Frenchman Norman Nato delivered the first podium of the season for Pertamina Arden in second place for the opening feature race on Saturday. The team leave round one 4th in the Teams Championship, with Nato in 5th and Gelael in 20th in the Drivers’ Championship.
Friday’s 45 minute practice session went underway in a scorching 45 degree track temperature. Nato finished the session in 5th (1:42.594), and Gelael in 14th (1:43.355).
Qualifying:With the temperature dropped from the free practice session earlier on in the day, both cars went out on track for the first qualifying session of the year. Showing strong pace throughout the session, Nato qualified in 4th (1:39.969) having been pushed out of the top three in the remaining 3 minutes with a virtual safety car being deployed ending the session early. Gelael qualified in 17th (1:40.778)
After qualifying 4th in the opening qualifying session - Nato made a great start to the race slotting into 2nd position at the end of the first lap of the race. Nato made a move into turn one on Charles Leclerc to take the lead of the race.
Initially Nato opened up a small gap to his rivals, until tyre wear became a factor for all driving around lap fourteen. Nato surrended the lead to Artem Markalov before the first rounds of pitstops.
Nato emerged from the stops just behind rival Leclerc - but put on a brave move around the outside of turn four to retake the net lead of the race, as his rivals were yet to pit for tyres/
Nato continued to control the race until the final three laps of the race, where rival Markalov had stopped late for tyres and had much more life and pace than his rivals. Despite his best defences, Markalov was through into the lead with a lap to go - Nato came home a strong 2nd in the first race of the season, earning a podium on the debut for Pertamina Arden in FIA F2.
Teammate Sean Gelael endured a more difficult race. The Indonesian racer was forced to start the race from the pitlane, however he battled his was up to 12th position before the round of pit stops.
During the pitstop a sensor issue meant that Gelael exceeded the speed limit in the pit lane, earning a drive-through penalty which ruined his race and set him back in the pack. Gelael completed the race in 17th position.
Norman Nato "It was a good race for us. I was trying to put pressure on Charles at the beginning of the race, and the pace was good but I couldn’t put a gap on Charles so I decided to back off a bit because I knew it would be difficult to get to the end of the stint. Charles started to push and so I didn’t fight with him and Artem just to be quicker on the primes, and then we decided to pit early which worked well, and we were really good on the options. I saw that Charles was starting to struggle with tyres, and then I was too and Artem was just too quick today"