Artem Markelov took a controversial GP2 victory at Monaco last weekend after gaining significant time on his rivals during two Virtual Safety Car periods. His win became the subject of a stewards inquiry but the investigation revealed that Markelov simply got lucky.
Markelov inherited the lead at Monaco when his rivals pitted, and although he might’ve expected to fall back behind them when he made his own pitstop, Markelov held onto first place because he was able to gain the necessary time during two Virtual Safety Car periods. In theory this shouldn’t be possible but Monaco’s layout created a unique situation.
The Virtual Safety Car mandates that drivers must stay above a minimum sector time. When it was used during the GP2 race at Monaco, Artem Markelov happened to be on the tight twisty part of the circuit heading down towards the harbour. This meant he didn’t need to scrub off too much speed because he was on the slowest part of the track anyway. Meanwhile, his main rivals were on the fastest part of the circuit so had to drop a lot more speed.
Additionally, when the Virtual Safety Car period finished, Markelov was on the fastest part of the track so gained the most potential from the restart. His main competition was back on that tight section so didn’t gain the same advantage.
This could only happen at a circuit like Monaco where the slowest sector is ridiculously slow. Markelov got lucky with the timing, and it shows how a Virtual Safety Car (generally much fairer than a conventional Safety Car) can still advantage or disadvantage some drivers.