ART Grand Prix rookie Théo Pourchaire made history in the Formula 2 Feature Race at Monte Carlo, converting pole to victory around the famed street track to become the Championship’s youngest ever victor at just 17-years-old, ahead of PREMA Racing’s fellow rookie Oscar Piastri.
Despite considering Monaco a home race, the Frenchman - who only lives 45 minutes away from the circuit - had never previously raced at the Principality. And the ART Grand Prix racer made it a debut to savour, becoming the second tier’s youngest polesitter on Thursday, before replacing Lando Norris as the youngest winner on Sunday.
It was a dominant victory to boot, with the Sauber junior looking almost entirely untroubled throughout the 42-lap race, holding off his former Formula 3 rival, Piastri.
UNI-Virtuosi’s Felipe Drugovich made the alternate strategy work from ninth to finish third and score his second podium of the weekend, ahead of Robert Shwarztman, who recovered from a slow pitstop to take P4.
Championship leader Guanyu Zhou pitted as late as Lap 37, overcutting his rivals to rise to fifth at the flag, after starting from 10th.
AS IT HAPPENED
Lining up in drier conditions than the morning’s wet race, Pourchaire enjoyed a dream start when the lights went out, getting a clean launch to pull away from his front row rival, Shwarztman. The PREMA was off the line nicely himself, but failed to trouble the Frenchman.
The front eight were all on softs as Shwartzman chased Pourchaire around the streets of Monte Carlo, closing the gap to under a second and within DRS range. Meanwhile, the ART crew were deep in discussion about their pit strategy, wary of getting overcut by Shwarztman.
Watchful of the pace of Drugovich – who had already changed to softs on the alternate strategy - Campos opted to bring Ralph Boschung in from sixth as early as Lap 21, sending him back out in 12th, with a long way to go on the Super Soft tyre.
If that was their strategy, then it didn’t appear to work, with Drugovich jumping the Swiss almost immediately. As others began to pit, the Brazilian was up to eighth.
The sight of Jüri Vips arriving in his rear-view mirror prompted Sprint Race 2 winner Dan Ticktum to get a move on and the Carlin quickly caught up to Piastri in P3. With the PREMA loosing pace, Carlin opted for the undercut and called Ticktum in for Super Softs, sending him back in P6. It was a move that didn’t come off, though, as PREMA responded by pitting Piastri on the following lap, returning him with track position in fifth, directly ahead of the Carlin.
Shwartzman ditched his heavily worn softs on Lap 30, but it was a nightmare stop and the Russian returned in fifth, losing track position to both Ticktum and Piastri. Pourchaire pitted from the lead on the following lap and re-joined in second, behind Zhou, who was yet to change his boots.
Three Virtual Safety Cars were required within the space of two chaotic laps. Firstly, for Marcus Armstrong, as the DAMS driver went into the wall, and then for Lirim Zendeli, who suffered the same fate.
The highest profile of the three was for Ticktum, as the Carlin racer braved a bold move on Piastri for third at Rascasse when the Australian locked up. The Briton attempted to squeeze by but ran out of room and ended up in the barrier.
With six laps to go, Zhou was still refusing to pit and possessed a 15s gap over Pourchaire, but the ART was lighting up the time screens, setting purple sector after purple sector. The Championship leader eventually opted to head in at the end of Lap 37, returning in fifth behind Shwarztman.
Handed P1 with a 5s gap over Piastri, Pourchaire closed out the momentous victory with relative ease. Drugovich completed the podium ahead of Shwartzman, with Zhou in fifth. Boschung was sixth ahead of Liam Lawson, while Vips ended up in eighth. Roy Nissany upped his points tally for the season with a P9 finish, ahead of Richard Verschoor.
KEY QUOTE – THEO POURCHAIRE (ART GRAND PRIX)
“I won the Monaco Feature Race and I feel so happy. The team did an incredible job, and the car was amazing. I was under pressure for around 20 laps, but then I was just really, really fast. We did a really good strategy, and yeah, we won at Monaco. I cannot believe it, I am so happy.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP VIEW
Zhou retains his grip on the Drivers’ Championship at the end of Round 2, sitting in first with 68 points, ahead of Piastri on 52. Pourchaire is up to third on 47 points, with Ticktum in fourth on 38 and Lawson fifth on 36.
In the Teams’ title fight, UNI-Virtuosi lead with 97 points, ahead of PREMA on 82 and Carlin on 67. ART are third with 63 and Hitech fifth with 58.
The field have two-weeks to catch their breath before heading to Baku for their second successive street race, on June 4-6.