Nicholas Latifi claimed the first win of the FIA Formula 2 Championship season with a storming drive in Saturday afternoon’s Race 1 at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, making a strong start and overcoming a slow pit stop for victory ahead of Luca Ghiotto and DAMS teammate Sergio Sette Camara.
The groundwork for the Canadian’s victory was laid at the start: polesitter Ghiotto had a poor start, fellow front row starter Louis Deletraz had a better one, while storming starts by Nyck de Vries and Latifi saw the Dutchman move up to P2 at Turn 1 but the Canadian blast past him at Turn 4, with the top 3 already pulling away from Jack Aitken, Nobuharu Matsushita, Ghiotto, Anthoine Hubert and Nikita Mazepin, while a poor start for Sette Camara saw the Brazilian drop from P7 on the grid to P13 at the end of the first lap.
Sette Camara was soon moving back up through the order, recovering to P8 by Lap 5, while out in front the leaders were looking to break the DRS gap to each as well as manage their tires — a tricky balancing act at the hot, dry circuit — with a view to going as long as possible before the stops. Nobody told Ghiotto, though, as the Italian looked to reclaim ground lost at the start as he sliced his way by his rivals, claiming P2 from Deletraz on Lap 13 as de Vries came into the pits, the first of the leaders to do so.
The Dutchman was now the target as his rivals came in, and emerging in fresh air helped de Vries to move up the order. Race leader Latifi came in on Lap 16, but a slow rear tire change saw the Canadian emerge behind Deletraz and with a mountain to climb if he was to return to the front, while Ghiotto spent one more lap out but lost time in the process, coming out P6 of the stoppers behind de Vries, Matsushita, Deletraz, Latifi and Sette Camara.
Track position is important in Bahrain, but it soon became clear that tire life is even more so: Latifi passed Deletraz for P3 on Lap 20 before blasting past Matsushita and de Vries to regain his lead on successive laps and starting to rebuild his big gap to the battle behind him, while Ghiotto got a double tow to blast by Sette Camara and Deletraz on the front straight on Lap 24, with the Brazilian following in his wake; earlier stops saw Matsushita and de Vries unable to stop the train coming for their potential podium positions a lap later.
With the top three storming off into the distance all eyes were looking behind them: Latifi ultimately claimed the win by 9s over Ghiotto with Sette Camara a further 6s back, while Hubert did a superb job of managing his tires to push up to P4 in his maiden F2 race ahead of Deletraz and de Vries, with Aitken ending a lonely race in P7 ahead of rookie Mick Schumacher — who beat Matsushita on spent rubber on the last lap for 8th and tomorrow’s reverse pole — with Guanyu Zhou claiming the final point in P10.