Charles Leclerc Secures Maiden Win in Formula 2 Thriller in Bahrain

Formula 2 returned one again in 2017 for the Sprint Race in Bahrain. In this article, Chris Soulsby looks at Charles Leclerc's maiden F2 win in a thrilling race around the desert.

Formula 2 action returned for the second time this weekend for the Sprint Race at the Bahrain International Circuit. With the Feature Race being packed with close racing and interesting strategy calls, the shorter 23 lap Sprint Race was shaping up to be a spectacle of battling on track.

Charles Leclerc Wins Formula 2 Thriller in Bahrain

After finishing eighth in the Feature Race, ART Grand Prix driver, Nobuharu Matsushita, secured the reverse grid pole for the Sprint Race. Before the race however, Matsushita experienced issues with his car, forcing him to start from the pit lane and sacrifice his pole position start. This meant that Luca Ghiotto started from pole, although being on the wrong side of the grid and in the second place grid slot.

When the lights went out, the drivers charged into turn 1 for the second time this year, with Ghiotto getting a poor start, allowing Alexander Albon to take the lead initially. Although having a good start, Albon did not block Ghiotto enough, which allowed the Italian up the inside and back into the lead. Further down the grid, Charles Leclerc had a particularly good start, putting himself up into third place after starting in sixth.

As the pack ran through sector 1, a close battle was engaged at the front of the pack, with Norman Nato, Oliver Rowland, and Jordan King running three-wide into turn 4. Following contact with Rowland in turn 5, Nato picked up a puncture which caused him to spin out of the race and into the barriers on the exit of turn 6, causing the Safety Car to be deployed.

After the Safety Car went back to pits, the race was once again resumed, with Leclerc passing Albon for second place. Leclerc then closed up to Ghiotto who was struggling with tyre wear, overtaking him for the lead on lap nine.

After taking the lead, Leclerc then bolted away from the rest of the grid, pulling away by 9.4 seconds from second place. Having an adequate gap, Leclerc then pitted onto the soft tyres – a stop that was not compulsory for the Monégasque driver. He rejoined in 14th place, 24 seconds behind the new race leader, Oliver Rowland, who had snatched away second place from Ghiotto earlier in the race.

With the gap between Rowland and Leclerc being 24 seconds and there only being nine laps remaining, the challenge that Leclerc faced was mammoth task, however, the 19 year old made the impossible possible, closing in on the race leader by four seconds per lap at times, picking off driver after driver wherever he could out on track.

With two laps to go and Leclerc in third place, the battle for the lead then erupted, as Ghiotto passed Rowland for first place once again in a closely fought battle in turns one and two. Leclerc continued to close on the leading pair and overtook Rowland using DRS on the main straight going into the final lap.

With only one driver standing between Leclerc and his first Formula 2 win, he made his move, passing Ghiotto in turn 4 of the final lap after the Italian driver locked up, causing him to run wide and sacrifice what could’ve been a memorable race win. Leclerc then continued and pulled away, securing his first Formula 2 race win by 1.5 seconds ahead of Ghiotto and Rowland in only his second race in the championship for Prema.

Nicholas Latifi finished the race in fourth place for DAMS, ahead of Jordan King and Nyck de Vries in fifth and sixth. Alexander Albon finished in seventh place, while yesterday’s race winner, Artem Markelov, rounding out the points for the Sprint Race in eighth place.

Results from the Bahrain Formula 2 Sprint Race:

  1. Charles Leclerc, Prema Racing, 15 points
  2. Luca Ghiotto, Russian Time, 12 points
  3. Oliver Rowland, DAMS, 10 points
  4. Nicholas Latifi, DAMS, 8 points
  5. Jordan King, MP Motorsport, 6 points
  6. Nyck de Vries, Rapax, 4 points
  7. Alexander Albon, ART Grand Prix, 2 points
  8. Artem Markelov, Russian Time, 1 point
  9. Johnny Cecotto, Rapax, 0 points
  10. Antonio Fuoco, Prema Racing, 0 points
  11. Sergio Canamasas, Trident, 0 points
  12. Louis  Delétraz, Racing Engineering, 0 points
  13. Gustav Malja, Racing Engineering, 0 points
  14. Nobuharu Matsushita, ART Grand Prix, 0 points
  15. Stefano Coletti, Campos Racing, 0 points
  16. Nabil Jeffri, Trident, 0 points
  17. Sean Gelael, Pertamina Arden Racing, 0 points
  18. Sergio Sette Camara, MP Motorsport, 0 points
  19. Ralph Boschung, Campos Racing, Ret
  20. Norman Nato, Pertamina Arden Racing, Ret

Drivers Standings after Bahrain:

  1. Charles Leclerc, Prema Racing, 36 points
  2. Artem Markelov, Russian Time, 28 points
  3. Oliver Rowland, DAMS, 20 points
  4. Luca Ghiotto, Russian Time, 18 points
  5. Norman Nato, Pertamina Arden Racing, 18 points
  6. Jordan King, MP Motorsport, 18 points
  7. Alexander Albon, ART Grand Prix, 10 points
  8. Nicholas Latifi, DAMS, 8 points
  9. Nyck de Vries, Rapax, 5 points
  10. Nobuharu Matsushita, ART Grand Prix, 4 points
  11. Antonio Fuoco, Prema Racing, 2 points
  12. Johnny Cecotto, Rapax, 0 points
  13. Sergio Canamasas, Trident, 0 points
  14. Louis Delétraz, Racing Engineering, 0 points
  15. Ralph Boschung, Campos Racing, 0 points
  16. Sergio Sette Camara, MP Motorsport, 0 points
  17. Gustav Malja, Racing Engineering, 0 points
  18. Stefano Coletti, Campos Racing, 0 points
  19. Nabil Jeffri, Trident, 0 points
  20. Sean Gelael, Pertamina Arden Racing, 0 points

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