Carlin continued their strong form from the Bahrain F2 round today. Yuki Tsunoda and teammate Jehan Daruvala topped the times for the Sakhir F2 round on the Bahrain Outer Loop.
The early pacesetter was Robert Shwartzman in his Prema, the times starting at an initial 1:10 before Shwartzman improved to a 1:05. Mick Schumacher in the sister car then found time to get to a 1:04.
After just 8 minutes of action, Bahrain Feature Race winner Felipe Drugovich went top with a 1:03.78 and Shwartzman improved to second position going purple in the middle sector.
There was a dramatic moment on the back straight to the final corner as Christian Lundgaard was forced to take evasive action around Guilherme Samaia who was dawdling while trying to find some space. This could be a sign of what is to come in qualifying this afternoon.
Meanwhile Samaia’s new teammate and F2 returnee, Ralph Boschung, was down in 14th place and over 1.3 seconds off of the pace. Elsewhere Theo Pourchaire was showing good form in his HWA as he was currently 3rd in the standings.
One constant in the session was the clouds of white smoke emanating from the cars as they hit the brakes into the bumpy braking zone of Turn 1. And speaking of bumps, the drivers were being subjected to an absolute pummelling as they fought the cars through the outer loop section. Schumacher in particular appeared to be driving a bucking bronco as his car bounced wildly from left to right. Callum Ilott also struggled as the bumps caught him out and threw his car off the track although he continued to point in the right direction.
The final weekend of any season is always emotional as drivers compete in their final showing in the series. Some will be stepping up to the next level as is the case for Nikita Mazepin and Schumacher. While others will be leaving the feeder series ladder as they run out of budget or reach their talent ceiling. Mazepin expressed his gratitude to his Hitech team with a tribute helmet with the names of all of the team members displayed on it. A nice touch.
Louis Deletraz had been expressing his frustration at Haas not picking him for the F1 drive this weekend in place of Pietro Fittipaldi. He felt he would more able to support the team following his F2 season. Sadly, he let his feelings boil over into his driving on track. As Dan Ticktum moved to pass him on the main straight, Deletraz moved over and ran his rival almost to the pit wall and stopped him passing.
With 20 minutes to go in the session, Tsunoda put in a 1:03.267 to go top of the times. Daruvala was 2/10ths back while Luca Ghiotto was 3rd. The second Hitech driver is looking on fine form at a track he has fond memories of. Title rivals Schumacher and Ilott were in 7th and 18th respectively and separated by a quarter of a second.
The drivers all moved onto long runs as the tyres degraded. Indeed we saw Schumacher running well over a second from his ultimate pace as the time ticked down.
The session ended early under a red flag as Artem Markelov’s engine exploded in spectacular fashion down the main straight. The billowing smoke plume makes the HWA resemble a rocket more than a race car.
Can the Carlins maintain their pace into Qualifying? Only a short wait until we find out this afternoon.