2018 Round 1 preview: Sakhir, Bahrain

All you need to know about the first round of the season

Data (GMT+3)

Friday
Free Practice: 11.30 – 12.15
Qualifying session: 20:00 – 20:30
Press conference: 22:15

Saturday
Feature race: 13.10 (32 laps)
Press conference: 14.25

Sunday
Sprint race: 14.15 (23 laps)
Press conference: 15.15

Season Stats
21.2 The average age of this year’s drivers.
7 The number of rookie drivers joining the 2018 grid, including last year’s GP3 Series Top 3.
7 The number of different competition licenses held by this year’s 10 teams.
7,085 The number of laps completed in both 2018 FIA F2 pre-season tests with the new F2 2018 car.

Warm Up // Nyck de Vries – PERTAMINA PREMA Theodore Racing
“I am absolutely over the moon because it’s finally the start of the season, which I’m obviously very excited about. The winter break is always long and it’s great to get underway once again. It should be a really close and exciting season for all of us!

“I really like the Bahrain track, the weather is always good here and the racing has always been very exciting because of the overtaking into the long straights and with the tyre degradation, because it gets quite hot. You can also make or lose a lot of time in the middle sector, so that’s always a big challenge too.

“I think it’s one of the hardest tracks on tyres so in the race, degradation’s clearly going to be a very big factor. I certainly underestimated that last year in my first season - I understood that managing tyres was going to be a big part of the race, but when I was running fourth all day before hitting the cliff you really realise you have no chance when your tyres are gone! Now that I’ve done a year of F2, I’ve experienced that and have something to learn from.

“Of course, I’m excited ahead of the season with the new F2 2018 car which is a very fun and challenging car to drive for everyone. It sounds very clichéd that you’re making steps forward in unlocking performance day by day, but it’s true because the car is entirely new! I can’t wait to get started.”

The Stakes        
The FIA Formula 2 Championship returns to action this weekend for its second year, as the first round takes place at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir to kick off the 2018 season. This will be the first Formula 2 season with the brand new car, the F2 2018, which was conceived with the aim of better preparing drivers for contemporary Formula 1 whilst still retaining the characteristics required to provide fans with thrilling on-track action and great racing.

Last year’s Champion Charles Leclerc underlined F2’s position as the ultimate feeder series to F1 by stepping up to an immediate race seat, from which this year’s crop of young talents will draw inspiration as they seek to reach the pinnacle of international motorsport.

This year’s Formula 2 field is jam-packed with talent, and 2017 runner-up Artem Markelov returns for another bite at the cherry – along with fellow race-winners Nyck de Vries, Nicholas Latifi, Luca Ghiotto, Sergio Sette Camara and Antonio Fuoco. Joining them is reigning GP3 Series winner George Russell, along with fellow “Class of 2017” graduates Jack Aitken, Nirei Fukuzumi and Arjun Maini, as they all prepare for battle with the goal of becoming the 2018 F2 Champion.

The teams and drivers return to Bahrain having completed a pre-season test at the venue two weeks ago. Rookie Maximilian Günther ended the test with the quickest time; the BWT Arden driver clocked in a 1:42.756 in the opening session of the final day, beating the benchmark set by Trident’s Arjun Maini in the previous morning. With hot temperatures, Bahrain promises to deliver a challenging opening round for all the drivers, who will have to contend with plenty of tyre management – Pirelli providing the Soft and Medium compounds - and heavy braking zones. With the field proving to be close in testing, the first round of 2018 should be thrilling.

Noteworthy

  • The race weekend at Bahrain is the first of the 12 rounds which make up the 2018 F2 calendar, all alongside Formula 1 Grands Prix.
  • The Bahrain International Circuit held the second of two pre-season tests ahead of the 2018. Luca Ghiotto topped the opening morning session, while Nyck de Vries was quickest in the afternoon. Trident duo Arjun Maini and Santino Ferrucci led the way in AM and PM sessions respectively on Day 2, before BWT Arden monopolised the final day; Maximilian Günther was quickest overall early on in the final day, as Nirei Fukuzumi ended the day on top of the PM standings.
  • Günther’s best time, a 1:42.756, was just 0.023 faster than Maini’s best from the previous day. Jack Aitken completed the most laps of anyone over the three days with 232, one more than teammate George Russell.
  • Carlin’s Lando Norris is the youngest driver on the grid (18).
  • 2017 runner-up Artem Markelov has the most F2 wins of anyone on the grid (5)
(fiaformula2.com/arl/wto)
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