Ralph Boschung converted reversed-grid pole position into his maiden Formula 2 win on his 96th start in the season-opening sprint race in Bahrain.
Campos Racing driver Boschung was able to pull away from an intense battle behind that involved the charging ART Grand Prix duo of Victor Martins and Theo Pourchaire after they had dominated qualifying on Friday.
Boschung got away well enough from pole as Roman Stanek struggled away from second position in his first F2 start.
That opened the door for the DAMS duo of Arthur Leclerc and Ayumu Iwasa, who went side-by-side through the sweeping Turns 5, 6 and 7 with Iwasa eventually emerging ahead.
From eighth on the grid, debutant Martins already got up to fourth on the first lap and passed Leclerc at Turn 1 on lap three, when team-mate Pourchaire took fifth from Dennis Hauger having started 10th.
Two laps later, Pourchaire passed Leclerc, who then had to serve a stop-and-go penalty for having a mechanic on the grid too late before the start – a penalty also handed to Hitech’s Isack Hadjar.
Martins made a late move to the inside of Iwasa at Turn 1 on lap nine, but Iwasa fought back into Turn 5. Similar happened four laps later, but Martins this time persevered to get ahead by Turn 8 and snatch second place.
Pourchaire immediately went down the inside of Iwasa at Turn 10, but the Red Bull and Honda junior was again able to fight back, and Hauger could repass Pourchaire into Turn 1 on the next lap.
That meant that when Iwasa then locked up into the final corner, Hauger was in position to capitalise and gain third, with Pourchaire again only briefly able to get ahead of Iwasa.
Even once Martins was in clean air, Boschung could continue to increase his lead and finished up 10.8 seconds clear.
Hauger, who has taken over the MP Motorsport car used by Felipe Drugovich to win last year’s championship, used strong late pace to pass Martins for second place into Turn 11 on the penultimate lap.
Iwasa was 8.3s further back in fourth but still five seconds ahead of Pouchaire, who had to work hard to keep Hauger’s team-mate Jehan Daruvala at bay in the closing laps.
Boschung’s team-mate Kush Maini continues to impress on his F2 debut and finished seventh, with Enzo Fittipaldi coming from 13th to score the final point in eighth just ahead of his Carlin team-mate Zane Maloney.
Most of the drivers started the race on the soft option tyre, but Jack Doohan was one of three to opt for hards after qualifying down in 17th place. He finished 11th, just behind Juan Manuel Correa. Prema drivers Ollie Bearman and Frederik Vesti both pitted and finished 15th and 17th.
Race result (23 laps)
|1||Ralph Boschung||Campos Racing||41m50.597s|
|2||Dennis Hauger||MP Motorsport||+10.848s|
|3||Victor Martins||ART Grand Prix||+16.162s|
|5||Theo Pourchaire||ART Grand Prix||+29.709s|
|6||Jehan Daruvala||MP Motorsport||+30.901s|
|7||Kush Maini||Campos Racing||+41.541s|
|10||Juan Manuel Correa||Van Amersfoort Racing||+48.540s|
|11||Jack Doohan||Virtuosi Racing||+49.251s|
|14||Jak Crawford||Hitech GP||+52.283s|
|18||Roy Nissany||PHM by Charouz||+1m04.486s|
|19||Brad Benavides||PHM by Charouz||+1m08.768s|
|20||Isack Hadjar||Hitech GP||+1m13.323s|
|21||Amaury Cordeel||Virtuosi Racing||+1m13.800s|
|22||Richard Verschoor||Van Amersfoort Racing||+2 laps|
|Fastest lap: Bearman, 1m46.953s|