Williams junior and DAMS’ Nicholas Latifi opened 2019 FIA Formula 2 (F2) Championship in style with a win in the feature race at Bahrain International Circuit.
It wasn’t the best of starts from pole-sitter and UNI-Virtuosi Racing’s Luca Ghiotto as the Italian dropped to sixth by Turn 1 as front-row starter Carlin’s Louis Deletraz took the lead of Bahrain’s feature F2 race at Bahrain International Circuit.
ART Grand Prix’s Nyck de Vries then lost second place to DAMS’ Nicholas Latifi at the start with Renault tester and Campos Racing’s Jack Aitken and Carlin’s Nobuharu Matsushita also making up a place due to Ghiotto’s slower start.
Behind, ART Grand Prix’s Nikita Mazepin made a rocketing start to be seventh from 13th on the grid with DAMS’ Sergio Sette Camara losing out before making a comeback inside the Top 10 after clearing Ferrari junior and Prema’s Mick Schumacher.
Meanwhile, Schumacher’s teammate Sean Gelael was running ninth when he spun at Turn 1 due to a DRS failure. At the same time, BWT Arden’s Anthoine Hubert got back on Mazepin to take seventh, with Matsushita clearing Aitken for fourth up ahead.
At the front, Williams development driver Latifi caught up Deletraz and passed him for the race lead as Ghiotto moved up to fourth after clearing Matsushita. The Italian continued his upward surge as he then passed Deletraz to get himself into the podium position.
The pit stop mania started on Lap 13 with de Vries as the Dutchman became the new race leader from Matsushita and Deletraz once everyone had pitted. A slow stop for Latifi dropped him to fourth with Camara and Ghiotto behind him.
The Top 10 after the pit stop was completed by Hubert, Aitken, MP Motorsport’s Jordan King and Mazepin, but the order didn’t remain the same for long whether at the back or in the front as Latifi started to claw into the lead built by de Vries.
The Canadian cleared Deletraz and Matsushita to move into second and with few laps in, he passed de Vries to re-take the lead on a better pace and much fresher tyres. The next driver on charge was Ghiotto as he tried to make amends for the poor start.
The Italian rose up to fourth after a fine double move on Camara and Deletraz as he then cleared Matsushita and de Vries as well to take second. The 2018 GP3 champion Hubert was another one on the move with the Frenchman fighting his way into the Top 5.
He brought Camara along with him with the Brazilian taking third from de Vries as Hubert followed suit to be fourth with the Dutchman dropping to fifth from Deletraz. The fight for the last two place in the Top 10, meanwhile, had multiple drivers in the game.
After the pit stop, King and Mazepin had the positions covered but the likes of Schumacher, Trident’s Ralph Boschung and Renault junior and UNI-Virtuosi Racing’s Guanyu Zhou fought back with Schumacher taking ninth from Zhou and Boschung.
At the front though, Latifi had enough in his tanks to open the 2019 F2 season with a fine win – his career’s third – by a solid margin of 8.7s over Ghiotto, who had to fight back after the disastrous start. The same went for Camara in third, who dropped to 13th after Lap 1.
The McLaren junior fought back well to help DAMS have a 1-3 finish. Renault junior Hubert made the most of his first F2 race in fourth – to be the best rookie as well – with Deletraz managing to clear de Vries in the end to take a Top 5 finish.
De Vries settled for sixth as Aitken rose up to seventh after clearing Matsushita, who then lost his reverse grid pole to Schumacher with the German ending up eighth, as Matsushita and Zhou completed the Top 10 of the first F2 race of 2019 season.
Boschung was 11th on his F2 return ahead of Ferrari junior and teammate Giuliano Alesi, while Alfa Romeo tester and BWT Arden’s Tatiana Calderon having a solid finish in 13th after a low-key qualifying on Saturday.
She kept Ferrari junior and Sauber Junior Team by Charouz’s Callum Ilott behind with Campos’ Dorian Boccolacci in a lonely 15th from another distant driver and Alfa Romeo junior Juan Manuel Correa, driving for Sauber Junior Team by Charouz.
The two MP Motorsport drivers King and Mahaveer Raghunathan were 17th and 18th respectively with Mazepin dropping back due to an off-moment to be only 19th and last with Gelael the only retirement from the race.