Formula 2 – Markelov and Leclerc won in Bahrain

_X0W4490Race 1 : Markelov blasts to Bahrain win

Artem Markelov gambled on a different tyre strategy to his rivals at the first FIA Formula 2 Championship feature race this afternoon at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, mastering the scorching conditions and the life of his tyres to blast past Norman Nato and Charles Leclerc in the closing stages of the race for a masterful win.
The Russian made use of a stronger car in the extreme desert heat to run longer on his prime tyres than any of his rivals, gambling that the time he lost between their stops and his would be returned to him, and it was a choice that paid off handsomely.
But the work Markelov put in early in the race built the platform for his victory. While poleman Leclerc led the grid away when the lights went out, the Russian was the star of the start, slicing by his rivals from P7 to run outside front row starter Nyck De Vries and through behind Nato for P3 at the first turn, ahead of the Dutchman, Nobuharu Matsushita, Luca Ghiotto and Jordan King, with those starting on the right clearly losing out by starting off the racing line.
Nato was a man on a mission, sliding inside Leclerc at turn one on lap 3 for the lead, but had to concede again at the same place 5 laps latter and the Monegasque driver reclaimed the position, but Markelov bided his time (and tyres) behind the pair, while teammate Ghiotto set the early fastest lap to demonstrate the pace the RUSSIAN TIME pair had on tap as he deposed Matsushita for P5.
The teams have a lot of data from this circuit after testing extensively here just 2 weeks ago, but not in the heat radiating down today: the biggest question of the day was who would manage their tyres best, and what would be the optimum tyre strategy? The option tyres lasted longer than expected for those starting on the opposite strategy, and with Nato stopping on lap 15 and Leclerc next time round to cover him it seemed that the rulebook was being upturned.
But Markelov saw an opportunity, and stayed out for two laps longer than the leader despite the danger of losing too much time in between. Nato mugged Leclerc in those laps for the lead before setting a string of fastest laps, further proof that the Russian’s strategy was risky, but he re-emerged in P3 and set about regaining the time lost: after his outlap he was 8.5s behind Leclerc, but the gap shrank lap on lap and as the front pair’s tyres fell away, Markelov came into his own.
The Russian easily dispatched Leclerc on lap 29, demolished a 3.3s gap to Nato within a lap before grabbing the lead next time through and running away, greeting the chequered flag 2 laps later and almost 8 seconds to the good over the disappointed Frenchman, with Leclerc a further 6 seconds back. Behind the top 3 King muscled his way past countryman Oliver Rowland for P4, with Alexander Albon having a strong second half of the race to move up to P6 at the flag ahead of a frantic battle between Ghiotto, Matsushita and Antonio Fuoco, who mugged a deeply dispirited De Vries on the final lap for P9.
And as the celebration commenced the paddock cheered in admiration for a sparkling drive in brutal conditions by Markelov, who started brightly before staying out of the battle for the lead ahead of him and held onto his tyres for longer than anyone else, then put in a simply stunning drive to hunt down a victory against the odds. With temperatures expected to be high once again tomorrow for the sprint race, the eyes of the paddock will be watching the Russian nervously to see if he can repeat his efforts.
Round 1 Sakhir, Bahrain – Feature Race results
Driver
Team
1.
Artem Markelov
RUSSIAN TIME
2.
Norman Nato
Pertamina Arden
3.
Charles Leclerc
PREMA Racing
4.
Jordan King
MP Motorsport
5.
Oliver Rowland
DAMS
6.
Alexander Albon
ART Grand Prix
7.
Luca Ghiotto
RUSSIAN TIME
8.
Nobuharu Matsushita
ART Grand Prix
9.
Antonio Fuoco
PREMA Racing
10.
Nyck De Vries
Rapax
11.
Nicholas Latifi
DAMS
12.
Ralph Boschung
Campos Racing
13.
Sergio Sette Camara
MP Motorsport
14.
Sergio Canamasas
Trident
15.
Johnny Cecotto
Rapax
16.
Stefano Coletti
Campos Racing
17.
Sean Gelael
Pertamina Arden
18.
Gustav Malja
Racing Engineering
19.
Nabil Jeffri
Trident
20.
Louis Delétraz
Racing Engineering
Fastest Lap: Stefano Coletti (Campos Racing) – 1:45.843 on lap 26

Race 2 : Leclerc storms to dramatic sprint win

Charles Leclerc made use of an unexpected Plan B to blast to a dramatic win in this afternoon’s FIA Formula 2 Championship sprint race at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, stopping for fresh rubber from the lead of the race and emerging in P14 before fighting all the way back up for victory ahead of a crestfallen Luca Ghiotto and Oliver Rowland.
With conditions hot but slightly cooler than yesterday thanks to strong winds the teams were looking for options on a circuit renowned for its abrasive surface, but the decision to make a pitstop in a sprint race was one that took most observers by surprise, particularly coming from the lead: the fightback topped off a superb weekend of racing after Artem Markelov’s strong comeback yesterday.
There was drama at the front of the grid before the start when poleman Nobuharu Matsushita failed to make it out on time, forcing the frustrated Japanese driver to start from the pitlane. But when the lights went out his ART teammate pushed front row starter Ghiotto hard from P3, with the Italian braking as late as possible to slide inside and into the lead at turn 1 ahead of Albon, a fast starting Leclerc, Norman Nato, Jordan King, Oliver Rowland and Artem Markelov.
Nato was soon out of the race after a come together with King, and the resultant safety car period gave everyone a breather for 2 laps before going live again, with Leclerc making short work of disposing former teammate Albon, followed almost immediately by Rowland, and then Markelov next time round. The Russian was looking for more after his success yesterday, blasting into the podium positions by deposing Rowland on lap 7 and setting the fastest lap, but 3 laps later he was in the pits, switching from his options to a set of primes as Leclerc led the way, having grabbed the lead from Ghiotto the lap before.
Antonio Fuoco was looking to emulate his teammate: after starting in P9 he was up to P4 on lap 11 by easing past King, giving the hurry up to Rowland. 2 laps later the Briton barged past Ghiotto for P2, leaving the Italians to squabble among themselves, before Leclerc dropped a bombshell by pitting on lap 15, emerging ahead of Markelov and wasting no time in fighting back towards the lead, now held by Rowland, setting the fastest lap in the process.
In a 23 lap race it seemed impossible that the Monegasque driver could force his way back, and the action continued at the front of the race as King snuck past Fuoco, giving him the space to look forward to Rowland instead of in his mirrors. The Briton was falling back towards the Italian as Leclerc broke back into the points positions, and on the penultimate lap the inevitable happened as Ghiotto forced his way into the lead, just as Leclerc blasted by King for P3.
And on the final lap Leclerc on fresher rubber easily dispatched Rowland on the front straight and Ghiotto in the back section of the circuit before cruising to his maiden win ahead of the pair, to the obvious delight of his PREMA team. Behind then Nicholas Latifi had done a superb job of managing his tyre for P4 from P11 on the grid ahead of King, with Nyck De Vries grabbing his first points for 6th from 10th at the start ahead of Albon, and Markelov rounding out the points in P8.
After the first round Leclerc leads Markelov by 36 points to 28, ahead of Rowland on 20, with Ghiotto, Nato and King on 18, while in the Teams’ Championship RUSSIAN TIME is on top with 46 points ahead of PREMA Racing on 38, DAMS on 28, with Pertamina Arden and MP Motorsport on 18 points as they look forward to the next round of the championship in Barcelona, Spain on 12-14 May.
Round 1 Sakhir, Bahrain – Sprint Race results
Driver
Team
1.
Charles Leclerc
PREMA Racing
2.
Luca Ghiotto
RUSSIAN TIME
3.
Oliver Rowland
DAMS
4.
Nicholas Latifi
DAMS
5.
Jordan King
MP Motorsport
6.
Nyck De Vries
Rapax
7.
Alex Albon
ART Grand Prix
8.
Artem Markelov
RUSSIAN TIME
9.
Johnny Cecotto
Rapax
10.
Antonio Fuoco
PREMA Racing
11.
Sergio Canamasas
Trident
12.
Louis Delétraz
Racing Engineering
13.
Gustav Malja
Racing Engineering
14.
Nobuharu Matsushita
ART Grand Prix
15.
Stefano Coletti
Campos Racing
16.
Nabil Jeffri
Trident
17.
Sean Gelael
Pertamina Arden
18.
Sergio Sette Camara
MP Motorsport
Not Classified
Ralph Boschung
Campos Racing
Norman Nato
Pertamina Arden
 
Fastest Lap: Sergio Sette Camara (MP Motorsport) – 1:43.950 on lap 22

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