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Pourchaire scores dominant win in first F2 feature race of 2023

by Peter Allen

Photo: Formula Motorsport Limited

Theo Pourchaire utterly dominated the first Formula 2 feature race of the season in Bahrain ahead of Ralph Boschung as Zane Maloney charged from 18th to third.

While Pourchaire made a good getaway from pole position, his rookie ART Grand Prix team-mate Victor Martins was slow away from the outside of the front row, and Kush Maini got an outstanding start from sixth to take second around the outside of Richard Verschor at Turn 1.

Verschoor then got hit from behind and into a spin by Frederik Vesti at Turn 4, with Martins hitting Roman Stanek in avoidance. The safety car was deployed to retrieve Stanek’s stranded car, with Martins and Vesti also retiring in the pits.

The incident well and truly opened the door for 12th-place starter Ollie Bearman to briefly move up to third, but he locked up at Turn 10 to allow Boschung, who started 10th, by.

Having started on the soft compound tyre after using it to dominate the sprint race, Boschung immediately passed Maini at the first corner of the restart despite his Campos team-mate’s pleas on the radio to not be bothered. He quickly caught the hard-shod Pourchaire, but didn’t get close enough to launch a move.

Pourchaire pitted for soft tyres on lap 12 of 32 and made the most of the fresh, faster rubber. Boschung swapped his softs for hards only two laps later, but once Pourchaire reassumed the lead soon afterwards the Frenchman was already 10 seconds up the road.

He almost doubled that advantage in the closing stages, taking victory by 19.6s.

Maloney had incredible pace in his Carlin car on the soft tyres late on, after the first-lap incident had already helped him climb to seventh. He denied Maini a debut feature race podium and Campos a double rostrum down the pit straight with two laps to go.

Having been spun to the back and had to pit on lap one, Verschoor recovered well to take fifth.

Bearman and Arthur Leclerc both had spells in third place in the middle of the race after undercutting Maini but struggled to hold on to their soft tyres in their maiden F2 feature races.

Leclerc was having difficulty staying on track with more than 10 laps to go but stabilised to finish sixth ahead of Isack Hadjar, Ayumu Iwasa, Enzo Fittipaldi and Juan Manuel Correa, who beat Roy Nissany to the final point.

Bearman had two huge lock-ups going onto the last lap while part of that pack and fell to 14th.

Several of Pourchaire’s most fancied title rivals had a race to forget. Jack Doohan finished 16th with a five-second penalty for an unsafe release into the path of Jehan Daruvala, who was at the same time penalised for speeding in the pits. Dennis Hauger pitted multiple times with an apparent technical issue before eventually retiring.

Race result (32 laps)

Pos Driver Team Time
1 Theo Pourchaire ART Grand Prix 1h01m10.926
2 Ralph Boschung Campos Racing +19.666s
3 Zane Maloney Carlin +31.587s
4 Kush Maini Campos Racing +38.789s
5 Richard Verschoor VAR +43.082s
6 Arthur Leclerc DAMS +44.342s
7 Isack Hadjar Hitech GP +46.456s
8 Ayumu Iwasa DAMS +50.815s
9 Enzo Fittipaldi Carlin +51.396s
10 Juan Manuel Correa VAR +51.837s
11 Roy Nissany PHM by Charouz +52.939s
12 Jak Crawford Hitech GP +53.329s
13 Clement Novalak Trident +53.953s
14 Ollie Bearman Prema +59.739s
15 Amaury Cordeel Virtuosi Racing +1m00.968s
16 Jack Doohan Virtuosi Racing +1m05.204s
17 Jehan Daruvala MP Motorsport +1m06.463s
18 Brad Benavides PHM by Charouz +1m33.235s
Ret Dennis Hauger MP Motorsport
Ret Victor Martins ART Grand Prix
Ret Frederik Vesti Prema
Ret Roman Stanek Trident
Fastest lap: Verschoor, 1m47.321s

Championship standings
1 Pourchaire 32   2 Boschung 28   3 Maloney 15   4 Maini 14   5 Vershoor 11   6 Iwasa 9   7 Hauger 8   8 Leclerc 8   9 Martins 6   10 Hadjar 6