Norris breezes to maiden victory in Bahrain feature race

Norris grabs the early lead from pole
Norris grabs the early lead from pole

Lando Norris secured his first FIA Formula 2 Championship victory in the Feature Race at Sakhir, Bahrain, mastering the hot and windy conditions to win with an 8.3s advantage over Carlin teammate Sergio Sette Camara, who held onto second place after a thrilling battle in the final stages of the race with RUSSIAN TIME’s Artem Markelov, the latter producing a spectacular recovery drive to secure the final podium position.

With the majority of the field, save from the Trident team, opting to start on the medium-compound tires, degradation was a hotly anticipated factor in the race. An aborted start was called at the beginning, as Markelov and MP Motorsport’s Roberto Merhi stalled on the grid and prompted a second formation lap; the Russian then took to the pits to restart from the back of the field while the Spanish driver retired from mechanical failure.

At the second time of asking, Norris made a fantastic start to streak clear of the rest of the field, while Sette Camara took advantage of a slow start from George Russell to catapult himself into second. Russell, starting from the front row, also lost ground to a fast-starting Nyck de Vries and Nirei Fukuzumi, resulting in a scintillating scrap among them in the early stages of the race.

De Vries soon put a move on Sette Camara to grab second, allowing Norris to scamper off into the distance at the rate of a second per lap. Further behind, Alexander Albon surged past Russell and subsequently did battle with De Vries and Sette Camara, the latter of whom ultimately won out for second as the Dutchman began to drop back.

Seemingly unflappable in the lead, Norris had the luxury of not needing to react to the others once they’d begun to make their stops. Louis Deletraz opened proceedings among the top ten on lap 14, with Russell blinking a lap later – staying ahead of the Swiss driver. Sette Camara and Albon came in together later on and dropped behind Russell as they rejoined the track.

Meanwhile, Markelov was charging forward, having dispatched the majority of the field with a flurry of well-timed passes into Turn 1, and continued to carve through the pack after his own stop on lap 16. Norris switched to the soft compound two laps later, continuing with the lead on his return to the track as the pair of Sette Camara and Albon returned to second and third after clearing Russell.

From left, Norris, Camara and Markelov
From left, Norris, Camara and Markelov

Markelov also passed the British driver, with third-placed Albon next on his radar. Once more, the Russian used his DRS to blitz past at the first corner and, although the Thai driver fought back across the next few corners, the Renault development driver held firm to secure third.

In the final five laps, Norris started to lose fractions of his 10 second lead to his teammate, who was simultaneously under attack from Markelov. The Brazilian was inch-perfect in his defense of second when Markelov approached, orchestrating an excellent switch back manoeurve at the start of the final lap to hold second.

Norris took the checkered flag after a seemingly untouchable performance, walking away with an impressive 31 points with pole, win and fastest lap. Sette Camara and Markelov’s battle for second delighted the crowd up to the line ahead of Albon.

Russell kept fifth having lost ground to the front four, as Nyck De Vries completed the top six having fallen out of contention in the midway stages. Sean Gelael converted an early pitstop into seventh place from P19 on the grid, as Maximilian Gunther, Jack Aitken and Ralph Boschung all battled hard to end the race in the top ten.

Gunther begins tomorrow’s Sprint Race from reverse-grid pole, and will start alongside Gelael as Norris will seek to win the second race of the weekend from eighth.

2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship – Round 1 Feature Race Provisional Classification

Pos Driver Team
1 Lando Norris Carlin
2 Sergio Sette Camara Carlin
3 Artem Markelov RUSSIAN TIME
4 Alexander Albon DAMS
5 George Russell ART Grand Prix
6 Nyck de Vries PERTAMINA PREMA Theodore Racing
7 Sean Gelael PERTAMINA PREMA Theodore Racing
8 Maximilian Gunther BWT Arden
9 Jack Aitken ART Grand Prix
10 Ralph Boschung MP Motorsport
11 Nicholas Latifi DAMS
12 Luca Ghiotto Campos Vexatec Racing
13 Louis Deletraz Charouz Racing System
14 Santino Ferrucci Trident
15 Arjun Maini Trident
16 Roy Nissany Campos Vexatec Racing
17 Antonio Fuoco Charouz Racing System
18 Nirei Fukuzumi BWT Arden
19 Tadasuke Makino RUSSIAN TIME
DNF Roberto Merhi MP Motorsport

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