Just how did Zak O’Sullivan win from P15 in Monte Carlo?

It was a race that had a little bit of everything: Drama for the Polesitter, wheel-to-wheel racing between the walls and then a final sting in the tail.

For ART Grand Prix and Zak O’Sullivan, Feature Race Sunday in the Principality had been a daunting prospect when they woke up that morning but fast-forward a few hours and their fortunes had undergone a whirlwind reversal.

But how did the rookie achieve his maiden F2 victory? It took more than just a well-timed Virtual Safety Car.


Achieving his first ever Pole Position in F2, Richard Verschoor was a shoo-in for Feature victory after his efforts on Friday. The Trident driver led the pack out of Turn 1 and that appeared to be that.

Campos Racing’s Isack Hadjar had taken P2 after O’Sullivan’s teammate Victor Martins suffered his second poor getaway of the weekend, but admitted after the race he couldn’t live with Verschoor’s early pace.

Tyre saving was the aim early on as drivers sought to extend their first stint on the Soft Pirellis, but after a back-and-forth battle on the timing screens, Verschoor’s times on Laps 9 and 10 were comfortably quicker than the Frenchman’s and he escaped out of DRS range.

Things looked comfortable for the Dutch driver and by Lap 18, he’d accumulated a 4.1s advantage until disaster struck.

Through the tunnel on Lap 19 and his Trident suffered a fault and his lead was wiped out. He soldiered on for a few more tours, but his race was run, and hopes of a Monte Carlo Feature victory were wiped away.

It handed the initiative to Hadjar, who retained the effective race lead over Hitech Pulse-Eight’s Paul Aron through the pitstop phase, and he looked set to manage to the end.

Verschoor had been favourite to win after earning Pole but a car issue side-lined him
Verschoor had been favourite to win after earning Pole but a car issue side-lined him


Several drivers began the race on the alternative strategy, fitted with the Supersoft tyres from lights out with the aims of making early progress up the order courtesy of the higher grip levels offered by the Option tyre.

However, that wasn’t the only other viable strategy, as some remained on track fitted with the red-walled Soft tyres and just delayed making their mandatory stop.

O’Sullivan was one of those drivers and, in order to make the strategy work, the pace needed to be strong enough to maintain a gap large enough over those that had already pitted to be in contention with a cheap pitstop courtesy of a Safety Car.

READ MORE: Sébastien Philippe confident ART ‘will be back’ after O’Sullivan’s Monte Carlo victory

In the opening exchanges, O’Sullivan was slower than Hadjar to the tune of around half a second per lap with the Briton back in traffic and trailing AIX Racing’s Sprint Race winner Taylor Barnard.

That deficit began to fall however between Laps 15 and 22, the lap in which Hadjar made his pitstop and switch to Supersofts, with both lapping in the mid-to-high 1:24s before slipping into the low-1:25s-range.

Interestingly though, as Hadjar fought to pass the ailing Verschoor and then subsequently tried to fire his fresh Supersofts up to temperature, O’Sullivan gained 12 seconds on the Campos driver.

Those gains kept O’Sullivan in play heading into the second half of the race.


Hadjar couldnt believe hed lost the win after looking all set to lead Paul Aron across the line
Hadjar couldn’t believe he’d lost the win after looking all set to lead Paul Aron across the line

With Hadjar’s stop coming on Lap 22 of 42, the Supersoft tyres required some degree of management to ensure there was grip left in the softer compound by the end of the race.

That meant driving underneath the limit, always a tricky balancing act as drivers must keep those that remain on track and yet-to-pit within range to lessen the advantage when they do eventually stop for fresh rubber. More on this later.

O’Sullivan meanwhile had the task of finding performance on 30-lap-old plus tyres and did a fine job doing so. Crucially for him, Dennis Hauger was called in by MP Motorsport on Lap 31 having been mired in the 1:25s and lapping slower than Hadjar.

That gave O’Sullivan free air and he immediately responded, comfortably lapping in the 1:24.3s between Laps 33 and 36, with Hadjar half a second slower on average across the four-lap phase.

HIGHLIGHTS: O’Sullivan and ART win unpredictable Monte Carlo Feature Race

Hadjar responded to cut into the gap by 0.8s and 1.1s on Laps 37 and 38, but then came the collision between AIX’s Joshua Duerksen and Rodin Motorsport’s Zane Maloney, resulting in the former stopping on circuit and opening up O’Sullivan’s unlikely route to victory.

As the last driver yet to pit, ART anticipated the race being neutralised and brought the leader in for his mandatory stop on Lap 40, ultimately the final chance for him to do so.

Hadjar’s hurry up call over team radio comes too late, and the Virtual Safety Car was deployed after the ART driver entered the pitlane, crucially late enough that he satisfied the requirement to pit under racing conditions, not during VSC.

The Campos driver was helpless running to the delta on his steering wheel and O’Sullivan rejoined the circuit ahead on the road with just two laps to run.


OSullivan did well to resist a last-lap mistake to earn his first Formula 2 victory against the odds
O’Sullivan did well to resist a last-lap mistake to earn his first Formula 2 victory against the odds

Of course with the VSC deployed, O’Sullivan filtered back out on track with cold tyres and unable to hit them hard at racing speed to introduce some temperature into them.

Hadjar meanwhile was on the rear wing of the ART as the VSC was withdrawn and with heat in his tyres, albeit over 18 laps old by this stage.

With one lap to go, the VSC was withdrawn to leave the leading duo to fight for victory across one final tour. Hustling the Williams Driver Academy talent through the final lap, Hadjar couldn’t find a route through, and it was the ART driver that started from 15th on the grid that prevailed in the Feature in the unlikeliest of fashions.

In the end, Hadjar’s eking the pace out on the Supersoft tyres had been just too slow. Campos’ error came in discounting the possibility of a well-timed pitstop from someone ahead within the Red Bull Junior Team driver’s Safety Car window.

Had the call to up the pace relative to O’Sullivan come one or two laps earlier, Hadjar would likely be celebrating Feature Race win number three of 2024.

O’Sullivan meanwhile hit the jackpot in Monte Carlo, earning his first F2 Feature Race success amid all of Sunday’s drama. It’s an afternoon he and his ART team won’t forget anytime soon.

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