Stoffel Vandoorne scored a majestic sixth GP2 Series victory of the season in Bahrain, but the battle behind him raged from start to finish in a race that hinged on pitstop timing and tyre degradation.
Vandoorne won by 13s over teammate Nobuharu Matsushita to seal the teams’ title for ART Grand Prix, with Mitch Evans third for Russian Time.
Story of the race
Poleman Pierre Gasly was slow away in his DAMS car, so Vandoorne led comfortably into Turn 1 ahead of Raffaele Marciello, Norman Nato, Alex Lynn, Matsushita and Arthur Pic.
Second in points, Alexander Rossi compounded his poor qualifying by losing more positions in the opening corners, but passed Rio Haryanto for 10th with a great move at Turn 10, and continued to work his way forwards from there.
At the sharp end, Marciello DRS-ed past Gasly for second at Turn 1 on lap four, as Matsushita did likewise on Lynn, who seemed to struggle for straightline speed.
Gasly re-attacked Marciello on the following tour, getting alongside at Turn 1 and Turn 4, but unable to retake the position.
Lynn was falling backwards, Rossi passing him for eighth on lap seven.
Gasly suffered a moment through the opening corners on lap eight, and lost two places to Nato and Matsushita.
Vandoorne was well up the road by this point, and led by 1.8s on lap 10 as Marciello was defending second from Nato, who in turn was being attacked by Matsushita.
Matsushita passed Nato at half distance, Nato just fending off Gasly but having to cede third place at the start of lap 22.
After a poor qualifying, Sergey Sirotkin charged from row seven to run in the top 10 by lap 12. But a big lock-up into Turn 1 on lap 17 undid much of his earlier good work, and he fell behind Haryanto, King - who had made a poor start from fifth - and Lynn.
Sirotkin was forced to pit, and change to the soft tyre, which allowed him to charge forwards again.
Pit strategy changes race’s complexion
Vandoorne extended his lead to over 13s – having lapped two seconds per lap faster than most of his rivals as the race entered its second half – before taking his mandatory pitstop to switch to the soft on lap 22.
Rossi pitted early and was lapping three seconds quicker than even Vandoorne, something which catapulted him ahead of Matsushita, and on course for a podium finish.
Gasly regained his position over Nato in the pitstops, but they rejoined in the thick of the early pitters. Nato repassed Gasly with seven laps to go, but Gasly got him back before Nato was hamstrung by a right-rear puncture.
Nathaneal Berthon was on the alternate soft-medium strategy and rose as high as second before those on fresh softs mugged him, and he plummeted.
Both Evans, who had timed his pitstop to perfection, and Rossi passed him at Turn 1 on lap 25, but Rossi then ploughed into the back of Evans at Turn 4, removing his front wing and forcing him to pit again.
That promoted Matsushita to third, ahead of Sirotkin, Marciello, Haryanto and Gasly.
Matsushita DRS-ed Evans for second with two laps to go, as Marciello got the better of Sirotkin behind them, with Gasly and Haryanto next up.
Lynn and King battled for reverse-grid pole in the closing laps, with Lynn holding on for tomorrow’s top spot.
Rossi finished 18th after his extra pitstop.
|1||S.Vandoorne||ART Grand Prix||57'15.184|
|2||N.Matsushita||ART Grand Prix||13.526|
|3||Mitch Evans||RUSSIAN TIME||17.617|
|7||Rio Haryanto||Campos Racing||26.972|
|9||Jordan King||Racing Engineering||31.312|
|10||Arthur Pic||Campos Racing||41.514|
|11||N.Berthon||Daiko Team Lazarus||43.621|
|12||Sergio Canamasas||Daiko Team Lazarus||45.597|
|13||M.Stockinger||Status Grand Prix||47.319|
|14||Nicholas Latifi||MP Motorsport||49.854|
|15||Artem Markelov||RUSSIAN TIME||56.728|
|17||Andre Negrao||Arden International||59.439|
|18||Alexander Rossi||Racing Engineering||59.845|
|19||Daniel de Jong||Trident||1'00.613|
|20||Rene Binder||MP Motorsport||1'00.700|
|22||Oliver Rowland||Status Grand Prix||1'11.829|
|24||Norman Nato||Arden International|