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Formula 2 round-up: Zane doubles up in season opener at Sakhir

Written by Caitlyn Gordon and Jasmin Low, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

The opening weekend of Formula 2 in 2024 was dominated by one name: Zane Maloney. Dropped from Red Bull's driver academy at the end of 2023, he signed with the Sauber academy ahead of 2024, decking green overalls into the new season. How did he come from behind to win both races at Bahrain? Read on to find out..

Sprint Race

Zane Maloney saw the chequered flag first, after fighting his way up from eighth on the grid. The Sauber junior set the perfont tone to start his second campaign in F2. 

Qualifying saw an interesting mix, with drivers getting their first proper feel of the new F2 spec machine. PREMA significantly struggled in the desert, with their drivers starting both races towards the bottom of the pack in 17th and 18th. 

Invicta Racing, on the other hand, got the dream start with its drivers taking up the front row. However, their happiness was short-lived, after pole-sitter Kush Maini was disqualified, his Invicta car deemed to have breached technical regulations.

This decision meant Jak Crawford would be starting the first Sprint of the year on pole position. The American effected a great launch into the first corner, holding off the ART duo of Zak O’Sullivan and Victor Martins for the race lead. 

It wasn’t long before the first caution was brought out. The VSC was deployed after an incident involving Amuery Cordeel and Rafael Villagómez. Cordeel was out of the race after just one lap, and Villagomez on the other hand sustained a puncture.

The restart saw Maloney make a bold move on Enzo Fittipaldi into turn 12, moving the ‘Boy from Barbados’ up to fourth. Only a lap after, Maloney swiped third out of O’Sullivan’s hands, setting the fastest lap in the process. Maloney wasn’t done just yet though, passing Martins’ ART on lap six, and now had Crawford in his direct eyeline.

Lap 11 sealed the deal, with Maloney taking first place and remained unattainable for the remainder of the race.

Down the field, rookie Pepe Martí was slotting up the ranks, edging out Fittipaldi at turn one. He gained another position in quick time, with the hunt for the podium now on, and only his teammate now standing in the way.

The first chance for the Spaniard to overtake came at Turn one, where he successfully did with no resistance from Hadjar. However, Hadjar wasn’t done just yet, and pried on the position from behind. 

A couple of centimetres down the track, the teammates were neck-and-neck, switching positions for a couple of turns. However, it was Martí who won the battle. An excellent performance meant the rookie would be earning a podium finish on Formula 2 debut.

It was now a drag race to the chequered flag with four cars in the middle of the pack battling for the final few points positions. 

Heading into Turn one, Martins, O’Sullivan and Bortoleto were scraping it out for eighth, with the yellow Invicta car blazing past the crowd and getting ahead. O’Sullivan had some fighting to do with three close cars, including his teammate, behind him looking to get that point. The Brit won the fight, darting past Hauger whilst he was at it, to secure two points on his opening race.

Maloney, practically unheard of for the remainder of the race, crossed the line with a steady gap to second. Crawford and Martí followed suit rounding out the podium.

It was a race to forget for PREMA, with their drivers finishing down in 14th and 16th respectively. Fittipaldi, who was suffering from issues, wound up back in 17th, the Brazilian unable to capitalise on an impressive start to the race. 

Feature Race

This weekend in Bahrain saw the first Feature Race for the year, with Sauber Academy driver Zane Maloney once again holding a commanding lead over the entire field, despite multiple safety cars and exciting battles taking place throughout the race. 

Gabriel Bortoleto, 2023’s FIA Formula 3 champion found himself on pole position, as his Invicta Racing teammate Kush Maini was disqualified from qualifying. The McLaren junior driver was joined on the front row by Red Bull junior Isack Hadjar, with Friday sprint race winner Zane Maloney just behind in third. 

However, the order was almost immediately switched up, as Bortoleto suffered a slow start, and tagged Hadjar in turn one, resulting in a collision between the latter and Enzo Fittipaldi, retiring both from the race. 

This chain of events promoted Zak O’Sullivan to second and Dennis Hauger to third. Prema Racing’s Oliver Bearman faced early issues whilst the safety car was out, and as the field closed in, Bortoleto was dealt a ten second time penalty for his incident with Hadjar.

Once racing restarted on lap five, Dennis Hauger began to drop down the order, with Pepe Marti and Jak Crawford making their way past the Norwegian to strip him of his podium place. 

DRS was again made available, as race leader Maloney set the fastest lap, seemingly rapid as he quickly opened up a four-second gap to the chasing pack. Juan Manuel Correa was the third retirement of the day, facing issues with his DAMS Lucas Oil car. Meanwhile, Marti overtook Zak O’Sullivan for second place.  


Victor Martins was the first to make his mandatory pitstop on lap eleven, switching onto the soft tyres. The mixture of cars on the option and prime option tyres brought a strategic element to the race, with Martins’ ART hoping to spend twenty laps on the softs, although the circuit is known for its high tyre degradation. 

Taylor Barnard was the next to make his way to the pit lane, but a slow stop by the PHM team saw him drop all the way to the back of the field. His woes continued, as his rear right tyre wasn’t properly fitted, and the Briton was forced to return to the pit lane for a second time. 

As Ollie Bearman and Amaury Cordeel made their way to the pit lane, they collided, with both cars sliding across the road, ultimately putting an end to Cordeel’s race. 

Jak Crawford had a disastrous pit stop on lap 17, with not only a slow stop, but the car needing to be re-fired. However, Crawford’s DAMS could not be restarted, and his potential podium finish slipped away, putting him out of the race. Five-second time penalties were dished out to Richard Verschoor and Paul Aron for speeding in the pit lane.

On lap 18, Victor Martins’ ART came to a halt as his gears stopped working, and the top three made their mandatory pit stops. A full safety car was deployed as a result of Martins’ stoppage. 

The Prema duo of Antonelli and Bearman found themselves in the top ten, after the team had struggled all weekend, with both cars starting on the ninth row of the grid. However, Bearman’s incident with Cordeel meant they would be investigated post-race. Rafael Villagomez was slapped with a five-second penalty before the safety car was called in with just over 10 laps to go. 

Super Formula champion Ritomo Miyata struggled on the restart, losing places to the pair of Prema cars, demoting him to tenth. A close battle ensued in the midfield, with Bearman swiftly swallowed up by a quartet of chasing cars, including the Invicta duo of Maini and Bortoleto.

Young Mercedes superstar Kimi Antonelli made his way up into seventh place by lap 25, before he too was overtaken by the Invicta cars behind, dropping the Italian down to ninth. 

Marti reclaimed second place from O’Sullivan on lap 27, as Paul Aron moved up into third on lap 28, overtaking his former teammate for the final podium position. Battles between MP teammates Dennis Hauger and Franco Colapinto, as well as the Invicta cars proved to be an exciting show of racing in the closing stage of the race. 

However, nobody was stopping Zane Maloney, as the Boy from Barbados took the chequered flag first, leading the race from the beginning, followed across the line by Marti in the Campos, both drivers on the podium for the second time in the weekend. 

Paul Aron in the Hitech came home in third, followed by O’Sullivan and Bortoleto. It was a perfect beginning to Maloney’s F2 campaign, taking both the sprint and feature race wins after not taking a single win in his maiden season in the category. 

Kush Maini managed to make it from the back of the grid all the way up to seventh, while favourites for the title Martins and Bearman both found themselves without points from both races. However, there is still plenty to play for in the coming races. 

Formula 2 returns on the 7th of March in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.


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