As the sun set across the Kingdom of Bahrain bringing darkness to the sand dunes and local towns in Sakhir, the energy at the Bahrain International Circuit started to grow with every minute of the rising moon.
The buzz that had surrounded Invictus Racing League since its explosive round one outing in Australia last week created an excitement level in the air that was palpable and with the biggest amount of races due to take place this week in Bahrain the crowd were not disappointed.
Bahrain has seen some fantastic battles in previous seasons and has become a favourite for driver’s on the Invictus calendar, the circuit offers up great overtaking options with the added bonus of drivers’ having to be point perfect when it comes to riding kerbs and looking after their tyres.
The track has transitioned into a night race and with 495 floodlights giving off over 5,000 lumins in ‘daylight’ it has become a real spectacle to see to light glimmer off of the field of Formula One cars.
Once again it was the turn of No-Assists to trail blaze their way around the track surface and with a dusty start finish line leading down to a low-speed hairpin at turn one. We were due some fireworks…
BoyBetterKnowSB (Scott) had come away from round one in Australia with a confidence boosting victory, but it was the surprise package of Humbostone and Scopefielder that had shocked the paddock. The two tier two drivers had gate-crashed the party in what was expected to be a tight race at the top between the tier one drivers.
As the drivers’ sat in their cars and awaited the pit-lane light to go green there was a calm around the circuit which was only interrupted by the fans in the stand as they excitingly awaited the whir of the grid rolling out onto the dusty circuit under the bright lights.
It was Joel who got the session going in the Toro Rosso as he looked to improve on a difficult opening race in Australia and as a driver tipped for a title challenge in pre-season he was hoping for a much more positive result.
The qualifying session saw a mix of tyre calls as the grid worked out what compound would be most advantageous to start on. With three minutes remaining in the session an excellent lap from Malc saw him take take provisional pole and as the driver’s finished their final laps it looked as if he would secure his first pole position of the season and a prime slot for the run down to turn one.
The Renault garage were delighted as time ran out but in cruel fashion Speed_Queen80, who herself was hoping at getting back on track after her race ending crash last week crossed the line as the final runner and took pole by just under two hundredths of a second.
It would be a nervy start as the driver’s knew how tricky it can be heading into turn one from such high-speed and they would have to approach with caution but as the lights extinguished it was a clean getaway for all. However, it was last weeks race winner in Scott who got a lightning start and went around the outside of Malc into turn one and two.
Further back in the Ferrari it was a nightmare start for Mike who found himself pointing in the wrong direction at turn one and on the slowest compound of tyre he would need a perfect first stint to regain the time.
As the race progressed, Scott sat in first but in a strategy call he decided to pit on lap 12 for the supersofts which locked him into the two stop window. This was not mirrored by the following Scopefielder and Humbostone who stuck on the one stop so it would be an uphill battle for Scott to regain the time lost in the pit-lane.
Speed_Queen who had not found the track position she wanted on exit of the pits was stuck following Joel as the pole sitter endured a frustrating start to her second stint as she desperately tried to force herself into the battle for a podium and kick-start her season.
However, it was Scopefielder who after impressing last week in Melbourne took the lead after the first round of stops and with 10 laps left he controlled the pack from the front.
Speed_Queen who had stopped on lap 10 and put on the softs was running in second position but was clearly starting to struggle, by lap 22 and she came under attack from Humbostone in the Renault who had been quietly making his way through the field and he squeezed past the Williams to move up into net second.
The Swedish driver Scopefielder took the chequered flag and a well deserved win, he has shown excellent pace in his introduction to the league and after a superb recovery drive in Australia his season has already been impressive. The tier two drivers have already proved that they are well matched for the league and cannot be counted against when looking at race winners over the coming races.
Humbostone picked up his second consecutive second place finish in a highly impressive showing once again as Scott came home third after overhauling the pace of Phil and Speed_Queen late in the race.
The field leaves Bahrain with a three way tie for first in the championship as Scopefielder, Humostone and Scott all sit with 20 points. It’s already shaping up to be a very interesting season but don’t count out a fightback from the rest of the field later in the season.
After it’s postponement last week the drivers of the Invictus Performance Leagues would have a chance to open up their season. The gulf destination would be a perfect setting with the circuit offering differing strategy opportunities and sections which would favour different cars at all points creating some fantastic racing.
The drivers took to the circuit as they looked at being the first set down a marker for the season and give themselves the best points score before we head to the notoriously tricky over-taking circuit in Hungary next week.
As qualifying unfolded it would be Tejuarr in the Mercedes who used his superior straight line speed to set a provisional pole time of a 1.28.3s ahead of the Haas of AaronJSpence and Skyzii in third after a superb lap in the Sauber.
The cars poured out of the pit-lane en-route a final flying lap and with a flurry of action in the midfield the grid could not match the pace of Mercedes, as Jamie_6328 came closest with a time just under a tenth from Tejuarr as the two rounded out the front row ahead of Aaron and SJD1988.
The lights went out and immediately there was chaos as a slow starting Tejuarr moved to cover off the attack from Aaron in third. In an unfortunate turn the two missed the Force India of SJD who had moved to alongside Aaron in the process and it sent both the Haas and Force India into the wall.
Second place man Jamie had assumed the lead during the chaotic start and had been followed through by Ferrari_LFC10. Ferrari was in the mood for a lead change and he made his move down into turn one at the end of the first lap as the two swapped positions again by turn four.
At the end of lap two the top four was split by less than a second, with mj_coop making a spectacular three abreast move into turn one only to lose both places two corners later in an electrifying start to the race.
The pit-window opened and the one-stoppers all pitted off of the yellow walled soft tyres and onto the mediums and after the cars had shuffled back into place it was Skyzii in the lead, a quiet start saw him challenge for a potential victory. However, he wouldn’t have long to wait before he would have his mirrors full of silver as Skyzii came under attack from Tejuarr who was doing well to recover after his slow start.
Tejuarr made his move for the lead on lap 23 and on three lap fresher tyres Skyzii had nothing to come back at the silver arrow as he immediately started to pull away.
It would turn into victory for Tejuarr as he opened his performance league account with a victory, he was followed home by Skyzii in second and Aaron moved up to third after penalties, which ended as a great result for the Haas team after his disappointing start.
The second performance league got underway simultaneously that evening and with 13 drivers on circuit the chance for points would be high.
BWAClyde would be the first to set the provisional pole time as Tom_444 and NeverMiss both sat almost three-quarters of a second behind the Scotsman.
As the session hit the half way point WaveIntel moved himself onto the first row with a solid lap as drivers such as Jos and Scopefielder could only manage sixth and seventh in the Williams as they bemoaned the lack of pace down the straights over the radio.
It would be Clyde who held onto first position ahead of WaveIntel as the two Scottish drivers locked out the front row ahead of Tom_444 and NeverMiss00. Scope and Jos were placed nicely behind on the soft compound compared to the red walled supersofts meaning there was all to play for come race time.
As the race started NeverMiss and Tom both got the jump on WaveIntel however last seasons champion re-took third off Tom with a brave lunge at the end of the second DRS straight on lap one.
The top three were starting to move away from the field as Clyde, Wave and NeverMiss all moved six seconds from NickLJThomson in fourth as the cars lapped for the sixth time.
The man on the move throughout the first stint was Ferrari driver osteven002, who took the fight to Nick for third place but after a deep lunge into turn one he lost time and dropped back behind Nick and Sab. The Ferrari driver wouldn’t be deterred and he ended up moving back past Nick and Sab using the Ferrari’s superior power around the circuit to move up onto a provisional podium position.
Ahead, the two Saubers of NeverMiss and WaveIntel were having a superb battle with the two swapping positions over lap seven before Wave blinked first and came in the pits in the attempt at the undercut onto the medium compound. The battle continued briefly after the pit stops until a mistake from NeverMiss saw an early retirement and sad end to a promising race.
Clyde who ran the two stop strategy would resume the lead and pulled a sixteen second lead over WaveIntel. This allowed him to make a second stop and appear just behind the Sauber driver. He enjoyed much fresher tyres and the increased grip allowed take the effective lead of the race on lap 25 with 4 laps left to run.
The race came to its climax with Clyde stretching his lead over WaveIntel as the two crossed the line to the fireworks and adulation of the crowd as a solid and consistent drive from osteven saw him pick up a well received third position as he took his second Invictus Racing League podium.
NickLJ and Jos would take the fight for fourth down to the final lap and it would be the Dutchman in the Williams who crossed the line half a second ahead of the Renault in fifth.
It was a strong showing for Scotland as the cold north picked up first and second on the podium whilst congratulations were due to Steven who drove an excellent race to get himself off the mark with a podium.
Sambamkid made up for losing the race victory last week in Australia as he took the victory in F1 this week. The Mercedes driver lined up third on the grid and using an effective strategy with a strong start was able to move up and take himself to the top of the table in the standings.
He was followed by an impressive race from Jos who after struggling in the performance race the night before took his Haas from fifth into third to the delight of Haas team boss Gunther Steiner.
However, it was McLaren driver and multiple championship winner at Invictus, Speed_Queen80 who made the most of a poor grid position to take her papaya orange McLaren from 11th to third ahead of Mdoran who equally found himself moving up as he took fourth place after a seventh place start.
F1 has now got a small points leader in SamBam and the league will be aware not to let him get on a roll knowing how consistent he has been over the previous season and start to the current one.
F2 started with a superb flag to flag victory for Betrayer46 last week in Australia and he would be hoping for the same again in Bahrain as the Red Bull team looked to build on their positive start.
However, it was WaveIntel who took his first pole position of the season ahead of Tony-Y in second place as Betrayer had to settle for fourth behind the returning RickWR83.
The top four were all due to start on the supersoft compound and with drivers like NickLJTomson and Hulkenburger behind on the softs it would certainly spice up the strategy choices half way through the race with a mix of one and two stops available.
As the lights extinguished and released the grid into the race it would be a drag race between WaveIntel and Tony into turn one. The pole sitter managed to just hold off the attack from Tony over the first lap which also saw Betrayer move up into third and go on the offensive for second position.
The leaders started to break a small lead over the rest of the field but the action behind them was no less entertaining as NickLJThomson made an exquisite move around the outside of Ferrari_LFC10 that gave him the inside line for the second DRS straight as he looked at moving up past the two Renault’s ahead.
Then on lap seven disaster struck as Nick and mj_coop who had both shown good pace over the start of the race in what seemed like poetry in motion lost control at turn 12 as both careened off the circuit and hit the wall with a shuddering thump which brought the end of both their races.
The proximity of both driver’s accidents caused controversy as a safety car was not released onto the circuit and with the potential for fluid on the racing line and debris off it there was a furore in the paddock after.
They were unfortunately joined in the media pen early by GeorgeSnipes as the Haas driver lost control whilst battling with Alga for tenth and suffered race ending suspension damage in a disappointing end to the race.
WaveIntel and Tony had gone for altering strategies and whilst Tony was maintaining the lead after his first stop it was WaveIntels pace on the mediums which caught the eye as he carved his way back through the pack and with Tony pitting for his second stop on lap 17 it promoted WaveIntel back to the top of the standings.
Last seasons F3 championship rivals in Wave and Betrayer played a game of cat and mouse over the following laps with Betrayer looking like he might challenge the Ferrari driver as WaveIntel worked well to keep him within arms reach.
Jamiemet92’s retirement from 7th place meant that we would only end up with nine runners and with five laps left the action had not slowed down. The Renault team mates of Hulkenburger and Jamie_6328 were doing well in third and fourth with Benjym214 in the Force India for company as the three circulated within a second of each other.
As the cars rounded lap 28 and started their final lap WaveIntel had stretched a 2.5 second lead over Betrayer who looked to have turned the engine down and set his eyes on Hungary next week.
WaveIntel crossed the line and won his first race of the season as the Ferrari team leaned over the pit wall to cheer their driver home. He was joined on the podium by Betrayer and Hulkenburger who did well to hold off the attack of both his team-mate Jamie, who in turn lost out on the final lap to Benjym for fifth place in a pulsating battle.
WaveIntel will be glad to get his season off and running with an early victory after he finishing off the podium in Australia.
Betrayer maintains his lead in the championship on 22 points as the current reigning F3 champion looks to add the F2 title to his glittering trophy cabinet.
F3 have always provided some excellent racing with and we were treated with some more sumptuous action once again they provided a race full of superb overtakes and talking points.
Qualifying started with some real quality as Paulo and BWAClyde set a time which sat two thousandths of a second apart at the top of the classification. The majority of the field tried a harder compound in the attempt at a longer first stint but it was clear that the supersoft runners would have the advantage late in the session.
SirSpud and Captain_Stiff sat highest of the cars running the medium tyres in seventh and eighth as the top six all used the supersoft compound for their first time run.
As time ran out on the session the times were dropping and it would be a last lap masterclass from Paulo who would snatch the pole away from Clyde in second.
Sirspud was the highest of the harder compound runners as he put his Mercedes brilliantly on the third row in fifth ahead of Bren_Ons who has been very impressive in pre-season and the early stages of this season.
The final race to end the week started and with four wide down to turn one the Haas of Paulo managed to retain his lead but with Gazzaman96 making his way up into second as he jumped Clyde at turn one.
SirSpud found himself going backwards at the end of lap one after minor wing damage saw him passed by Stiff and Bren. He made the decision to pit that lap as to not lose any further time but as he arrived into the pit lane a visibly annoyed Spud just got his car stopped on the markers for his pit stall knowing it would be a huge ask to get back into the race.
Back on track, Captain_Stiff who had made a good start and jumped Bren_Ons were all over the rear end of ColinJ and the pressure showed as the Haas lost control at turn 12 and hit the wall as the race came to a premature end of Colin.
Stiff and Bren had an entertaining fight over laps four to eight as the two swapped positions at the end of turn one twice in quick succession. Bren in the Sauber was in good form and it was surprise package Captain_Stiff who sat with him as they started to make in roads on Tejuarrs Ferrari ahead.
Gaz and Paulo both pitted for the top two positions as they committed to the two stop. This allowed Tej, Bren and Stiff to fight over the top three positions.
Stiff’s Renault team mate osteven002 was not having the same luck as his counterpart and after losing the balance of the car on the vicious Bahrain kerbs he hit the wall and lost the front left wheel of the car.
The action up and down the grid was non-stop and whether it be a pirouette from Nitrogash or Bren, Tej, Stiff and Craig moving back up through the field on their one stop strategy there was always something going on in what turned out to be one of the most entertaining F3 races in a long time.
It was a race to forget to SirSpud who retired from the race on lap 14 as one of the pre-season favourites made it two retirements in two races. It’s a bitter blow for Spud who counts Bahrain as one of his stronger circuits but luck was not on his side and he will have his eyes next week in Hungary where he needs to bounce back.
Lap 16 started to see the race for the podium postions heat up as Tejuarr was trying to hold off a charging Bren_Ons but with their battle it started to draw Stiff back into contention. Bren made the move on lap 17 and after allowing a deep lunge from Tej go wide into turn four he would move past the Ferrari and up into fourth place.
Tejuarr and Captain_Stiff then engaged in a fantastic fight over the next three laps which saw the two swapping positions several times as the two went wheel to wheel over the majority of the lap. It wasn’t to be however and in an unfortunate racing incident on lap 21 the two came together on the exit of turn four and it was Tej who came off worse as he dropped back to seventh behind Craig.
Paulo and Gaz who had seemed in a race of their own on the two stop compared to the one stop driver’s had made their second and final stop on lap 20 and they wasted no time in catching and passing both Craig8728 and Stiff by lap 23.
Bren_Ons who whilst the group behind fought over position had slowly built himself a seven second lead. Gaz and Paulo both saw the opportunity for a race victory as they set off in chase of the Sauber on much older medium tyres.
As the laps counted down the Sauber team nervously urged their driver on and lap by lap the time between Bren and Gaz decreased as by the final lap it sat at just over two seconds.
The Red Bull of Gazzaman tried everything he could but it wasn’t to be for the Scotsman as Bren_Ons took his first F3 race victory of the season and thus proved his pace in pre-season was no fluke.
Gazzaman96 and Paulo followed him home for the podium places and Captain_Stiff came home a credible fourth after holding off a late charge from BWAClyde who managed to overhaul Craig in the closing laps.
It was a superb win for Bren_Ons who in lieu of Paulo and Gaz’s promotion to F2 directly after the race takes the de-facto lead of the championship. Tej, Fascone and Stiff make up the next three places in a title that will be wide open heading forwards.
The Equal Performance leagues never fail to offer heart-stoppingly brilliant races with action galore up and down the grid. The season is now two races deep and there is a long way to go but if the season contains the action we were treated to this week then we are all in for some real entertainment.
Join us next week in beautiful Budapest at the Hungaroring, a notoriously difficult circuit to overtake which creates tight racing and with a chicane which can ruin a lap and even a race. The drivers will certainly have to be on their toes.
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