Markelov and Russian Time certain Monaco win within the rules
Artem Markelov and his team Russian Time are both certain that his maiden GP2 win in Monaco was perfectly within the rules, despite the massive time gain during virtual safety car periods.
Markelov, who had started the race in P15, ran in the midpack in the early going, having opted for the conventional prime-option strategy.
However, the Russian driver, who ran 20 seconds behind long-time race leader Norman Nato before the Frenchman opted for his mandatory stop, decided to stay out on softs for longer than anyone else, and was gaining time in the process.
Markelov was 15 seconds up on Nato when the VSC was called in for Luca Ghiotto's debris on lap 36 and, with the VSC briefly lifted and then immediately restored when Ghiotto stopped on track for good, the Russian gained enough time to rejoin ahead of Nato after pitting under green flag.
"We lost out at the start and then we ran until the end," Markelov told Motorsport.com. "The key was that we maintained pace for 40 laps on softs - 40 laps on softs, have you ever seen that on any track?
"After [Nato's] stop, I had six seconds on him - I kept going as I was going, but everyone was slowing up, I don't know why.
"Just found a rhythm, kept on going, there were constant VSCs, the engineer told me that I had to hold on until the final laps. The gap was six, eight, 13 seconds - then after the VSC it was 35 seconds. I had no idea."
Team boss Svetlana Strelnikova told Motorsport.com: "We led by 15 seconds [over Nato], but the question is 'where did the other 15 seconds come that we could stop and rejoin first?'.
"But there was VSC - six seconds to turn it off, six seconds to turn it on, and each driver reacts in a different way - they press the button at the moment that the engineer says on the radio and the car is running full speed again.
"In any way, under VSC, if you look at the intervals between drivers, they change quite a bit, because someone reacts quicker, someone reacts slower.
"From our side, we did everything correctly - as soon as it said that the VSC was done, we told Artem, he sped up, did his pitstop, rejoined ahead of Nato."
Markelov didn't know he had won
Now a GP2 race winner, Markelov said he had been unaware of his milestone result until he was at Ste Devote on his cooldown lap.
"I had no idea I was first before the finish or even a bit after the finish," he said.
"I only found out that I was first after the first corner - I saw the big screen.
"They were shouting on the radio and nobody's told me anything - I was thinking 'they must be happy that I'm fourth from P15 or something'."
The Russian admitted that he was still struggling to comprehend that he had come away from the race with his first win.
"Only silence can describe the emotions right now - in my head, it's still... a mess, I still haven't realised that I'm first in Monaco, from 15th on the grid."
A correction is in order - the original version of the race report on this site mistakenly claimed that Markelov made up half a minute under VSC. That was not the case, but what is certain is that Markelov gained under VSC and gained at least half as much as the original estimate.
His 15-second gap over Nato on lap 35, right before the VSC for Ghiotto's debris, would in no circumstances not have been sufficient for him to pit, rejoin and hold on to the lead - given that Markelov's visit to the pitlane took almost exactly 30 seconds.
According to the FIA, Markelov's combined total gain under VSCs on Nato was a whopping 16.495s, with the rest of the time that he originally had trailed Nato by made up in the pits and on track.
However, that is not at all evidence of RT wrongdoing. The changes in gaps are unlikely to be accounted for by reaction time, but what they could be accounted for is the exact spot where the VSC was lifted - as all drivers did different parts of the circuit under VSC, meaning they were slowed down to a different extent.
As such, while it is clear that VSC played into the Russian driver's hands, it has been suggested that any protest will likely find it an uphill struggle to deny Markelov the win.
Interview by Oleg Karpov
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