The new line-up of Anthoine Hubert and Tatiana Calderon, both made their Formula 2 debuts for BWT Arden in Bahrain for the opening round of the season.
In the opening practice session, they were classified 13th and 19th in the warm conditions of Friday morning – where both drivers got to experience the Pirelli tyres in the heat of the dessert and analyse the degradation.
Qualifying took place under fading light later on Friday. The session was briefly halted at the midway point, caused by Callum Ilott crashing at Turn 7 and required his stricken Sauber Junior Team car to be recovered.
When the session resumed, both drivers were able to complete their quickest laps of the session; Anthoine set the 11th fastest time, with teammate Tatiana setting the 19th fastest time – where the last person over the line benefited from the cooler track temperatures.
Saturday morning saw the 32-lap Feature Race begin with both drivers starting on the Medium compound Pirelli tyres. Anthoine made a fantastic start to move himself immediately into points paying positions in 7th, running with the front runners and managing his tyres through the early phase of the race.
Tatiana likewise made a great start, however she was crowded out at Turn 1 and stuck on the outside – so she held position in the opening stages, before moving up a position on Lap 5 and settled into her first race in F2.
Anthoine made his way up to 4th position in the opening stint, making his tyres last longer than a majority of his rivals, pitting on Lap 17 for the Soft Tyres. Tatiana pitted two laps later to run the same strategy until the end of the race.
Both BWT Arden drivers now had fresher tyres towards the end of the race, but had the task of overtaking their earlier stopping rivals.
Anthoine sized his way through the field, showing excellent pace to move himself up to 4th position – including a brilliant double overtake on the Carlin pair of Louis Deletraz and Nobuharu Matshushita on the run down to Turn 4 on Lap 27.
The Renault Sport Academy driver held this position to the flag, bagging an excellent result on his debut in Formula 2.
Tatiana replicated Anthoine’s charge in the latter stages of the race, finishing a solid 13th likewise on her debut.
Sunday’s Sprint Race saw Anthoine start from 5th on the grid with the Reserve Grid taken into account, with Tatiana starting from 13th.
A messy start saw a collision ahead of Anthoine at Turn 8, as cars jostled for position early on – with the Frenchman completing the opening lap in 7th position. Calderon held station in the manic start, running in 14th position in the early stages.
The race unusually became very strategical, after the degradation on the Medium tyres was so high. Therefore, some teams and drivers elected to go for a pitstop in the Sprint Race, whilst others elected to run the entire race distance on the single set of tyres.
Pit stops began occurring on Lap 10 of the 23 lap Sprint Race, with the team electing to stop Anthoine on Lap 15 to give him fresh tyres for the end of the race.
Both drivers had to work their way through the drivers who hadn’t pitted for tyres, as well as those who pitted earlier in the race and were suffering from tyre degradation late on.
Anthoine crossed the line in 9th position – taking the position in dramatic style on the run down to the chequered flag. Tatiana finished the race in 15th position, rounding out both driver’s debut weekends in Formula 2.
The next round of the FIA Formula 2 Championship takes place at the Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan on the 26-28 April.
BWT Arden head to the second round 4th overall in the Team’s Championship Standings, with Anthoine sitting 5th overall in the Driver’s Championship.