FIA Formula 2

Ferrari junior Leclerc takes first pole of new Formula 2 era in Bahrain

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Ferrari junior Charles Leclerc will start the first race of Formula 2’s new era from pole position after topping the timesheets in qualifying on Friday night in Bahrain.

Following Liberty Media’s takeover of Formula 1, it was confirmed that the GP2 Series – also under the same umbrella – would become F2 for 2017 and be run by the FIA.

Leclerc made the move up to F2 after winning the GP3 title last year, and had an immediate impact on the field on Friday night by storming to pole position.

Unlike many of his rivals, Leclerc opted to complete his final qualifying run midway through the session in a bid to avoid traffic or any late incidents.

Leclerc turned in a fastest lap of 1:38.907, going six-tenths clear of Prema Racing teammate Antonio Fuoco to take provisional pole ahead of his rivals’ final runs.

An incident involving Nabil Jeffri and Gustav Malja resulted in the Virtual Safety Car being issued in the final minute of the session, scuppering any late laps that could have threatened Leclerc’s time.

As a result, the Monegasque racer will start the first race of F2’s new era from pole position, heading up a one-two for defending champion team Prema with Fuoco alongside him on the front row.

McLaren youngster Nyck de Vries was able to improve late on to rise to third place, jumping clear of Norman Nato. Luca Ghiotto wound up fifth, with Honda-backed Nobuharu Matsushita in sixth.

Artem Markelov finished seventh, while title favorite Oliver Rowland ailed to P8 after a lock-up on his quick lap. Alexander Albon qualified ninth for his debut in the category, while Sergio Sette Camara rounded out the top 10.

The first race of Formula 2’s new era kicks off on Saturday at 6:10am ET. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.