The FIA Formula 2 Championship reconvenes in France after a four-week break at the end of June with Lando Norris having extended his series lead after impressive races in Monaco this week (25-26 May). The 18-year-old Briton, having led the championship standings since his opening Bahrain race victory (7 Apr), took the chequered flag in sixth and second positions in Monte Carlo. However, Lando was subsequently given a 1.1sec time penalty by race officials late this evening for being in breach of the Virtual Safety Car regulations which dropped him to third in the final Sprint race classification and now leads the title race by 27-points.
Having set the third fastest time in Free Practice on Thursday morning, the BRDC SuperStar was confident of challenging for pole-position around the unforgiving, tight and twisting 2.07-mile street circuit. With the 20-car field split into two Groups for qualifying due to the length and narrowness of the track, Norris immediately set the quickest time and was improving his time, on his second run on new tyres, until a mistake at the ‘swimming pool’ section of the track resulted in him hitting the wall on the exit resulting in a ninth-row start for yesterday’s 42-lap, 87-mile Feature race.
With overtaking opportunities at a premium on what is the shortest track on the F2 calendar, Norris nevertheless made his compulsory pit-stop (lap 7) for tyres from 11th place and was 10th (lap 17) before serving a drive-thru penalty after making contact with another car. By mid-distance, he lay 11th– setting a series of race fastest laps in his Carlin Dallara – and took the chequered flag a fine sixth – just 1.4secs behind the fourth-placed finisher. Although it equalled Lando’s lowest place finish of the season, it increased his championship lead to the largest margin of 17pts. The McLaren F1 Test & Reserve driver began today’s 30-lap Sprint race from the second row and immediately snatched second place off the line after a great start. Lando pressed Antonio Fuoco hard for the lead for much of the “stop-start” race which featured two Virtual Safety Car and three Safety Car periods. Although the Safety Car pulled in to the pit-lane for the finish, the field held positions for the final 150yard sprint to the chequered flag – his position of third place taking into account the time penalty netting Lando a 98pt score. The next rounds of the championship are staged at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Southern France over 23-24 June.
Lando Norris (GB): Born: Bristol, England. Aged 18.
"It’s been a good recovery despite the Sprint race penalty. I let the team and everyone down in qualifying but made up for it a little with more points from both races. I set the third fastest time in Free Practice on Thursday morning. We made a few changes to the car for qualifying a few hours later. I was P1 on old tyres before pitting for a new set. I went purple [outright fastest] in Sectors 1 & 2 but then, having gone ‘flat’ in the swimming pool section for the first time, hit the left curb on the exit and contacted the wall on the right, damaging the front wing and suspension. The steering was completely bent but I still managed to complete the lap. The car was good enough for pole but I made a costly mistake that I believed at the time, had ruined both race prospects.
But the Feature race couldn’t have worked out better for me and I certainly didn’t expect a sixth-place finish and to still be leading the championship after it after many of my title contenders suffered crashes. I couldn’t actually see the start lights at the very front of the grid and I couldn’t turn my head any further to the left to see the ones beside me on the grid. I was really scared of cars stalling ahead of me and so I couldn’t keep an eye on both, I was very nervous, so I just went off the line when everyone else moved and it was a pretty good start. I had a good pit-stop then tried a move at the final corner on [Ralph] Boschung who had exited the pits. I went up the inside of him but then it got too tight and we touched for which I got a drive-thru.
My pace was very good in the middle of the race and undercut a load of cars who pitted later than me. I made a really good start in the Sprint race, managing to pass Aitken off the line, and seemed to have a better start than [pole-sitter] Antonio [Fuoco] who I pressed for the opening laps really hard. He didn’t make any mistakes so I backed off a little to save my tyres but there were lots of interruptions [VSC/Safety Car]. It wasn’t an easy race managing the tyres and I wasn’t as happy with the car set-up compared to yesterday. But I’m happy considering where we were after Thursday and to have increased my championship lead.”