Prema take Bahrain front-row lockout as Leclerc grabs pole

Credit: Malcolm Griffiths/FIA Formula 2

Prema Racing continued to show they are the ones to beat as the 2016 Teams’ Champions took a one-two in the first qualifying session of the 2017 FIA Formula 2 Championship season at the Bahrain International Circuit on Friday.

Having taken Pierre Gasly to the Drivers’ title last year and have Antonio Giovinazzi finish second, the new line-up for 2017 continued where they previous two left off, with Charles Leclerc grabbing a maiden pole position ahead of fellow Ferrari Driver Academy star Antonio Fuoco.

Leclerc set a blistering pace in the cooler conditions that befell the drivers in qualifying, with his lap of 1:38.907s almost 0.678 seconds faster than team-mate Fuoco, while Nyck de Vries made it a trio of Formula 1 team-backed drivers inside the top three, with the McLaren Junior 0.758 seconds back for Rapax.

Fourth on the grid for Saturday’s Feature race will be Frenchman Norman Nato, with the Pertamina Arden driver the only other driver to lap within one-second of Leclerc’s pace, such was the domination of the 2016 GP3 Series champion.

Russian Time duo Luca Ghiotto and Artem Markelov will start fifth and seventh respectively, either side of ART Grand Prix’s Nobuharu Matsushita, while practice pacesetter Oliver Rowland could only qualify eighth for DAMS after locking up twice on his last flying that that cost him a shot at top spot.

ART Grand Prix’s Alexander Albon will start ninth after recovering from a dismal free practice session in which he ended up slowest of the twenty drivers on show, while former Red Bull Junior Sergio Sette Câmara competed the top ten for MP Motorsport, denying team-mate Jordan King the spot by 0.033 seconds.

There was a crazy incident late in the session when the virtual safety car was deployed due to a collision between Nabil Jeffri and Gustav Malja at turn nine when the Trident driver dived up the inside of the Racing Engineering driver only for the two to clash and stop, Malja just off the racing line on the approach to turn ten.

The VSC ensured drivers could not improve their times, and as such the grid was set for the first Feature race of the new era of the FIA Formula 2 Championship.

Bahrain International Circuit Qualifying Result

11Charles LeclercMONPrema Racing1:38.907
22Antonio FuocoITAPrema Racing1:39.585
318Nyck de VriesNEDRapax1:39.665
420Norman NatoFRAPertamina Arden1:39.696
55Luca GhiottoITARussian Time1:39.948
67Nobuharu MatsushitaJAPART Grand Prix1:40.011
76Artem MarkelovRUSRussian Time1:40.018
89Oliver RowlandGBRDAMS1:40.053
98Alexander AlbonTHAART Grand Prix1:40.140
1014Sergio Sette CamaraBRZMP Motorsport1:40.168
1115Jordan KingGBRMP Motorsport1:40.201
1219Johnny Cecotto JrVENRapax1:40.262
1310Nicholas LatifiCANDAMS1:40.280
143Louis DeletrazSWIRacing Engineering1:40.453
154Gustav MaljaSWERacing Engineering1:40.473
1611Ralph BoschungSWICampos Racing1:40.501
1721Sean GelaelINOPertamina Arden1:40.778
1817Sergio CanamasasITATrident1:40.810
1912Stefano ColettiMONCampos Racing1:41.416
2016Nabil JeffriMAYTrident1:41.604