Lando Norris took a dominant maiden FIA Formula 2 victory at the Bahrain International Circuit on Saturday as Carlin took a one-two finish in their first start in the category.
It was a thrilling race from start to finish, with tyre degradation and how drivers preserved their tyres key to their result, but right from lights out, Norris was in control of proceedings.
Sergio Sette Câmara jumped into second place from sixth on the grid on the opening lap, but the second Carlin driver did not have it as easy as his team-mate, with Nyck de Vries moving into second place at turn one at the beginning of lap two.
Norris edged way from de Vries almost on every lap before the Dutchman lost the position again to Sette Câmara, but by then the Brazilian was around ten seconds adrift of the race leader.
The gap closed after the pit stop cycle but despite concerns over his engine, Norris had complete control of the race, but behind him, everything was to play for, with Artem Markelov having a storming drive to the podium despite starting from the pit lane.
The Russian Time driver stalled on the grid, as did Roberto Merhi, but whereas the Spaniard was out of the race due to a mechanical failure on his MP Motorsport machine, Markelov was a man on a mission, with the Renault Sport Formula One Team development driver climbing into the top ten within five laps before continuing his charge after his mandatory pit stop.
He picked off his rivals one by one, and was able to climb into third position with a few laps remaining, but found Sette Câmara a difficult nut to crack, and despite the two switching places a handful of times over the final two laps, the Brazilian had the edge on the Russian at the chequered flag.
Alexander Albon lost out on the podium to Markelov late on, but was shadowing the second and third place finishers at the conclusion of the race despite having a DRS that was temperamental throughout, while George Russell ended fifth on his first Formula 2 start despite the 2017 GP3 Series champion starting on the front row.
De Vries ultimately finished sixth for Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing despite running second early on, but the Dutchman did get the best of team-mate Sean Gelael, who was forced to settle for seventh, while Maximilian Gunther claimed eighth for BWT Arden, which will give him pole position for Sunday’s Sprint race.
Jack Aitken gave ART Grand Prix two points by finishing ninth, while the final point went to Ralph Boschung and MP Motorsport, while Nicholas Latifi and Luca Ghiotto, race winners in 2017, missed out on points in eleventh and twelfth respectively, the latter losing out after being handed a drive-through penalty for causing a collision after he hit Tadasuke Makino heading into turn one that gave the Japanese racer a puncture.
Bahrain International Circuit Feature Race Result
|2||8||George Russell||GBR||ART Grand Prix||1:41.823|
|4||4||Nyck de Vries||NED||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing||1:41.880|
|5||20||Louis Deletraz||SWI||Charouz Racing System||1:42.174|
|6||18||Sergio Sette Camara||BRZ||Carlin||1:42.221|
|7||12||Nirei Fukuzumi||JAP||BWT Arden||1:42.246|
|8||2||Tadasuke Makino||JAP||Russian Time||1:42.264|
|9||7||Jack Aitken||GBR||ART Grand Prix||1:42.282|
|10||11||Maximilian Gunther||GER||BWT Arden||1:42.336|
|11||21||Antonio Fuoco||ITA||Charouz Racing System||1:42.342|
|12||14||Luca Ghiotto||ITA||Campos Vexatec Racing||1:42.414|
|13||9||Roberto Merhi||ESP||MP Motorsport||1:42.423|
|16||10||Ralph Boschung||SWI||MP Motorsport||1:42.460|
|17||1||Artem Markelov||RUS||Russian Time||1:42.816|
|19||3||Sean Gelael||INO||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing||1:43.016|
|20||15||Roy Nissany||ISR||Campos Vexatec Racing||1:43.350|