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.