Tyre strategy makes for thrilling start to Formula 2
|Leclerc (1) and Markelov (6) won F2 races in Bahrain|
The FIA Formula 2 Championship kicked off in spectacular style in Bahrain with tyre strategy creating two thrilling races. In particular, the Sprint Race was won using a pit-stop: a ground-breaking tactic, as normally there are no stops during Sunday’s race. The Pirelli P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft tyres were nominated for Bahrain, which provided what are likely to be the most extreme temperatures of the F2 season. In the Feature Race, Artem Markelov used strategy to take his second-ever victory from seventh on the grid. After a good start, the Russian Time driver spent much of the 32-lap race in third position on the medium tyres, which he remained on longer than the two drivers that were ahead of him, Norman Nato and Charles Leclerc. Leclerc won the Sprint Race on his first weekend in the series after stepping up as GP3 champion with a reward of 200,000 Euros from Pirelli. The Ferrari Driver Academy member and his Prema Racing team deployed the highly unusual strategy of choosing to pit in the middle of the 23-lap race, and made this work to perfection. From sixth on the grid, Leclerc fought his way to the front of the pack on the medium tyres and built up a big lead before pitting for the soft tyres. He returned to the track in 14th place but was able to use the speed from the soft tyre to move through the pack and close on Luca Ghiotto and Oliver Rowland, who were trading places for the lead. He quickly caught the pair and overtook them during the final two laps. Markelov also made a mid-race tyre change – but starting on the soft and finishing on the medium – and came home in eighth place. Leclerc leads the championship after the first weekend with 36 points, four of which were awarded for taking pole position for his debut race. Markelov is second on 28 points with Rowland on 20. Quotes: Pirelli’s head of car racing Mario Isola said: “We have witnessed two brilliant races to start the new FIA Formula 2 Championship, with the strategic options created by the tyres contributing significantly to this. Markelov and Russian Time got their strategy spot-on in the Feature Race, with a later pitstop making him faster at the end of the race. In the Sprint Race we saw a very bold strategy from Prema and Leclerc pay off. To win with an extra pitstop over the opposition is very difficult but Leclerc demonstrated his ability to race to the front.” Bruno Michel, Formula 2 promoter, added: “We had two incredible races this weekend thanks to amazing drivers, great team strategies, and perfect tyres. The level of degradation was exactly what was needed to allow different strategies and good tyre management. The result was an incredible show, so let’s keep working like that!” The next Formula 2 round takes place at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain on May 12-14, when the new GP3 Series season will also begin.
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