Luca Ghiotto was untouchable in Sunday afternoon’s FIA Formula 2 Championship Race 2 in Bahrain, blasting into an early lead before making a brave pit stop call, then slicing back through the pack and soaring to victory ahead of DAMS pair Sergio Sette Camara and Race 1 winner Nicholas Latifi.
With tire wear at a premium on the hot and dusty circuit all of the pre-race discussion was about the potential for pit stops — with thoughts focused on Charles Leclerc’s courageous call in the same race in 2017. But the key to making it work would be the start: When the lights went out, polesitter Mick Schumacher cut across to cover Jack Aitken and Nyck de Vries, leaving everyone else to find some space behind them.
But yesterday’s podium finishers were looking to bring home more, and were soon on a charge. As the order shook out, Sette Camara led Latifi and Ghiotto through their rivals, slicing forward to finish the first lap just a second behind the German. Next time through it was all change, with the Brazilian claiming the lead and Ghiotto jumping Latifi and Schumacher for P2.
One lap later and the Italian was into the lead, setting fastest lap on the way, and was immediately building a big gap back to his rivals. At this stage no one could be sure if he was pushing hard to give him space for when his tires went off or was looking to make a change, but they were all in admiration of his incredible speed either way.
Schumacher was soon back to P4 and falling into the clutches of the chasing pack, led by de Vries after a slick pass on Louis Deletraz, and the Dutchman made short work of passing the German as he looked to get on terms with the top three. With drivers already saying their tires were going off it was clear that some were going to risk a stop, and Juan Manuel Correa was the first to do so, on Lap 8 of 23.
Nobuharu Matsushita was the first driver in the points to risk a stop, two laps later from P8 to emerge in 17th, but was anyone further up the field going to risk it? The answer was to come on Lap 12 when race leader Ghiotto came in, handing back a lead of 6s to Sette Camara, with de Vries following behind him. The pair returned in P13 and P16 respectively, and were hoping that enough laps remained to make the risk pay off.
Ghiotto has long been regarded as a strong overtaker, and on fresh rubber the hunt was on — the Italian was back in the points within three laps and was flying, cutting chunks out of the gap forward to Sette Camara, who was now involved in an unwanted scrap with his teammate for the lead as Ghiotto dispatched his rivals with ease.
By Lap 17 he was among the podium places, with Schumacher unable to put up a fight, and with a 4s-lap advantage the inevitable happened on Lap 20: Ghiotto sliced inside Latifi at Turn 1 and Sette Camara at Turn 6 to regain his lead before soaring off into the distance, while behind him everyone else was trying to hold onto whatever was left of their tires to get to the flag.
When the checkered flag dropped Ghiotto was 5.4s to the good over Sette Camara and Latifi, with Guanyu Zhou saving enough rubber to make a late charge for P4 ahead of Deletraz and Schumacher. The German rookie just denied de Vries (who claimed fast lap) at the line for P6, while Jordan King held on for the final point on his return to the championship.
The win gave Ghiotto the lead in the drivers’ title fight at the end of Round 1, with the Italian on 37 points and leading Latifi by 2, followed by Sette Camara, 27, Deletraz, 16, and de Vries and Anthoine Hubert with 12.