Sam Bird presented a masterclass of controlled aggression and verve to bring home a crushing race victory in this morning’s feature race in Monaco, with the Briton controlling the pace to come home easily ahead of Kevin Ceccon and Mitch Evans.
But the Briton had to work hard for the victory, no more so than at the start: poleman Johnny Cecotto had a slow start while teammate Evans made a great getaway to lead the field into Ste Devote, but the Venezuelan went too deep and hit the barriers, taking Fabio Leimer with him as cars piled up behind them.
The race was red flagged to allow the marshals to remove the debris, with the drivers who avoided the melee lined up in order on the front straight, with Bird surviving a hit from Ceccon (albeit needing a new rear wing on the second grid) to head up the hill in P2 behind Evans but in front of the Italian with Felipe Nasr, James Calado and Stéphane Richelmi behind them.
The race restarted behind the safety car for a lap before running live, with Bird on soft tyres pushing Evans hard on super softs all round the fabled circuit: as ever pitstop strategy was going to be crucial at the tight circuit, and when local hero Stefano Coletti came in on lap 7 the teams were all eyeing each other for signs of their plans.
Calado was in 2 laps later, staying ahead of Coletti, with Nasr in a lap later, but all eyes were on the top three: Ceccon came in on lap 11 with Evans and Bird pulling away from him, but the Briton was clearly faster and waiting to be released. His moment came two laps later when Evans pitted, emerging behind Ceccon after stopping for 4 tyres, and Bird was free.
The Briton ran qualifying laps for 3 tours before pitting, emerging easily in the lead and pulling away from his rivals at ease: no one else could touch his pace as Bird rolled home 22 seconds ahead of Ceccon, who stayed just ahead of the fierce battle for third, which Evans held from Nasr by just 0.2 seconds at the line, with Calado behind them in fifth. Coletti’s early stop saw his tyres drop off towards the end, but he brought it home P6 after a solid drive ahead of Rene Binder and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs, who stole tomorrow’s pole from local man Richelmi on the penultimate lap, with Daniel De Jong claiming the final point for tenth.
The win sees Bird move up to third in the championship standings on 58 points, behind Coletti on 103 and Nasr on 88 but ahead of Leimer on 54 points, Frijns on 37 and Calado on 34 ahead of the sprint race to be held tomorrow morning, handing his rivals one last chance at glory in Monaco.
Monte Carlo – Feature race
|1.||Sam Bird||RUSSIAN TIME|
|2.||Kevin Ceccon||Trident Racing|
|3.||Mitch Evans||Arden International|
|5.||James Calado||ART Grand Prix|
|7.||Rene Binder||Venezuela GP Lazarus|
|8.||Adrian Quaife-Hobbs||MP Motorsport|
|10.||Daniel De Jong||MP Motorsport|
|11.||Tom Dillmann||RUSSIAN TIME|
|12.||Jon Lancaster||Hilmer Motorsport|
|14.||Jake Rosenzweig||Barwa Addax Team|
|15.||Sergio Canamasas||EQ8 Caterham Racing|
|16.||Daniel Abt||ART Grand Prix|
|Rio Haryanto||Barwa Addax Team|
|Johnny Cecotto||Arden International|
|Fabio Leimer||Racing Engineering|
|Julian Leal||Racing Engineering|
|Robin Frijns||Hilmer Motorsport|
|Alexander Rossi||EQ8 Caterham Racing|
|Nathanaël Berthon||Trident Racing|
|Kevin Giovesi||Venezuela GP Lazarus|
Fastest Lap : Sergio Canamasas (EQ8 Caterham Racing) – 1:22.169 on lap 29