Sakhir, Race 1: Vandoorne fights back for crushing win

Belgian defies the strategies to win against the odds

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By Olivier Ferret

18 April 2015 - 14:21
Sakhir, Race 1: Vandoorne fights (...)

McLaren F1 test driver Stoffel Vandoorne won this afternoon’s feature race in Bahrain from pole position, but the victory came against the odds: an early safety car period gave his soft shod rivals a free pitstop, but the Belgian kept his nerve to drive back into contention and claim the win late in the race ahead of Rio Haryanto and Alexander Rossi.

Vandoorne had an easy start when teammate Nobuharu Matsushita bogged down next to him on the front row, with the Belgian easily holding back Alex Lynn and Norman Nato, while Raffaele Marciello and Arthur Pic lined up behind them. With Vandoorne tearing away at the front the battle was heating up behind him: Marciello and Nato were fighting fiercely, which allowed Pic to sneak through, but the pair came together and tapped Pic into a spin, while a following Pierre Gasly had nowhere to go, with the four drivers into the wall and a safety car out for the clean-up.

This gave the soft shod drivers a free stop: Lynn came in from second as Vandoorne watched forlornly, and looked to have the advantage until fast work by the Racing Engineering team got Rossi out ahead of the Williams test driver, with Mitch Evans behind the pair. At the restart the Belgian streaked away again, taking Haryanto with him as they tried to build as big a lead in clean air as they could, while the pitstopped drivers carved their way through the field on fresh rubber.

Rossi did a great job of this, although an impact between Lynn and the American (and between Evans and Marlon Stockinger) saw his rivals struggle to keep pace. Rossi was up to P4 and just 10 seconds back by the time Vandoorne stopped on lap 22, with Haryanto in the next time through, and the Belgian was almost 20 seconds behind with 10 laps to go. The race looked to be done, but no one told Vandoorne: he sliced his way back into contention lap by lap, taking the lead with two to go as the American’s tyres couldn’t help him anymore.

Vandoorne rolled across the line five seconds ahead of Haryanto, who stole Rossi’s position in the final complex before the chequered flag, with teammate Jordan King driving a strong race to finish P4 on his debut. Fellow rookie Robert Visoiu drove a great race on Vandoorne’s strategy for 5th, ahead of a solid recovery drive by Matsushita, with Evans struggling home on shot tyres holding off tomorrow’s poleman Nathanaël Berthon, while Julian Leal and Andre Negrao rounded out the points ahead of tomorrow morning’s sprint race.

PosDriverTeamTime
1. Stoffel Vandoorne ART Grand Prix 32 laps - 1h01m23.306
2. Rio Haryanto Campos Racing +5.056
3. Alexander Rossi Racing Engineering +5.497
4. Jordan King Racing Engineering +12.322
5. Robert Visoiu Rapax +20.048
6. Mitch Evans RUSSIAN TIME +25.543
7. Nathanaël Berthon Racing Engineering +27.729
8. Julian Leal Carlin +28.463
9. André Negrao Arden International +29.502
10. Nobuharu Matsushita ART Grand Prix +29.664
11. Marlon Stockinger Status Grand Prix +36.875
12. Sergey Sirotkin Rapax +38.516
13. Artem Markelov RUSSIAN TIME +41.021
14. Sergio Canamasas MP Motorsport +41.391
15. Richie Stanaway Status Grand Prix +43.375
16. Zoel Amberg Lazarus +44.062
17. Rene Binder Trident +44.682
18. Daniel De Jong MP Motorsport +48.421
19. Alex Lynn DAMS +65.572
20. Raffaele Marciello Trident DNF
21. Pierre Gasly DAMS DNF
22. Norman Nato Arden International DNF
23. Marco Sorensen Carlin DNF
24. Arthur Pic Campos Racing DNF

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