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.
Bahrain International Circuit Sprint Race Result
|1||1||Charles Leclerc||MON||Prema Racing||43:01.023s|
|2||5||Luca Ghiotto||ITA||Russian Time||+1.569s|
|5||15||Jordan King||GBR||MP Motorsport||+9.962s|
|6||18||Nyck de Vries||NED||Rapax||+10.865s|
|7||8||Alexander Albon||THA||ART Grand Prix||+11.382s|
|8||6||Artem Markelov||RUS||Russian Time||+18.953s|
|9||19||Johnny Cecotto Jr||VEN||Rapax||+19.150s|
|10||2||Antonio Fuoco||ITA||Prema Racing||+19.983s|
|12||3||Louis Deletraz||SWI||Racing Engineering||+31.187s|
|13||4||Gustav Malja||SWE||Racing Engineering||+33.622s|
|14||7||Nobuharu Matsushita||JAP||ART Grand Prix||+34.392s|
|15||12||Stefano Coletti||MON||Campos Racing||+35.901s|
|17||21||Sean Gelael||INO||Pertamina Arden||+52.029s|
|18||14||Sergio Sette Camara||BRZ||MP Motorsport||+1:08.570s|
|RET||11||Ralph Boschung||SWI||Campos Racing||Retired|
|RET||20||Norman Nato||FRA||Pertamina Arden||Retired|