Temperatures soared on and off the track as the NEW F2 Championship got underway at the Sakhir International Circuit for Round 1 of the season and a race that could shape the season ahead.
Antonio has been working extremely hard with his new Prema Racing Team in the off-season as well as joining his fellow Ferrari Drivers Academy compatriot’s for scheduled off-season programmes to continue to train and prepare for the new season ahead.
There were also two pre-season F2 Testing sessions held in Barcelona and here in Bahrain to help give Antonio and his team a lot of data to analyse in preparations for the first race weekend.
It was a different schedule this time around in F2 with Qualifying taking place on the Friday evening, which meant significantly cooler temperatures than earlier in the day, offering the first challenge on how the tyres would perform in cooler temperatures. It was a GREEN LIGHT and the short 30 minute shoot-out for pole position got underway with the Prema Racing Team looking the ones to beat. As Qualifying unfolded there would be no disappointments. Antonio raced to the front row in P2 – 1:39.585 and just behind his teammate in P1 to secure the season’s first Prema Team front-row lockout. However, it was later when Antonio received a penalty to demote the racy Italian to fifth on the grid for Race 1.
The F2 Bahrain GP got underway after seeing the 5-red lights go out to the start of Race 1. Antonio masterfully danced his way around the track to battle through the grid in sweltering on-track heats of up to 40C.
The race winner would inevitably be the driver who could manage the tyres the best and pounce on any opportunity to overtake. As the race unfolded Antonio found himself battling with his rivals Ghiotto and Matsushita for positions 6, 7, 8 and 9. At the end of Race 1, Antonio’s tyres started to degrade quickly meaning he saw the chequered flag wave down on him in P9.
After the first run-out, all eyes turned to Race 2 and it was an opportunity where Antonio could change his race fortunes after the previous days race.
Antonio lined up on the grid and waited for lights out! The race was underway with track conditions hotter than in Race 1 with temperatures reaching 48c. It would be a true to test to manage the tyres in the best way. With Race 2 being a shorter distance, the Prema Racing team was analysing the best race strategy to help Antonio reach podium. Unfortunately, there were a few issues with the radio that hampered the teams’ decisions throughout the race.
After starting on the soft compound, he switched to the medium tyre in the first round of pit stops; the medium tyre, which would see Antonio to the end of the race. Shortly after this stop, Antonio raced through the grid intensely battling up to P2 within only a few car lengths from taking the lead of the race.
Unfortunately, with 8 laps to go Antonio’s tyres started to degrade quickly, meaning a loss of grip around the tricky turns of 8, 9 and 10. He also hadn’t got the traction out of the corners towards the high-speed straights either. Antonio slid down the order to see the end of the first F2 race weekend in Bahrain, in P10.
Antonio remains very upbeat and positive because his car had strong race pace and he displayed competitive speed throughout the first stages of the race and the middle, fuel-saving stints.
Next up for Antonio and the Prema Racing Team is the exciting Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona for Round 2 of the F2 Championship, which takes place on the weekend of May 12th – 14th.