Rookies rule the desert: 3 takeaways from FIA F3 Round 1 at Bahrain

The 2022 FIA F3 season got underway at Sakhir this past weekend – and did so with a bang. A new track for the series but a familiar one for racing fans, Bahrain is known to be a great overtaking track. Both races offered some great battles in the new weekend format, with Isack Hadjar winning the Sprint Race and Victor Martins winning the Feature Race. Let’s go through the three takeaways from the weekend.

By Charlie Parker

Rookies up to speed immediately

It was a great start of the season for the rookies. Franco Colapinto claimed pole position for the debuting Van Amersfoort Racing, while fellow rookie Kush Maini qualified third. Maini would however start from the pit lane after missing the weighbridge and the team then working on his car.

The rookie success continued into the rest of the weekend with Isack Hadjar and Ollie Bearman making it a rookie one-two in Sprint Race. It would have been the other way around, had the Prema driver not extended track limits at Turn Four one too many times. In the Feature Race, ART GP’s Gregoire Saucy made it onto the podium as a rookie. 

ART GP might just be title contenders

It was a shock when Colapinto crossed the line to claim pole position for the Feature Race. What went under the radar, however, was ART’s qualifying. Saucy, Victor Martins and Juan Manuel Correa qualified in fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.

The Sprint Race was disappointing for the team, with Saucy and Martins coming together at Turn One in the opening stages of the race. The result? Saucy received a three-place grid drop for the Sprint Race and both cars retired. Correa managed to bring home two points after finishing ninth.

But it was completely different in the Feature. Martins expertly controlled the pace and tyres and ran away with a dominant victory after taking the lead on lap 15. Thanks to Colapinto’s five-second track limits penalty, Saucy and Correa moved up to finish third and fourth. As a result, ART left Bahrain leading the teams’ championship. 

Arthur Leclerc (Prema) at the FIA F3 opening round in Bahrain | Credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd

Is there instability at Prema?

The biggest shock, especially on Friday, was Prema. There wasn’t the dominant showing one would expect from the Italian outfit, with Prema having an up and down weekend.

Their worse showing was in qualifying, where their highest driver was Bearman in 11th. Arthur Leclerc and Jak Crawford were all the way down in 13th and 21st respectively, although Crawford did have some issues with a leak during the session. 

The races were better for Prema: Bearman used the reverse grid to his advantage and finished second, with Leclerc finishing fifth. Then in the Feature Race, Leclerc showed his great race pace by climbing all the way up the grid to finish second, while Bearman and Crawford pulling great recovery drives to finish sixth and seventh. 

In the end it was a decent weekend for Prema, but the lack of pace at the start of the weekend is a worry as they look to regain the teams’ championship.

Header photo credit: Red Bull Content Pool

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