Note from the editor: the article was written literally an hour before O’Ward Formula 2 announcement. Hard to choose between the Mexican and the Russian, however Helmut Marko already did it for us. Enjoy Sergio’s thoughts on Markelov. Peace.
So you thought it was impossible to lose all super licence points over a 12 months period? Look no further than the back of the F2 grid where, astonishingly, Mahaveer Raghunathan has the dubious honour of becoming the first driver who reaches that maximum… and doing so in just four weekends. To be more precise, nine out of those 12 points were removed from his superlicence in just one feature race: On Saturday, at Paul Ricard, he infringed the Virtual Safety Car procedures up to three times… which amounted to three penalty points for each separate offense. He was allowed to take part in the sprint race after a provisional interpretation of the rule that states that the subsequent race ban must be applied to the whole next event in Austria.
But this piece is not conceived to make a big deal about Raghunathan’s behaviour. More on the contrary, what Iberianmph really likes is to celebrate the talents of the people that we have had the pleasure to meet; and the point is that F1’s perennially overlooked Artem Markelov is once again in line to delight F2 spectators with his already well documented feel for tyre wear. Truth to be told, Raghunathan’s loss could unintendedly become (MP) motorsport’s gain.
Not that he has stayed far from race tracks… but by till the present he has stayed far from European circuits. Hardcore racing fans may have watched his performances in the Japanese Super Formula series and, if they were expecting Markelov to deliver the same level as in Formula 2, they might have felt disappointed.
But let’s compare his 16th place at Sugo with the good bunch of points he collected in Monte Carlo (4th in the feature race and 6th in the sprint one), and give the Russian some more time to adapt to the fastest formula in the world bar F1. If he has proved something in Formula 2, it is his proficiency as a fast learner. That average 2014 season, with just one points finish, looks far away nowadays… as (thankfully) is his promise of not looking back on F2 and not looking for an opportunity elsewhere if he did not get his deserved F1 race seat for 2019, with Williams or with any other team.
2017 F2 vice-champion Markelov was already seen driving the MP car through the streets of Monaco, replacing Jordan King while the Brit was giving the Indy 500 a go. It was as if he had never gone from F2, as Guanyu Zhou can testify: “Having him behind me for the whole race has made it definitely one of my most intense races so far.” Now this is respect from a newcomer who can feel proud of his own defensive manoeuvres against a seasoned driver, and then take some more pride from catching Markelov napping at the start of that feature race.
As Iberianmph went to “digital press”, MP Motorsport’s boss Sander Dorsman had not confirmed if the team would go again this weekend for Markelov’s services, in such difficult circumstances.
Over the years, Artem Markelov has faced the competition of the Leclercs, the Russells, the Albons, even the Rowlands, and for sure he can feel proud of his achievements. Can’t wait for Dorsman to make his mind up and put Markelov again at the wheel at the Red Bull Ring… and for many more races, if we are allowed to make suggestions.