Leclerc plays strategy to perfection for Sprint Race triumph

Charles Leclerc left Bahrain as championship leader after an epic Sprint race win - Credit: Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2

For a rookie weekend, a pole, podium and win is a good way to get the FIA Formula 2 Championship underway, with Charles Leclerc leaving the Bahrain International Circuit on top of the standings.

The Monegasque driver took his Prema Racing machine to top spot during Friday’s qualifying session, but found himself on the lower step of the podium behind race winner Artem Markelov and runner-up Norman Nato after pitting early for his mandatory pit stop and losing time at the end of the race.

“I’m quite happy with my start, we managed to keep the lead,” said Leclerc. “After that, Norman went by but I was always in the DRS zone trying to manage my tyres. In the prime tyres we were quite confident and I moved back on Norman before pulling a gap on him.

“When I started to have a little bit of degradation I called the pit stop but I think it was a little bit too early. We paid the price in the final part of the race. At the end of the second stint we struggled a lot but I managed the situation. I think we have to learn from today to have a better run tomorrow.”

Tyres would also play a part in his Sunday drive as he made a rarely-seen pit stop during the Sprint race, falling to fifteenth, but eight laps later with much more grip and considerable more pace, he was fighting for, and retaking the lead from Luca Ghiotto.

“I’m very happy about the win, it has been a great race with a great strategy,” said Leclerc. “We called it at the beginning and from that point on I started to push opening quite a big gap. The car was perfect, we could push hard without damaging the tyres.

“We did the pit-stop with eight to go and for four or five laps I couldn’t really believe we could do anything. I even thought it had been a mistake, but then we had a lot fresher tyres than the others and came back to take the win.”