PREMA Racing’s Charles Leclerc romped to pole position for the FIA Formula 2 Bahrain GP feature race in an anti-climactic qualifying session.

As night fell and track temperatures tumbled, the drivers rushed to the track as soon as the lights went green and Oliver Rowland was the first to set a competitive lap time six minutes into the session. The Briton was quickly beaten to the top spot by Leclerc as the Ferrari Academy driver took provisional pole. His teammate Antonio Fuoco went second quickest shortly after by less than a tenth.

As soon as the first runs were completed, Leclerc took a gamble by swiftly returning to the empty track to smash his previous time and extend the distance to his team mate to seven-tenths with a 1:38.907.

As cars took to the track for their second runs, Rapax’s Nyck de Vries was able to move up to provisional P3, just 0.08s behind Fuoco. Luca Ghiotto was the only other driver to improve as he took P5 behind Norman Nato in fourth. With most drivers on a hot lap, the session was neutralized following a crash between Nabil Jeffri and Gustav Malja which meant that qualifying was all but over.

Replays showed Jeffri attempting to move past a slow Malja into Turn 9, moving into an already closing gap and causing substantial damage to both cars. The drivers pulled to the run-off and the Virtual Safety Car was deployed, meaning the order was frozen with Leclerc and Fuoco locking out the front row ahead of de Vries, Nato, Ghiotto and Nobuharu Matsushita in the ART.

Artem Markelov will start seventh in the Russian Time ahead of Oliver Rowland for DAMS while series newcomers Alexander Albon and Sergio Sette Camara will line up in ninth and tenth respectively.

The feature race will start on Saturday at 13:10 local time (GMT +3).

Post-qualifying penalties:

  • Antonio Fuoco loses his front row start with a 3-place grid penalty for impeding Artem Markelov during qualifying. Fuoco will now start from 5th on the grid, promoting Nyck de Vries to the front row in the Rapax.
  • Gustav Malja was found guilty in the incident involving him and Nabil Jeffri and receives a 5-place grid penalty from P15, dropping him to P17.
  • Sean Gelael, Sergio Canamasas and Stefano Coletti were found to have not slowed down sufficiently during the VSC period and received a 5-place grid penalty. The trio had originally qualified 17th, 18th and 19th respectively. However, since neither driver could fully serve his penalty, they will all be starting the feature race from the pit lane.

Image via FIA Formula 2 Media

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Ahmad Shallouf

Contributing Writer at MotorsportM8