Britain’s rising star Lando Norris leads the 2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship by nine-points after the first two races of the season staged at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir last weekend (7-8 Apr).
The 18-year-old McLaren Test & Reserve driver – the youngest driver in the 20-car field – scored a dominant, unchallenged victory in the Feature race yesterday – starting from pole-position and setting the fastest lap in the one-hour 31-lap race. In today’s 23-lap Sprint race, Norris recorded fourth place after starting eighth on the “reverse” grid. Saturday’s dominant victory kept Lando’s incredible record of winning from “pole” position in the BRDC F3, Formula Renault, Euro F3 and now F2 categories at the first race of these respective championship opening weekends.
Norris, denied the fastest time in Friday morning’s 45mins practice session by a mere 0.051secs (1m 44.600s, 14-laps), clocked the quickest time (1:41.761, 10-laps) late in the 30mins qualifying session in his Carlin prepared 3.4-litre turbocharged V6 engined Dallara. Lining-up in pole-position yesterday lunchtime, Lando rocketed off the line at the green light. He had built a staggering lead of 13.2secs before making his compulsory pit-stop on the 18th lap, switching from the “medium” compound tyres to “softs”. With all pit-stops completed, Lando was back in front and impressively stretched his lead to over 10secs, setting the fastest race lap (1:48.072) on lap 19, before backing off to take his maiden F2 race win by 8.321secs – heading a brilliant Carlin 1-2 result in the hot and windy conditions.
Starting today’s race from the fourth row, Norris completed the first lap in fifth place but an upshift issue exiting the last corner on the second lap demoted him a place – Lando having to engage first gear to solve the issue at the cost of almost four vital seconds. But the BRDC SuperStar was back into fifth by lap four and moved into fourth five laps later. With six-laps remaining, Norris was at the back of a three-car “train” fighting for second place but ultimately the reigning FIA European F3 Champion had to settle for fourth place – 5.043secs behind the winner. The next rounds of the FIA Formula 2 Championship are staged at the Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan (27-29 Apr) and like Bahrain, will be the first time Lando has raced there.
Lando Norris (GB): Born: Bristol, England. Aged 18.
“A win and fourth place puts us in a good place for the next couple of races in terms of the championship. Winning the Feature race was a great way for me to start the season and with Sergio [Sette Camara] making it a 1-2 for Carlin made it even sweeter. My start was good and I was comfortable in my opening stint. I wasn’t quite as happy with my pace after the pit-stop. I struggled a little with the tyres but that may have been because I pushed too hard after the stop for the fastest lap. The start of today’s race was hectic with George [Russell] stalling which caught me out. I was up to fourth but there was a long race ahead so wasn’t pushing too much. But then when I shifted up coming out of the last corner it seemed to go into neutral. I pulled off to the right but then first gear suddenly engaged. It cost me around four-seconds. It meant I had to work the tyres more to catch up Sergio which wasn’t ideal. I managed to get alongside at Turn 4 but couldn’t quite get past. It was good to get ‘pole’ but I wasn’t totally happy as I didn’t do a perfect lap. I made it difficult for myself with mistakes on my first run. The pressure was on me when George [Russell] improved the ‘pole’ time by around seven-tenth’s. I pushed as hard as I could but still made some errors, running wide at the last corner. We will remain focused and try to be consistent in the coming races.”