Artem Markelov became the first winner of an FIA Formula 2 race in five years by charging to victory in the season-opener at the Bahrain International Circuit on Friday.
Following Liberty Media’s takeover of Formula 1, a deal was struck to make its premier feeder series, GP2, an FIA championship once again for 2017.
The first pole of the new F2 era went to Ferrari junior Charles Leclerc, with the Monegasque racing enjoying a spirited early battle in the race with Norman Nato, while Russian Time’s Markelov lurked behind in third place.
Nato was the first to pit, and managed to get his tires up to temperature quickly so he could sweep around previous leader Leclerc, who came out of the pits on cold Pirellis after a later stop.
Markelov opted to extend his first stint, giving him a pace advantage in the closing stages with fresher tires that allowed him to sweep past both Leclerc and Nato, gaining multiple seconds per lap.
The result marked Markelov’s second win the the GP2/F2 category, his previous success coming in last year’s Monaco feature race.
Nato held on for second place ahead of Leclerc, who impressed on debut in the GP2/11 car following his step up from GP3.
Jordan King finished fourth ahead of Oliver Rowland, with Alexander Albon finishing sixth. Luca Ghiotto battled up to seventh in the second Russian Time entry, while Honda youngster Nobuharu Matsushita will start the sprint race from reverse grid pole after finishing eighth.