BIC, Al Sakhir: Oliver Rowland has topped the timesheets in the first FIA Formula 2 Championship free practice session with a blistering lap under scorching conditions this morning at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, leading the way for most of the session by less than a tenth from Artem Markelov and Charles Leclerc.
The Briton stopped the clocks at 1:42.221 just nine minutes into the session, which opened under a cloudless sky, with track temperatures at 45˚C as the lights went green to open the session. All of the drivers headed straight out onto the circuit to get the day started, with Johnny Cecotto setting the first competitive lap 6 minutes in, before being usurped by Nobuharu Matsushita next time round.
Rowland stole the top spot on the next lap, as Markelov (0.092s) and Antonio Fuoco (0.160s) following in his wake. With such extreme temperatures and serious tyre wear at the desert circuit there was little chance of improvement, although Leclerc had clearly saved some tyres for a quick run at the 15 minute mark to nab P3 by a hundredth from his teammate.
The second half of the session was focused on race pace, leaving little opportunity for a change on the timesheet, with the only excitement revolving around a few drivers being caught out by the heat as they stopped at the end of the pitlane for practice starts, putting the marshals to work pushing the stricken cars back across the line for their teams to restart.
Behind the top three Fuoco, Norman Nato, Luca Ghiotto, Nyck De Vries, Johnny Cecotto and Matsushita all posted times within a second of the top spot, and will be hoping to find a small margin in the cooler conditions for this evening’s qualifying session.