Sergio Perez has kept his nearest rivals at arm’s length to take a victory in the Monaco feature race and rise to the top of the drivers’ standings at the midpoint of the weekend’s action.
The Barwa Addax driver took the lead at the start and never seriously looked like losing the win, despite seeing a five-second lead wiped out by a safety car period caused by a crash for Ho-Pin Tung.
In Thursday morning’s practice session Rapax’ Pastor Maldonado had topped the timesheets, finishing easily ahead of Perez and Racing Engineering’s Christian Vietoris, setting a time that was nearly a second faster than the equivalent time in last year’s session.
In the afternoon qualifying session Vietoris’ team-mate Dani Clos overcame treacherous track conditions to claim pole in a last-minute shoot-out that saw him beat session-long contenders Perez and Maldonado to the prize.
The Spaniard held his nerve in the face of wet weather until the very last lap when he claimed the top time on a drying circuit of 1:37.572 to take pole by 0.033 of a second.
Maldonado held the advantage with a minute left on the clock but put Perez and Clos back into contention by hitting the barriers at Ste Devote.
Behind the top trio were Coloni’s Alberto Valerio, claiming the last second-row slot, then Ocean’s Fabio Leimer, ART’s Jules Bianchi, iSport’s Davide Valsecchi and DAMS’ Jerome d’Ambrosio.
Following the session Valsecchi was handed a five-place grid penalty for causing an avoidable accident as a result of a collision with Maldonado’s stopped car.
During today’s race a slow getaway for Clos allowed Perez to lead the race from the start, making it through the first corner just ahead of Maldonado, Clos and Valerio.
Behind the leaders Leimer stalled, causing a bottleneck which saw his Ocean team-mate Max Chilton travel across the side of Valsecchi’s car, ending his race.
Meanwhile Perez was making the most of his clean getaway and building a lead over Maldonado, while Clos was working to recover from his poor start, with Valerio and the ART pairing of Bianchi and Sam Bird behind him.
Clos was the first of the leaders to pit on lap 14 just before DAMS’ Ho-Pin Tung hit the barrier and brought out the safety car. Perez and Maldonado also took the opportunity to pit and emerged ahead of the pack.
Despite a spirited challenge from the Venezuelan, aided by the safety car that followed Tung’s lap 16 accident at the Swimming Pool, Perez was able to hold his line for successive laps to create an unassailable lead and earn the top step of one of the most highly-regarded podiums in motorsport. Taking its third spot was Clos.
Fourth was Bianchi, who found his way past fifth-placed Valerio during the pitstops. Sixth was Addax’ Giedo van der Garde, who made a smart early stop and looked after his tyres to move up from 11th on the grid. Seventh was Rapax’ Luiz Razia with d’Ambrosio collecting the final point.
It was a bad day for Bird, who had run as high as sixth but ended up placed 15th after a problematic pitstop. He then picked up a 25-second post-race penalty for repeatedly cutting a chicane. He will start 18th on the grid for tomorrow’s sprint race.
iSport’s Oliver Turvey suffered a qualifying accident and started last. He eventually finished 16th and said: “It is so tight around Monaco so starting from the back makes it really difficult as you can’t overtake.
“There was not much I could do from where I started so I just kept steady and avoided accidents. I have been feeling unwell with an upset stomach since yesterday so I’m glad I managed to finish.”
For full results and standings following today’s race, visit the series’ official website here.