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Maloney dominates the first round of Formula 2 with a double win

In Bahrain, Maloney dominated the first round of the new Formula 2 season and the race week was full of thrilling moments.

The 2024 season started in the best way for Zane Maloney. The Barbadian scored a double victory in Sakhir and put himself in the lead of the championship. The drivers and the teams are still trying to understand the new car and what are the right setups to exploit its full potential.

In Bahrain, some teams succeeded in the task better than others, and this new variable could give unexpected results in the championship fight.
As always, surprises in a Formula 2 race week can not miss, especially in the first round of the season.

Invicta front-row lockout…but not for long

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Kush Maini, in his first race week as a member of the Alpine Junior program, out qualified his new teammate Gabriel Bortoleto. The Invicta duo topped the time sheets, followed by Isack Hadjar in third position. However, Kush Maini was disqualified as the left undertray front external strake of his car was found to be below the required minimum height. This delivered the pole position to the hands of Gabriele Bortoleto, 2023 Formula 3 champion and junior driver for McLaren.

Although, the first position did not last long, because Bortoleto and Hadjar collided at the first corner. The Frenchman was forced to retire while Bortoleto could continue the race, though he was given a 10-second penalty, which he served in a pit stop.
Plenty of bad luck for the two drivers, who managed to score some points nevertheless. The Brazilian in both races and Maini in the Feature Race.

The rookies are charging

Isack Hadjar of France and Campos Racing (20) drives on track. (Photo by Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images)
BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN – FEBRUARY 29: Isack Hadjar of France and Campos Racing (20) drives on track during practice ahead of Round 1 Sakhir of the Formula 2 Championship at Bahrain International Circuit on February 29, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Joe Portlock – Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images)

With almost half of the gird made by rookies, the factor of unpredictability increases and everyone is eager to see which of these divers will end the season near the top steps (or even on top of the others).
In Bahrain, all the new drivers tried to prove themselves to their more experienced teammates. Jorge Martí and Paul Aron are the perfect examples.
Red Bull junior driver, the former took home important points for the Spanish team Campos Racing, finishing both races on the podium. He showed great skills in some thrilling overtakes, which proved he is one of the drivers to keep an eye on for the title fight.

Paul Aron qualified just behind him but, with good tire managing and some good overtakes in the right place, he managed to end the feature race in third position.
These two ex-formula 3 drivers are not the only ones that could worry the older drivers. Zak O’Sullivan, Ritomo Miyata, and Gabriel Bortoleto are also eager to prove themselves. Even if they did not reach the podium, they finished both races in the points, near the top 3. Kimi Antonelli is an important name missing from this list but, even after the difficulties that Prema had to face this weekend, he scored his first point in the feature race.

A difficult start for Prema in Formula 2

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The Italian team already knew that the Sakhir track could represent a challenge for them. Last year, Prema did not collect any points from the first round of the season, with Oliver Bearman ending the Feature Race in fourteenth and Fredrick Vesti retiring after a contact with Victor Martins.

This year, the spotlight is on the lineup of the Italian team, regarded by many, as one of the strongest pair of the grid. Oliver Bearman, member of the Ferrari driver academy, is one of the most-voted candidates to fight for the title this year, after showing great speed in 2023. Mercedes junior driver, Andrea Kimi Antonelli, is already one of the most famous names in the F1 paddock, thanks to the talent he has shown in every championship he took part in (and won).

However, Prema faced many difficulties this week, and they did not manage to find the right setup to bring more pace to their car.
Only Antonelli was able to reach tenth place in the Feature Race, making some good overtakes in the process. On the other side of the box, Bearman collided with Cordeel on Saturday and the contact unbalanced the car, making it more difficult to drive.
The eyes are all on Jeddah, where they hope to fight for the top steps of the standings.

Zane Maloney takes it all

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN – MARCH 01: Race winner Zane Maloney of Barbados and Rodin Motorsport (5) celebrates in parc ferme during the Round 1 Sakhir Sprint race of the Formula 2 Championship at Bahrain International Circuit on March 01, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Pauline Ballet – Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images)

In December 2023, Red Bull ended its partnership with Zane Maloney. One month later, the driver from Barbados joined the Sauber Academy and became reserve driver for the team. In the first tests with the new Formula 2 car, Maloney topped almost every session, showing great feeling with the single-seater. On Thursday he qualified third, two-tenths behind the best time. In both of the two races, he managed to stay out of trouble and attack his opponents at the right time. In the Feature Race, he extended his lead to over four and a half seconds to Martí.

“Of course, I’m so happy to get the Sprint race and the Feature race victory this weekend,” said Maloney to the press after the Feature Race, “the team Rodin did an unbelievable job and I just had to drive the car as quick as I can”.

The next round will be in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Will Maloney maintain the lead of the Formula 2 championship or new opponents will appear on the scene?


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