Artem Markelov kicked off Formula 2's new era in style by charging to victory in Bahrain's feature race on Saturday afternoon, taking the lead of the penultimate lap of the race.

A good start saw Markelov enter an early battle with Norman Nato and pole-sitter Charles Leclerc at the front, but the Russian Time driver sat back in third as he looked to save his soft tyres and extend the opening stint.

Markelov took the lead of the race when Nato and Leclerc pitted, with the additional laps causing the Russian to lose time on his rivals and return to the track in a distant third once he had changed tyres.

Nato looked set for victory after completing a stunning pass around the outside of Leclerc following an earlier stop, only for Markelov to go on a late charge with his fresher soft tyres.

Gaining multiple seconds per lap on the leading pair, Markelov was able to sweep past Leclerc for second place with three laps remaining before easily catching Nato, making a move for the lead at Turn 4.

Markelov eased into the distance once the passes were complete, crossing the line with a comfortable buffer to Nato to score the first win of the new F2 era and his second in the Dallara GP2/11 car.

Nato finished second ahead of Ferrari junior Leclerc, who completed the podium on debut in the series after moving up from GP3 in 2016.

Jordan King finished fourth for MP Motorsport ahead of fellow Briton Oliver Rowland, who bounced back from a difficult qualifying to rise to fifth at the flag.

Alexander Albon ended the race sixth on his debut in the GP2/11 car ahead of Luca Ghiotto, while Honda junior Nobuharu Matsushita will start from reverse grid pole on Sunday after finishing eighth.

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