The first round of the 2022 FIA Formula 3 Championship brought the series to the Middle East, and the Bahrain International Circuit for the first time.
The standings after the weekend reflected many’s pre-season expectations, with highest-placed returning driver Victor Martins winning Sunday’s Feature Race.
Strong Feature Race performances from his ART Grand Prix team-mates Gregoire Saucy and Juan Manuel Correa helped the French outfit to the top of the Teams Championship after the first two races of a scheduled 18-race calendar.
The format has changed again for 2022, with the unpopular three-race setup from 2021 revoked and Qualifying determining the grid for both races. The Sprint Race result therefore no longer influences the grid line-up for Sunday.
Saucy and Martins collided in the Sprint Race, but the pair recovered to take third and first in the Feature Race respectively.
Argentine FIA F3 rookie Franco Colapinto put his Van Amersfoort Racing car on pole on Friday, though, on his and the team’s debut in the Championship.
With the top 12 reversed to form the Sprint Race grid, GB3 Championship holder Zak O’Sullivan and race-winner Oliver Bearman headed up the 30-car field.
O’Sullivan built an early lead but fell back in the Carlin later in the race, with Prema Racing‘s Bearman overtaking him with the help of DRS on Lap 4. He managed to hold on to finish sixth, though, scoring a fifth of the team’s total points from 2021 in one race.
Bearman took the chance to build a gap in the second half of the race, but transgressed track limits one too many times despite a warning from the team. He received a five-second time penalty after crossing the line first, handing the win to fellow rookie, and Red Bull junior Hadjar.
Alexander Smolyar completed the podium under a neutral flag, ahead of Maloney and hard-charging Arthur Leclerc, who fought through the field from 13th to finish fifth.
Colapinto started from pole for Sunday’s Feature Race but, similarly to O’Sullivan the day before, seemed to burn out his tyres in the early stages and fell back to finish fifth.
That result, and the stellar Qualifying performance that led to it, will have buoyed spirits after the Dutch team’s first weekend in F3, as they sit fifth in the Teams Standings, with Colapinto sixth.
While Martins bounced back from Sprint Race contact with team-mate Saucy to win on Sunday, Leclerc’s race performance over the weekend was arguably the best.
The Monegasque driver gained almost 20 positions over the two races, having qualified just outside the top 12 and missed the opportunity to start on Sprint Race pole.
His Qualifying performances often hampered him in 2021, but allowed him to do his best work on race day, with standout comeback drives through the field at Circuit Paul Ricard and the Red Bull Ring.
Prema team-mates Jak Crawford and Bearman picked up solid points on Sunday in seventh and sixth respectively, putting Prema second in the Teams Championship heading into the second round of the season.
Teams Champions Trident may well be disappointed with their eight-point haul courtesy of Maloney’s fourth-place finish in the Sprint Race; the Barbadian driver retired from the Feature Race after contact with MP Motorsport‘s Caio Collet.