Sakhir, Race 1: Vandoorne leads Matsushita for an ART 1-2
ART Grand Prix take team title at Bahrain International Circuit
It was a glorious day for Stoffel Vandoorne and Nobuharu Matsushita as the pair finished first and second in today’s action packed feature race at Sakhir. With this result, the teammates gave ART Grand Prix the 2015 Teams’ title. Mitch Evans completed the podium.
It all happened at the start for Vandoorne: the Belgian driver made a great getaway from P2 as Pierre Gasly had a more difficult jump from pole position. Behind the leading duo, Raffaele Marciello kept third place ahead of Norman Nato and Alex Lynn. Vandoorne was able to quickly build a 2s gap to Gasly, keeping in mind that he had to make his medium tyres last for as long as possible before switching to soft compounds. Behind him, Marciello was able to pass a slower Gasly at Turn 1 for P2.
The Frenchman from DAMS had visibly lost his pace from yesterday’s qualifying and was unable to stop the charging pair of Nato and Matsushita, effectively dropping down to fifth. As Vandoorne looked unreachable at the front maintaining a 3s gap to Marciello, his teammate Matsushita put Nato under huge pressure and eventually passed him for third place on lap 18. This left the Arden man and Gasly battling for P4 with the latter overtaking his countryman three laps later.
Evans was on a mission of his own: the Kiwi who had started from P7 made his way up behind the pair of Gasly and Nato. He decided to be one of the first drivers on medium tyres to pit for soft compounds - a strategy that put him ahead of Marciello after the Italian’s own pit-stop.
Vandoorne eventually pitted on lap 22. Once his tyres were up to temperatures, the Belgian set the quickest laptime of the race and pulled away easily, building a 13s gap to Nathanaël Berthon who was on a different strategy having started the race on softs. The Frenchman struggled with tyre-wear and started to drop down the field letting pass the battling duo of Evans and Rossi. The pair made small contact and the American who had brilliantly recovered from a slow getaway damaged his front wing and had no other choice but to return to the pits for a new one, thus promoting Matsushita to third.
There was more drama behind for Nato who saw his efforts ruined when he had to return to the pits for a new pair of rear tyres. With six laps to go, Evans came under huge pressure from a charging Matsushita. The Kiwi resisted and managed to stay outside of the DRS range, but he started to struggle on his tyres and eventually made a mistake which allowed the Japanese driver to get past him.
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