Vandoorne recovers to take Bahrain victory
18 April 2015 – McLaren junior driver Stoffel Vandoorne opened his 2015 account in perfect fashion as he recovered from an unfavourable strategy to claim victory in the Bahrain Feature Race.
Vandoorne led away from pole position on Prime tyres but an early Safety Car period meant the Belgian had to open up a lead at the restart before slicing past slower rivals during the closing stages of the race.
Campos' Rio Haryanto adopted a similar strategy to claim second, passing Alexander Rossi on the final lap as several pre-season favourites crashed out.
Vandoorne retained the lead at the start while team-mate Nobuharu Matsushita stalled, allowing Alex Lynn into second and fast-starting Norman Nato up to third.
Vandoorne and Lynn scampered away while Nato had to defend from Raffaele Marciello across the opening laps. As they diced, Arthur Pic jumped both of them but as Marciello tried to pass Nato, the Arden driver moved across as the pair approached Turn 8.
Nato out-braked himself and clipped Pic, spinning his compatriot and causing terminal damage to both cars and Marciello's Trident. The pursuing Pierre Gasly was also caught up in the incident, eliminating four contenders and bringing out the Safety Car.
Vandoorne stayed out on the Prime tyres while Lynn stopped behind the Safety Car to change his Options for Primes, with Rossi doing likewise and jumping the Briton, the pair emerging in 13th and 14th places respectively.
Vandoorne led at the restart with Haryanto remaining within a second as Rossi worked his way through the traffic, pursued by Lynn and Mitch Evans.
Rossi eventually made his way up to third, while Lynn struggled with degradation and slipped back down the order.
Vandoorne made his compulsory stop with 10 laps to go - a slow right rear tyre change cost him some time - handing the lead to Rossi, as Jordan King closed in on Evans for second place, passing his rival with seven laps remaining.
On fresh Option tyres Vandoorne had an advantage of up to four seconds a lap as he sliced past faster rivals and hunted down race leader Rossi.
Vandoorne rapidly reeled in Rossi and passed his rival on the penultimate lap to open his 2015 account with victory, just as he did at the same circuit last season.
Haryanto adopted a similar strategy to Vandoorne and also made rapid progress after his stop, passing Rossi with just one corner to go.
Rossi and King claimed third and fourth for Racing Engineering while rookie Robert Vișoiu took a fine fifth on his debut.
Evans slipped back to sixth place while Nathanaël Berthon was seventh, ahead of Julián Leal.
Andre Negrão was ninth as Matsushita recovered from his poor start to take the final point.
The GP2 Sprint race begins on Sunday at 14:15 local time (GMT +3)