Theo Pourchaire set the fastest time for ART Grand Prix in free practice for Formula 2’s opening round of 2023 at Bahrain, in a session cut short by two red flag periods.
Pourchaire headed his team-mate, reigning FIA Formula 3 champion Victor Martins, by 0.055 seconds with DAMS’ Arthur Leclerc in third place and just 0.044s further back.
There was no early rush to get out onto the circuit, meaning PHM Racing by Charouz’s Brad Benavides had the track to himself in the opening minutes, setting a best time of 1m48.538s on his third lap.
With 10 minutes gone, he was joined by the Campos Racing, Van Amersfoort Racing and Rodin Carlin pairings. The last team’s Zane Maloney quickly overhauled Benavides to move to the front with a 1m45.984s lap, 0.16s faster than team-mate Enzo Fittipaldi.
With 30 minutes remaining, all 22 cars bar Benavides were circulating, but running was interrupted by red flags as Fittipaldi pulled off with an apparent engine issue at Turn 2, with only seven drivers having set a time.
Practice resumed with 24 minutes remaining with all bar Trident’s Roman Stanek and Fittipaldi heading straight out.
Campos’s Ralph Boschung moved to the top with a 1m45.824s, but was immediately displaced by Pourchaire who went 0.557s faster.
As times began to fall acros the field, DAMS’ Ayumu Iwasa, Prema’s Frederik Vesti and then Martins took turns in second place, with Martins closing to within 0.055s of his team-mate at the front.
Leclerc underlined the pace of DAMS by taking third, 0.1s behind Pourchaire.
With under five minutes remaining, red flags were out once more as Boschung brought his car to a stop before Turn 1 after exiting the pits, bringing the session to a premature conclusion.
Dennis Hauger finished practice ninth on his first outing with MP Motorsport, ahead of VAR’s Richard Verschoor, who had his best laptime deleted for exceeding track limits.
Campos’s Kush Maini rounded out the top 10, just ahead of MP’s Jehan Daruvala who also fell foul of the stewards for running beyond the track limits.
Free practice results
|1||Theo Pourchaire||ART GP||1m45.264s||9|
|2||Victor Martins||ART GP||1m45.319s||+0.055s||8|
|7||Ralph Boschung||Campos Racing||1m45.824s||+0.560s||11|
|8||Dennis Hauger||MP Motorsport||1m45.967s||+0.703s||7|
|10||Kush Maini||Campos Racing||1m46.038s||+0.774s||12|
|11||Jehan Daruvala||MP Motorsport||1m46.120s||+0.856s||8|
|14||Isack Hadjar||Hitech GP||1m46.206s||+0.942s||11|
|15||Roy Nissany||PHM by Charouz||1m46.267s||+1.003s||8|
|16||Jack Doohan||Virtuosi Racing||1m46.343s||+1.079s||8|
|18||Juan Manuel Correa||VAR||1m46.378s||+1.114s||12|
|20||Jak Crawford||Hitech GP||1m46.554s||+1.290s||10|
|21||Brad Benavides||PHM by Charouz||1m46.716s||+1.452s||14|
|22||Amaury Cordeel||Virtuosi Racing||1m46.716s||+1.452s||8|