A Late VSC Deprives Isack Hadjar of a Deserved Victory in Monaco. Campos Racing Remains Leader

The French driver and Campos Racing executed a perfect race strategically, and only a Virtual Safety Car, two laps from the end, gave a decisive advantage to a rival in the Sunday race, keeping them from victory. Hadjar, with his second place and eighth on Saturday, leaves Monaco just two points behind the lead in the drivers’ standings

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Campos Racing and their driver Isack Hadjar were on the brink of a well-deserved and hard-fought third Sunday victory in the current 2024 FIA Formula 2 campaign. The championship, which arrived at the Principality for the Monaco Grand Prix, witnessed another high-quality weekend in terms of speed and consistency from both the French driver and the Alzira-based team. Unfortunately, the downside of the weekend fell to Pepe Martí, the Barcelona-born driver who was disadvantaged by his starting position in both races, compromising his results and forcing him to race uphill.

On Thursday, during the single free practice session, the drivers had to deal with rain, which prevented them from completing the planned program. Despite this, Hadjar started the weekend finishing fourth in the tiimsheets with a time of 1m40.611s on a wet track. Martí, on the other hand, stopped the clock at 1m42.050s after completing 18 laps.

Friday dawned with completely different weather. A bright sun gave way to two afternoon qualifying sessions where the drivers had to cope with high temperatures. In Qualifying Session A, reserved for even-numbered cars, Hadjar was always one of the strongest drivers. On his last and best attempt, a lap of 1m21.440s at the end of the session, he was just a tenth and a half behind Richard Verschoor, who eventually took pole position, as the B session for odd-numbered cars was slower. Here began Martí's problems. The usual yellow and red flags disrupted the drivers' rhythm, and the Spaniard could not improve his lap of 1m22.226s, condemning him to start from the back of the pack.

The first race, Saturday's 30-lap sprint, saw the safety car deployed after the first lap. Despite everything, Hadjar managed to avoid any incidents on the reversed grid and was running eighth when the race resumed after a couple of laps. Martí also did the same, recovering five positions in the early stages. Martí's hopes of reaching the points ended on lap 6 when the curb at the "Swimming Pool" chicane catapulted his car into the wall, ending any hope of a good result. Ahead, Hadjar remained eighth behind Paul Aron, while holding off Enzo Fittipaldi. A Virtual Safety Car period was followed by a red flag on lap 23 when championship leader Zane Maloney and Zak O’Sullivan collided at La Rascasse, blocking the track. After a few minutes, the race resumed behind the safety car, and some drivers opted to switch to super-soft tires during the stop, as Fittipaldi did. But Hadjar kept Fittipaldi under control and crossed the finish line eighth, earning valuable points for the championship due to Maloney's retirement.

Sunday's 42-lap feature race was a flawless strategic play by Hadjar and Campos Racing, who decided to start on the hardest compound. Martí, on the other hand, opted for the super-soft tire and tried to benefit from the safety cars. When the lights went out, Hadjar overtook Victor Martins to move into second place behind Verschoor. Like the previous day, Martí was already 15th at the end of the first lap. Hadjar never lost touch with Verschoor, simply pacing himself to conserve his tires. Behind him, on lap 11, Martí pitted and set a fast lap, executing an undercut to overtake Fittipaldi and Maloney. Mid-race, Hadjar was tailing Verschoor and had a more than six-second advantage over Franco Colapinto. At that moment, he pitted a lap earlier than Verschoor, successfully using this strategy to get ahead of the Dutchman. Everything seemed set for Hadjar's third Sunday victory. However, with two laps to go, a Virtual Safety Car allowed O’Sullivan, who had not yet pitted, to do so, losing much less time and rejoining just ahead of Hadjar. Despite the Frenchman's best efforts to overtake him, it was impossible. In the end, a second place that serves to add valuable championship points. Martí, who struggled with tire wear in the final part, crossed the line in 14th place.

After the Monaco event, Hadjar moves up to second in the championship standings with 78 points, just two behind Aron. Martí is twelfth with 22 points. In the team standings, Campos Racing remains the leader, accumulating a total of 104 points, nine ahead of the second-place team.

The next FIA Formula 2 event is scheduled for June 22-23 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, which will be the home race for Campos Racing and Martí, during the Spanish F1 Grand Prix.

Photos: © Dutch Photo Agency