The 2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship gets underway this weekend around the Bahrain International Circuit, and with new cars and a stellar driver line-up, expectations are high for a great year. Here is our rundown on what to expect this weekend in the desert.
What happened in 2017 in Bahrain?
Bahrain was the venue to get the revamped FIA Formula 2 Championship underway in 2018, but the whole weekend was all about tyres and how best to play the strategy game.
The two respective winners played it perfectly, with Artem Markelov giving Russian Time the best possible start by making his Pirelli’s last better than the rest, while Sunday’s Sprint race saw an inspired strategy from Charles Leclerc, as the Prema Racing ace won his first race on his way to the championship.
Leclerc fell to fourteenth but was significantly faster than everyone else struggling with their tyres, and was up to third heading into the final lap before making moves on Oliver Rowland and Luca Ghiotto in the first four turns to claim an amazing victory.
What should I look out for this year?
The 2018 season will see the introduction of the Dallara F2 2018 chassis, which like in Formula 1, includes the Halo head protection system. Each of the twenty cars will be powered by a V6 turbo engine developed by Mecachrome, while Pirelli continue to be the sole tyre supplier for the series.
There has been some movement in the team’s department, with Racing Engineering and Rapax being replaced on the entry list by Carlin and Charouz Racing System, whilst there are also some amazing names on the grid, both from the returning drivers and from new recruits!
Last year’s championship runner-up Markelov continues with Russian Time for an unprecedented fifth season, while the Russian has also become the latest to join up with a Formula 1 team having become a development driver with the Renault Sport Formula One Team.
Other returnee with F1 links is Sahara Force India F1 Team reserve driver Nicholas Latifi, who remains with DAMS, while McLaren F1 Team junior Nyck de Vries switches over to Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing alongside Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda test driver Sean Gelael. Antonio Fuoco, a member of the fabled Ferrari Driver Academy, will also remain in the category having switched Prema for Charouz.
Luca Ghiotto, who made his Formula 1 testing debut with Williams Martini Racing last year, has switched to Campos Vexatec Racing, while Haas F1 Team juniors Santino Ferrucci and Arjun Maini are team-mates at Trident.
The drivers with F1 team backing coming into the championship is also impressive, with 2017 GP3 Series champion George Russell, a protégé of Mercedes-Benz, continuing with ART Grand Prix into Formula 2, with Jack Aitken, Renault’s third driver, also moving up as his team-mate.
Perhaps the driver with the most hype though is 2017 FIA European Formula 3 Champion Lando Norris, who makes the leap up to Formula 2 with Carlin. The McLaren F1 Team reserve driver will partner former Red Bull Junior Sergio Sette Câmara having won five championships in the past three years and having had an impressive pre-season testing programme.
Other notable additions to the grid are GP3 Series race winner Nirei Fukuzumi and European Formula 3 race winner Maximilian Gunther at BWT Arden, World Series Formula V8 3.5 race winner Roy Nissany at Campos Vexatec Racing, and Honda protégé Tadasuke Makino at Russian Time.
Louis Delétraz remains in Formula 2 for a second campaign after switching to Charouz, while Ralph Boschung races with MP Motorsport for his second season, while Roberto Merhi and Alexander Albon are set to fill the remaining available seats with MP Motorsport and DAMS respectively.
What is the schedule for the weekend?
Friday 6 April
Free Practice – 11:30 (local time) / 09:30 (BST)
Qualifying – 20:00 / 18:00
Saturday 7 April
Feature Race – 13:10 / 11:10 – 32 Laps
Sunday 8 April
Sprint Race – 14:15 / 12:15 – 23 Laps
Where can I watch Formula 2 in Bahrain?
Sky Sports F1 (channel 406 – HD 472) will have coverage of Qualifying and both races.
How can I keep up to date with all of the action over the weekend?
Aside from visiting the Bahrain International Circuit or watching on the TV, The Checkered Flag will be following the complete 2018 FIA Formula 2 Season in-depth throughout the year. There will also be live timing of every session on the official Formula 2 website.