Leclerc storms to maiden Formula 2 Triumph after pit stop gamble

Charles Leclerc took an amazing race win in Bahrain - Credit: Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2

Charles Leclerc drove a stunning race that included a rarely seen Sprint race pit stop to claim victory at the Bahrain International Circuit on Sunday.

The Monegasque driver made a surprise visit to the pits on lap fourteen from the lead, with the Prema Racing driver giving up a lead of over nine seconds, and fell down the order to fourteenth before starting his charge through the field.

The new tyres gave him an advantage of up to four seconds per lap on his rivals, who fell by the wayside one by one, returning to the points by lap nineteen, and two laps later he was up to third!

Oliver Rowland was his next target and took over second place into turn one on the final lap, before getting into the lead at turn four after then race leader Luca Ghiotto locked up and ran wide, with Leclerc ultimately winning by 1.569 seconds to the delight of his team.

Russian Time driver Ghiotto had started effectively from pole position after the scheduled pole sitter Nobuharu Matsushita was forced to start from the pit lane after mechanical issues on his ART Grand Prix machine, but a slow getaway from Ghiotto meant the second ART of Alexander Albon briefly led into turn one on the opening lap before the Italian retook the advantage.

Leclerc climbed to third on that opening lap before the safety car was deployed to recover Saturday’s podium finisher Norman Nato from the exit of turn six after he spun with a puncture following contact with Rowland at the previous turn.

Leclerc soon dispatched Albon for second and then took the lead ahead of Ghiotto on lap nine, before his pit stop and subsequent charge.

With Leclerc seemingly out of play, the lead returned to Ghiotto, but the Italian found himself passed by the Briton on lap thirteen, but the two switched places once more on the penultimate lap after a battle through the opening two turns, only for both to then fall to Leclerc.

Ghiotto and Rowland completed the podium ahead of the latter’s DAMS team-mate Nicholas Latifi who started outside the top ten, while Jordan King was fifth for MP Motorsport ahead of Rapax’s Nyck de Vries.

Albon fell to seventh by the chequered flag ahead of Artem Markelov, Saturday’s Feature race winner, who also made a pit stop but could not match the pace of Leclerc. The Russian Time driver finished just ahead of Johnny Cecotto Jr and Antonio Fuoco.

The top three celebrate after the Sprint race in Bahrain – Credit: Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2

Bahrain International Circuit Sprint Race Result

11Charles LeclercMONPrema Racing43:01.023s
25Luca GhiottoITARussian Time+1.569s
39Oliver RowlandGBRDAMS+2.898s
410Nicholas LatifiCANDAMS+7.575s
515Jordan KingGBRMP Motorsport+9.962s
618Nyck de VriesNEDRapax+10.865s
78Alexander AlbonTHAART Grand Prix+11.382s
86Artem MarkelovRUSRussian Time+18.953s
919Johnny Cecotto JrVENRapax+19.150s
102Antonio FuocoITAPrema Racing+19.983s
1117Sergio CanamasasITATrident+28.829s
123Louis DeletrazSWIRacing Engineering+31.187s
134Gustav MaljaSWERacing Engineering+33.622s
147Nobuharu MatsushitaJAPART Grand Prix+34.392s
1512Stefano ColettiMONCampos Racing+35.901s
1616Nabil JeffriMAYTrident+41.595s
1721Sean GelaelINOPertamina Arden+52.029s
1814Sergio Sette CamaraBRZMP Motorsport+1:08.570s
RET11Ralph BoschungSWICampos RacingRetired
RET20Norman NatoFRAPertamina ArdenRetired