For round 2 of the Division 1 championship we went to Bahrain, now having somewhat of an idea of everyone’s strength. Due to other obligations Wesley was not racing and was replaced by Michael, a driver capable of beating anyone in this field. Just like in Jeddah we also had Brent as a reserve, and last but not least Plebmaster filling in for Alpine driver Martijns.
Right before the race most top drivers were using the old Mercedes tactics of putting themselves in an underdog role, saying this is not their favourite track or feeling well. Defending champion Shaby surely wasn’t lying about this being his least favourite track on the calendar, as he qualified in 8th, a position quite unusual for him. He was six tenths away from the fastest time, that was set by Michael, who was just ahead of three dutch drivers, Jari, Brent and Prins.
The start of the race didn’t have any major incidents, but two drivers were unlucky at lap 1. Livingwall spun round and NoJug had to make a pit stop due to damage to his car. A crash in lap 2 caused a lot more damage than just a dnf for Spectre, because at the end of the Virtual Safety Car period four drivers got a drive through penalty for not staying under the delta. Invisible, Tikkuhd and both Haas drivers were summoned to visit the pit lane for the violation.
In lap 4 it was Jari with a move on the main straight for the lead of the race, getting past Michael, while Prins was in a heavy battle with both AlphaTauri’s. All three kept changing positions until Chalkers made a mistake at turn 3 and lost many positions. Meanwhile Shaby and Brent had to pit early due to damage to their car, making sure that several drivers who started on the Medium tyres from a position outside the top 10 were slowly making their way forward. And when all soft runners had pitted we had a bit of an unconventional top three. CPI_DeRooij led the race, followed by Plebmaster and Blackmamba, all drivers that started on mediums and worked their way forward by staying out of trouble and not having to make a pit stop yet. Jari did manage to regain the lead by overtaking all three medium runners on his fresher tyres and with a projected pitstop for those medium runners of around lap 19 to 20 something unexpected happened. Blackmamba’s teammate Bossmotz did a perfect Nelson Piquet Junior impression by crashing out and having the safety car being called upon. The timing was perfect as this made sure the entire field would have to make a pit stop and with that, it meant De Rooij, Plebmaster and Blackmamba were able to keep their position on track and were now in a great situation to fight for a podium or even the win. Another safety car situation in lap 26 (out of 29) made a few others happy as they were now able to get back in the fight for points or a podium. Tikkuhd for example was in 15th and last position the moment the safety car came out and nearly a lap behind the leader, but due to the new situation he was still able to fight his way back and score a point while he was probably more thinking towards giving up 2 minutes earlier. It showed you should never do so as in this game anything can still happen until the chequered flag. In a sprint race in the last two laps Jari was able to hold the lead over De Rooij and Blackmamba who snapped up a podium thanks to a time penalty for Michael. Championship leader Prins was unlucky on the final as he crashed out and missed out on important points, while Shaby was not even in the top 10 with two laps to go, but still managed to finish in 6th after all.
Jari has now taken the lead in the championship ahead of Shaby, Prins and Mamba.
Next week we will be racing in Melbourne, Australia. See you down under!