When Artem Markelov made his GP2 debut in 2014, he was an unknown entity in motorsport. His CV at this time suggested that he was not likely to set the world alight either.
He had amassed a modest total of five race wins across all series’ he had entered, two of which came in the 2013 German Formula 3 championship, in which he rounded off the season in second place. This, according to the Russian Time GP2 team, warranted a shot for the following GP2 campaign.
That season proved a challenge for the young Russian, as he went on to claim just six championship points and finished the campaign in a lowly 24th place.
As if this were not bad enough, his team-mate Mitch Evans – competing in only his second GP2 season – finished fourth overall in the standings behind future Formula 1 graduates Jolyon Palmer, Stoffel Vandoorne and Felipe Nasr. Markelov’s prospects at this point looked bleak.
However, the critics and doubters were about to be quashed. A much improved season in 2015 resulted in a 13th place finish in the drivers’ standings – a massive nine ahead of the previous year – with 48 points and a podium finish to his name.
2016 was another steady improvement as he went on to finish 10th overall, claiming his maiden victory at Monaco, and ending the year with a total of 97 points.
Markelov had not yet peaked and his best year would come in 2017, with the newly renamed Formula 2 championship. He finished second place overall in the championship with five wins to his name – vice-champion behind Charles Leclerc, who drove one of the most dominant F2 campaigns in the series’ history. This campaign was Markelov’s breakthrough year.
Heading into his fifth season at GP2/F2 level, one element of Markelrepertoiretoire which will require development is his consistency His highest grid slot in 2017 was P1 but his lowest was P14. In 11 races, he started in eight different grid positions, with a mean grid spot of 6.3.
This kind of stat can be very unappealing to teams in other racing series, especially when compared to the likes of Leclerc, who started each race in an average 2.1 place on the grid.
Another factor that needs to be taken into account is his age. Markelov is 23-years-old and five years at GP2/F2 level raises concerns. This is an exceptionally long tenure in the series, and to have not had one out-of-this-world championship challenge to his name does not bode well for him, and to have been beaten in 2017 by a rookie driver three years younger than himself has not done him any favours.
With a critical year in F2 approaching and his first campaign representing an F1 team – Markelov has been signed as Renault’s test and development driver over the winter – 2018 will prove to be a crucial year for Markelov.
The introduction of the new F2 car may wipe away a lot of the advantages he could have held against much younger, inexperienced drivers. If he hopes to have any shot at making it into F1, he will need to drive the best he’s ever driven and ensure that he takes home the championship trophy in November.
Markelov’s age, time in the series and patchy record all work against his chances of grabbing a ticket to motorsport’s most exclusive club, but the dream of F1 is not over yet. It’s never too late to turn things around.