overtaking.
Thanks to running longer on strategy, Kush Maini, Dennis Hauger, and the aforementioned Stanek came from outside the top 10 on the grid to score points.
Hauger’s effort from P17 at the start was all the more impressive given the MP Motorsport driver had to serve a five-second time penalty at his stop for leaving the track and gaining an advantage at the first corner.
The Dutchman eventually finished fifth, with Maini sixth behind him. Stanek finished seventh to score his first points in an F2 Feature Race.
— Formula 2 (@Formula2) May 28, 2023
Image: Formula Motorsport Limited