Vandoorne claims victory on GP2 debut
5 April 2014 – Stoffel Vandoorne triumphed on his GP2 debut with a masterful performance during Saturday's Feature Race in Bahrain. The ART driver, who stormed into the lead as the lights went out, executed a perfect tyre strategy over the 32-lap encounter to lead home Carlin's Julián Leal and pole-sitting DAMS rival Jolyon Palmer.
The change to the 2014 regulations, which forces drivers to use both the Option and Prime compound tyres in the weekend's main outing, created an intriguing split ahead of the race, with the frontrunners starting on Softs and a clutch further back on the grid opting for Hards.
When the action began, Palmer endured an abysmal getaway, allowing Vandoorne, Stéphane Richelmi, Stefano Coletti, Rio Haryanto and Mitch Evans to slip past during the first two corners.
Three laps in, Campos driver Kimiya Sato rear-ended Trident rival Axcil Jefferies on the run down to Turn 4 to bring out the first Safety Car of the season, giving those on Softs some valuable extra laps at a controlled pace.
When the race resumed, a flurry of Soft tyre shod runners pitted for the Hard rubber. Crucially, Vandoorne was the last of the main contenders to do so, staying out longer than his rivals to build up a sizeable margin.
From this point onwards, the race centred on Vandoorne and his excellent tyre management, as the Belgian carved his way through the yet-to-stop Hard tyre runners to bring himself back up to the podium positions.
The last man he faced was Simon Trummer, who started from the pit lane after stalling on the pre-grid. The Trident driver ultimately pitted with two laps to go, switching to the Softs to begin a late recovery charge.
Vandoorne then made his way to the chequered flag, finishing just over a second ahead of Leal, while Palmer fended off Racing Engineering's Stefano Coletti to claim third and limit the damage of his poor start.
Campos driver Arthur Pic and ART's Takuya Izawa pulled off some impressive late moves en route to fifth and sixth, while Trummer took advantage of his fresh Soft rubber to climb from ninth to seventh on the final lap.
Felipe Nasr recovered from his three-place grid penalty and another on track clash with Johnny Cecotto, Jr. to cross the line in eighth position, handing the Carlin driver pole position for Sunday's Sprint Race.
Arden driver René Binder and Rapax's Adrian Quaife-Hobbs claimed the final points on offer.
Sunday's Sprint Race at the Bahrain International Circuit begins at 2.15pm local time (GMT +3)