Japanese driver converts alternate strategy to maiden F2 win
Tadasuke Makino rocketed to a surprise victory in the FIA Formula 2 Championship Feature Race at Monza, Italy, expertly converting an alternate strategy call into a win from 14th on the grid. The Japanese driver pitted with three laps to go to emerge ahead of teammate Artem Markelov, holding station to give the RUSSIAN TIME team a one-two finish. Alexander Albon of DAMS completed the podium.
On an overcast day at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, there was misfortune before the formation lap for Sergio Sette Camara; starting from second, the Carlin driver suffered from issues that relegated him to a pitlane start, leaving a berth free on the front row. As the lights went out, polesitter George Russell endured a slow getaway and was immediately accosted by Markelov and Albon – the Russian charging into the open space alongside Russell and emerging from the opening chicane with the lead, with Albon following through into second.
Markelov stamped his authority over the early stages of the race, but soon came under heavy pressure from Albon – the Thai driver began to initiate a challenge for the lead by lap 3, but couldn't make an ambitious move on Markelov around the outside at the first Lesmo pay off. Albon staked Markelov out until the turn of the following lap, making his play for first into the first corner. Behind them, Makino was beginning to reap the rewards of starting on the medium tyre; getting up to eighth by the end of lap 1, the Japanese ace put the drivers ahead of him to the sword on the fourth tour of the circuit – overtaking Ghiotto, Norris, Latifi and Russell in one lap as the supersoft starters began to struggle.
RUSSIAN TIME then took control of the race, and Markelov usurped Albon in the lead with a charge into turn 1, as Makino squeezed past into Lesmo 1 later in the lap. The two then switched positions, Markelov letting Makino run clear amid different strategies. At the end of lap 6, the front-runners all ditched their supersoft tyres having come to the end of their life, Russell leapfrogging Albon in the pits as Nicholas Latifi joined them on fresh medium tyres a lap later.
Running his own race, Makino had a clear advantage after the pitstops and was well ahead of fellow alternate strategy-dabblers Ralph Boschung and Dorian Boccolacci, also boasting a 40s gap to Markelov – who came under fire from Russell post-pitstop. Sensing that Russell would have the legs on him with DRS at the start of lap 10, Markelov let the championship leader through at the Parabolica before reassuming a tow into turn 1 to clear the ART driver for good. Albon breezed past Russell at the same corner on the following lap, leaving him in the clutches of title rival Lando Norris.
By the middle of the race, Makino’s lead over Markelov stood at 46 seconds, and the Honda junior driver’s pace was sufficient to keep the gap over his teammate stagnant. Meanwhile, Norris collected several runs on Russell, but was unable to make his way past; side-by-side at Curva Grande, Norris had to drop a wheel onto the grass to avoid contact with his rival, conceding defeat before the second chicane.
As the race approached two-thirds distance, Markelov started to consistently lap faster than Makino, winding the gap down to 44s as the Japanese driver’s tyres began to suffer from wear. Norris then made his way past Russell for fifth, holding the line down the inside of Curva Grande and absorbing an effort on the following lap into turn 1. However, the McLaren reserve driver was unable to drive clear of Russell, and the two swapped positions once more as Latifi was beginning to catch the pair.
Makino made his stop with three laps remaining with the gap at 40.7s, collecting a set of supersofts to return to the circuit clear of Markelov – albeit with just 2.2s in hand. Markelov looked set to challenge, but Makino was able to quickly generate enough tyre temperature to keep him at bay – claiming his first ever F2 victory with an eventual 1.7s gap over his teammate.
Albon was left to enjoy a comparatively quiet race to third, as behind him Russell extended his advantage over Norris in the championship to 13 points – Norris was overtaken by Latifi late on and could only finish sixth. Sette Camara recovered from his pitlane start to finish seventh, while Antonio Fuoco claimed eighth to secure pole in tomorrow’s Sprint Race. Ralph Boschung converted his alternate strategy to ninth, with Nyck de Vries rounding out the scorers.