Charles Leclerc made an unusual tyre change strategy work to secure a remarkable FIA Formula 2 sprint race win in his maiden weekend at the Bahrain International Circuit.
The Monegasque driver – starting sixth – made good gains in the opening laps to grab the lead early on, but with the scorching heat playing havoc with the tyres he made the gambling decision to pit from the lead to swap to soft rubber with 10 laps remaining.
Dropping outside the top 15 but lapping four seconds a lap faster than those ahead, Leclerc meticulously ascended the order to bring himself on the back of the top three fight involving Luca Ghiotto and Oliver Rowland.
Rowland had been leading at the expense of Leclerc but a charging Ghiotto caught and passed on the penultimate lap. However, the Italian had no opportunity to defend from Leclerc who was past by turn four and pulled away to the chequered flag for his first win with Prema Racing.
Ghiotto secured second on a strong weekend for Russian Time after Artem Markelov's feature race success, with Rowland completing the podium in third.
His DAMS team-mate Nicholas Latifi followed him home in fourth position, with Jordan King, Nyck de Vries, Alex Albon and Markelov – who pitted early for tyres as well – completing the points.
Feature race podium winner Norman Nato was eliminated on the opening lap after getting a puncture and spinning out.