Artem Markelov confirmed himself as one of the best drivers at preserving their tyres in the FIA Formula 2 Championship by taking victory in the Sprint race at the Bahrain International Circuit as a gamble by Nyck de Vries in making a pit stop failed to pay off.
Back in 2017, Charles Leclerc took victory in the Sprint race with a pit stop, and Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing took a similar gamble this year with de Vries, who pitted from the lead with thirteen laps remaining.
However, unlike Leclerc, de Vries could not make the same kind of gains and was only able to recover to fifth, as Markelov gave Russian Time the victory by managing his tyres until the chequered flag, with Maximilian Gunther securing a maiden podium finish in second place for BWT Arden.
Gunther had started the race from pole position but lost out before the first turn to de Vries, and soon also found himself passed by Markelov, who had jumped to third from sixth on the grid at the same first corner.
Unfortunately, ART Grand Prix’s race unravelled right when the lights went out, as both George Russell and Jack Aitken stalled on the grid, as did Trident’s Santino Ferrucci, while Sean Gelael (from second place on the grid) and Nicholas Latifi had already stalled ahead of the formation lap.
Once de Vries made his stop, Markelov held the advantage at the front, with Gunther fending off the challenge for Carlin duo Sergio Sette Camara and Lando Norris to take second place.
For Norris, the winner of Saturday’s Feature race, there was an early worry when a misfire appeared to slow him exiting the final turn, dropping him down to sixth behind Luca Ghiotto, but the 2017 FIA European Formula 3 Champion was not troubled again, and was able to reclaim his position from the Italian and was fourth at the chequered flag to leave Bahrain as the championship leader.
Ghiotto was the final driver de Vries was able to catch and pass following his pit stop, but the Campos Vexatec Racing ace held on for sixth, while Ralph Boschung of MP Motorsport and Nirei Fukuzumi of BWT Arden claimed the final points on offer in seventh and eighth.
Pit stop gambles from Louis Delétraz and Roberto Merhi failed to bring them points, although the Swiss racer could have snatched a point or two for the Charouz Racing System team had the race been a lap or so longer, ending just six-tenths of a second behind Fukuzumi.
Despite starting from the pit lane, Latifi finished tenth for DAMS ahead of Merhi, with Antonio Fuoco another pit stop gambler, but the second Charouz driver ended twelfth ahead of Alexander Albon, who messed up his start and could only finish thirteenth ahead of Arjun Maini and Roy Nissany.
Bahrain International Circuit Sprint Race Result
|1||1||Artem Markelov||RUS||Russian Time||42:42.161s|
|2||11||Maximilian Gunther||GER||BWT Arden||+2.105|
|3||18||Sergio Sette Camara||BRZ||Carlin||+3.803|
|5||4||Nyck de Vries||NED||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing||+10.265|
|6||14||Luca Ghiotto||ITA||Campos Vexatec Racing||+15.696|
|7||10||Ralph Boschung||SWI||MP Motorsport||+23.511|
|8||12||Nirei Fukuzumi||JAP||BWT Arden||+24.582|
|9||20||Louis Deletraz||SWI||Charouz Racing System||+25.194|
|11||9||Roberto Merhi||ESP||MP Motorsport||+25.804|
|12||21||Antonio Fuoco||ITA||Charouz Racing System||+26.638|
|15||15||Roy Nissany||ISR||Campos Vexatec Racing||+43.989|
|16||3||Sean Gelael||INO||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing||+57.845|
|17||2||Tadasuke Makino||JAP||Russian Time||+1:03.819|
|18||7||Jack Aitken||GBR||ART Grand Prix||+1:39.757|
|19||8||George Russell||GBR||ART Grand Prix||+1 Lap|
|20||17||Santino Ferrucci||USA||Trident||+1 Lap|