Ralph Boschung ended a long wait for his first FIA Formula 2 victory by dominating the opening sprint race of the season in Bahrain
Making his 96th F2 start, the Campos Racing driver converted reversed-grid pole into the lead, took advantage of a thrilling battle behind to pull clear, and eventually took victory by a sizeable margin of 10.8 seconds.
Trident’s Roman Stanek made a poor getaway from the front row and slipped to fourth, with Victor Martins (ART), Dennis Hauger (MP Motorsport) and Richard Verschoor (Van Amersfoort Racing) going three-wide behind him into turn one, with slight contact causing a sideways moment for the latter.
Ayuma Iwasa came out on top in a wheel-to-wheel battle with DAMS team-mate Arthur Leclerc out of turn four to take second, with the squabble allowing Boschung to pull out 1.5s advantage by the end of the opening lap.
Having been the class of the field in both free practice and qualifying on Friday. ART duo Martins and Theo Pourchaire made swift progress from the fifth row of the grid.
Martins was up to fourth at the start of lap two, passing Stanek into turn one, while his team-mate climbed to seventh. Pourchaire, who was a mighty 0.7s faster than anybody else in qualifying, then gained a further spot to sixth by diving inside Stanek at turn 10.
Reigning FIA Formula champion Martins took third from Lerclerc at the start of lap three, with Pourchaire taking fifth away from Hauger, who tried to fight back into turn four before conceding. Pourchaire then also passed Leclerc two laps later to move into fourth.
Leclerc’s chances of a good result were soon ended after serving a 10s stop-go penalty for starting grid infringement, his team personnel having not vacated the grid in time, with Hitech’s Isack Hadjar also given the same penalty.
The battle intensified for second on lap nine, with Martins passing Iwasa turn one, but the positions were reversed after Iwasa made the better exit from turn four to edge back ahead. That allowed Boschung to double his margin at the front to 3s.
It took another four laps to Martins to have another opportunity, moving around the outside at turn one, but again Iwasa made a great exit from turn four to inch ahead only to then run wide, allowing Martins through into second.
Following close behind, Pourchaire pounced at turn 10 by moving up the inside of Iwasa, who then fought back to retain third, with Martins able to break away from the pair.
Hauger snatched fourth from Pourchaire at the start of the following lap, with the duo continuing their battle out of turn four. A lock-up from Iwasa at the end of the lap allowed both Hauger and Pourchaire to move past, but Iwasa repeated his great exit from turn four on the next tour to wrestle back fourth from Pourchaire.
Hauger then chased down Martins for second, making the pass slightly uncoventially into the sweeping turn 11 on the penultimate lap. Boschung cruised to the win ahead of Hauger, while Martins scored a podium finish on debut in third, with Iwasa coming home fourth.
Pourchaire’s tyres faded late on, but the feature race polesitter fended off MP’s Jehan Daravula for fifth. Boschung’s team-mate Kush Maini prevailed after a long battle with Stanek before finishing seventh, with Enzo Fittipaldi coming out on top in a late scrap with Rodin Carlin team-mate Zane Maloney to finish eighth.
Juan Manuel Correa marked his first F2 start since 2019 with 10th for VAR from 16th on the grid. Stanek tumbled out of the top ten through the final few corners to finish 13th, with Virtuosi’s Jack Doohan recovering from a poor qualifying to 11th and Leclerc 12th despite his earlier penalty. Verschoor retired from the race late on.
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