Superb Piastri bags first F2 win in only second race

Oscar Piastri won in only his second outing in the FIA Formula 2 championship after his Prema team tactic to bring him for a change for soft compound tyres paid handsome dividends in Bahrain.

The Australian, who won the Formula 3 drivers’ championship in 2020, started the race an ideal fifth on the grid after he finished in the same place after Saturday’s opening sprint.

And, in an incident packed opening to the second F2 race, he quickly found himself right in the mix after a Safety Car was deployed when sprint race 1 winner Liam Lawson was punted into a spin. His team immediately called him for a change of tyres and there was no stopping the Aussie, as he surged past Guanyu Zhou on the final lap to take a memorable victory.

“Yeah, that has to be the craziest win I’ve ever had in my life,” Piastri told Sky Sports’ Natalie Pinkham after the win. “We were struggling on the first half on hards so I obviously wasn’t driving good enough, still getting used to the grip change we had from the earlier race. Full credit to Prema. They called box and I did my first ever pit stop, which was pretty daunting! And yeah, pulled off a few good moves towards the end and here we are on the top step.”

Piastri is no stranger to being astride the top step of the podium after his successful F3 season, and paid tribute to another successful Australian driver in Mark Webber, who has been mentoring him for the past two years.

“Mark has been really good,” added Piastri. “It has been our second year working together and, to be honest, it’s the second time I’ve seen him at the track because of all the COVID bubbles, but he’s been really good, a nice handshake and congratulations.”

It could have been even better for the Prema team, partnered by Acronis, had the unfortunate Robert Shwartzman not contacted Dan Ticktum on the opening lap, putting both drivers out of the race.

Heartbreak for Oscar in Sunday feature

Saturday’s victory meant that it was Piastri who led the standings heading into Sunday’s feature race. And it looked like another tactical masterstroke from his Prema team would reward him with another solid points haul.

The Australian had started the race 7th but quickly made early inroads, carving his way past Guanyu Zhou and Felipe Drugovich and up to second by lap 7, before diving down the inside of Christian Lundgaard and into the lead on lap 13.

And, when Gianluca Petecof’s fire extinguisher went off, bringing about a Safety Car, Piastri timed his pit stop for the harder compound rubber perfectly, exiting ahead before the Virtual Safety Car was deployed, meaning no pitstops were permitted.

There was still plenty of work to do, and with the soft compound tyres of his rivals giving them the advantage late in the race, Piastri found himself under pressure from Dan Ticktum. The Englishman made the move for third stick with two laps remaining, and in an attempt to regain the place on the inside of the kerb, contact spun his prema around and out of the race.

It was a bitter pill to swallow, but for the F3 champion, it was certainly an encouraging opening weekend that leaves him full of confidence for the remainder of the season.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.

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