A rookie driver Jehan Daruvala beat out the experience of 2019’s best debutant, Guanyu Zhou, and fellow F3 graduate, Pedro Piquet, for the top spot during Monday’s Formula 2 test at the Bahrain circuit.
The field were fast out of the shutters in the first session of the day, with all bar Jack Aitken heading out in the opening 15 minutes. Of those, it was Zhou who went fastest, testing the water on a sandy track with a tour of 1:46.041.
There was red flag period as Nikita Mazepin stopped on track, before order resumed and Callum Ilott replaced his team-mate at the top of the timing screens. The Briton was swiftly pipped by Artem Markelov, as the Russian took the times below 1:44s for the first time. Shortly after, he was joined in the top two by his new team-mate Giuliano Alesi, as newcomers HWA RACELAB started to find their feet.
The focus switched to longer runs and garage work for the next hour, as Markelov remained untouched at the top of the order. Aitken and Luca Ghiotto both enjoyed spells propping up the Russian, with similar times, while undertaking more than 100 laps between the three of them.
There was a late flurry of laptimes as the session drew to a close, with Mazepin roaring round in 1:43.825 to take the morning’s fastest lap with less than 10 minutes to go. Ghiotto got to within 0.005s of the time, ahead of Markelov, who only missed out himself by 0.057s.
Mazepin picked up from where he left off as the cars returned to the windy circuit for the afternoon session, with the sun setting on the Sakhir desert. The Russian took less than half an hour to beat the fastest time from the morning, as they dropped below 1:42s for the first time on Day 2. He was backed up by the continually impressive Daruvala, thriving with Carlin on just his second day in F2 machinery.
Robert Shwartzman had been quiet in the opening day and a half of testing, but made his maiden appearance in the top three of times early during the afternoon, as he began to get to grips with his PREMA.
The rookies were running the show at this point, as teammates Daruvala and Yuki Tsunoda jumped to first and second on their 10th tour of the track this afternoon. Experience made a comeback though, as Aitken, Ghiotto and Sean Gelael stole the top three places in one fell swoop, by slashing the times to below 1m 42s for the first time in testing.
Shwartzman managed to squeeze his way back into that three as he continued to show what he is capable of in an F2 car. Sergey Sirotkin (ART) then came to the fore, as the session entered its final half hour; the Russian nudged ahead of Zhou in the standings, going just 0.075s quicker.
The script was yet again re-written in the very final moments, when Daruvala thundered around the track to set the fastest time and further solidify his growing confidence. The Indian racer set 1:41.260 on his final tour, before diving into the garage to cap off a successful day’s work.
Zhou, Piquet and Mick Schumacher also all set fast laps on their final tour of the Bahrain International circuit, to complete the top four places, pushing Sirotkin down to fifth. Aitken, Ilott, Nobuharu Matsushita, Felipe Drugovich and Shwartzman completed the top ten.