Bahrain F2: Ferrari's Leclerc takes maiden pole by seven tenths

Charles Leclerc beat his Prema Racing teammate Antonio Fuoco to pole position for the first Formula 2 feature race of the season in Bahrain.

Bahrain F2: Ferrari's Leclerc takes maiden pole by seven tenths
Charles Leclerc, PREMA Racing
Charles Leclerc, PREMA Racing
Antonio Fuoco, PREMA Racing
Nyck De Vries, Rapax
Nyck De Vries, Rapax
Artem Markelov, RUSSIAN TIME
Norman Nato, Pertamina Arden

Leclerc - the 2016 GP3 champion - was the quickest driver after the field had completed their first runs in the night-time session, which took place in 29C temperatures that were significantly lower than the day’s earlier practice session.

The 19-year-old headed back out on the circuit while his rivals sat in the pits in the middle of the session, and improved in all three sectors to set a best time of 1m38.907s.

Fuoco, who had got within 0.1s of his teammate's previous fastest time early in the 30-minute session, did not get a chance to reply on his second run, as a collision between Nabil Jeffri and Gustav Malja brought out the virtual safety car and confirmed Leclerc’s 0.6s advantage over his fellow Ferrari Academy driver.

The incident between Jeffri and Malja occurred at Turn 9 with just over 90 seconds remaining on the clock as the former closed rapidly on the Racing Engineering driver and dived to his incident at the apex of the left hander.

They came together and the resulting collision caused them both to stop - Malja only just off the racing line on the approach to Turn 10 - which brought out the virtual safety car and prevented any drivers caught behind the crash improving their times.

One driver who was not caught out was Nyck de Vries, and the Rapax racer was able to move up to third quickest on his final lap, despite losing much of practice due to an alternator problem.

Norman Nato finished fourth for Racing Engineering ahead of Luca Ghiotto and Nobuharu Matsushita, who were fifth and sixth for Russian Time and ART Grand Prix.

Artem Markelov ended up seventh fastest, one spot ahead of Oliver Rowland, who complained of brake locking problems on his way to eighth.

Rowland, recently announced as a Renault F1 development driver, locked up at the first corner on his final lap and had a similar issue at Turn 10.

Alexander Albon, who had been slowest in practice for ART, finished ninth, and Sergio Sette Camara rounded out the top 10 for MP Motorsport.

British driver Jordan King was 11th, as Malja and Jeffri, who both face a stewards investigation for their collision, finished the session in 15th and 20th.

Alex Kalinauckas / Autosport

Qualifying results

Pos. Driver Team Time Gap
1  Charles Leclerc PREMA Racing 1:38.907  
2  Antonio Fuoco PREMA Racing 1:39.585 0.678
3  Nyck de Vries Rapax 1:39.665 0.758
4  Norman Nato Pertamina Arden 1:39.696 0.789
5  Luca Ghiotto RUSSIAN TIME 1:39.948 1.041
6  Nobuharu Matsushita ART Grand Prix 1:40.011 1.104
7  Artem Markelov RUSSIAN TIME 1:40.018 1.111
8  Oliver Rowland DAMS 1:40.053 1.146
9  Alex Albon ART Grand Prix 1:40.140 1.233
10  Sergio Sette Camara MP Motorsport 1:40.168 1.261
11  Jordan King MP Motorsport 1:40.201 1.294
12  Johnny Cecotto Rapax 1:40.262 1.355
13  Nicholas Latifi DAMS 1:40.280 1.373
14  Louis Deletraz Racing Engineering 1:40.453 1.546
15  Gustav Malja Racing Engineering 1:40.473 1.566
16  Ralph Boschung Campos Racing 1:40.501 1.594
17  Sean Gelael Pertamina Arden 1:40.778 1.871
18  Sergio Canamasas Trident 1:40.810 1.903
19  Stefano Coletti Campos Racing 1:41.416 2.509
20  Nabil Jeffri Trident 1:41.604 2.697
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