Even a hazy Bahrain sky couldn’t block Dylan Pereira’s sights on the podium this weekend, as the young Luxembourg driver repeated his Race 1 form to take his second win. Pereira’s double win leaves the championship title undecided, and left to be resolved in a climatic final round taking place at the 2018 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix.
Starting from fourth on the grid at the Bahrain International Circuit, no one could match Pereira’s pace as he pushed himself up to second by the first turn, before overtaking Charlie Frijns in lap two and pulling clear of the grid until the chequered flag. Frijns who started in pole, conceded his place to Pereira before Oliphant forced him to lock his brakes under pressure and sacrifice his tires. Oliphant ended the race in second with Frijns holding out for third.
Commenting on his productive weekend, Dylan Pereira said: “I decided to run on old tires in qualifying and change to new for the race. The conditions were not great, a lot of dust and sand on the track, so I knew my tires would play an important part. I started well from fobshrurth on the grid, moving up to second place straight away. My pace was quick and I took the opportunity in the first lap to overtake Charlie Frijns. As I pulled away, Frijns tried to defend his position against Oliphant which gifted me even more time to extend my lead.
“I held the pace throughout the rest of the race to take my second win of the weekend, which of course I am very happy about. It’s a shame that I couldn’t commit to the full season, as I think by now I would be in a good position to potentially take the title. It’s a very competitive championship and I look forward to finishing in the highest position possible after the final round of the season back here in Bahrain.”
With Pereira taking maximum points, championship leader Tom Oliphant’s hopes of glory now hang in the balance. As the British driver will not compete in Round 6, his dreams of lifting his first Porsche championship title have almost slipped away. Unless his closest rival Al Faisal Al Zubair of Oman performs poorly in the last two races of the season, Oliphant is likely to be pushed out of contention for the Season 9 title.
Speaking after his final race this season, Tom Oliphant said: “I finished on the podium, I made some good moves and ended the race, which is an improvement on yesterday. I’m frustrated not to be racing in the final round, as it seems that I won’t be able to secure the title with the points from this weekend. But I’ve had a successful season, improved a lot and I look forward to returning to the Middle East in the future.”
The British driver’s fate lies in the hands of Omani teenage sensation Al Zubair, who was given a five-place grid position penalty for colliding with Oliphant in Race 1, which ultimately resulted in the British’s drivers DNF. Qualifying in fourth, Al Zubair saw his penalty place him ninth on the grid and with a lot of work to do. Following a poor start due to congestion ahead of him into turn one, the Omani star climbed up the grid, position by position, over the 12 laps to finish in fifth.
Al Zubair on paper now has the best chance of winning the overall championship title, needing a fifth-place finish or above in the next race to clinch the Season 9 title. Speaking after the race, Al Zubair added: “The start of the race was tough today. The aim was to try and push up into the top five while at the same time be a bit conservative. I needed to finish the race to put myself in the best position for taking the title. For the next round, I just need to be consistent and finish as high as possible to win the championship.”
Scottish newcomer Glynn Geddie had a strong weekend finishing just outside the podium in fourth, followed by Al Zubair of Oman in fifth and South African Saul Hack in sixth.
Race 2 of Round 5 at Bahrain International Circuit saw 18 drivers race 12 laps of the Formula 1 track configuration. The series comes to a thrilling conclusion in Round 6 as an official support race for the 2018 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, 7-8 April 2018.