• 18th place and DNF for Théo Pourchaire, 22nd and 10th place for Artem Markelov 
  •  Artem Markelov: "Tenth place from 22nd on the grid - that is a really good result."
  • Théo Pourchaire: "I really enjoyed my first FIA Formula 2 races."
  • Thomas Strick: "Artem showed what could have been in race two."
Sakhir, 29th November 2020 – The 2020 FIA Formula 2 Championship returned from a two-month break at Bahrain International Circuit, which is the venue for the final four races of the season. 17-year-old Théo Pourchaire (France) made his Formula 2 debut. The young Frenchman has taken over at the wheel of the number 17 BWT HWA RACELAB car for the two race weekends in Sakhir. Pourchaire, who finished runner-up in last season's Formula 3 Championship, soon found his feet in the unfamiliar car, which is considerably more powerful than what he is accustomed to. 16th place in qualifying marked a successful start to the weekend.  
He did not get off to an ideal start in Saturday's race, losing several positions in the first few metres. However, he soon found his race rhythm: from 21st, Théo promptly climbed into 18th place and then into 17th on lap five. He then managed his tyres skilfully and set a consistent pace on the hard tyres. While his rivals came into the pits, Théo stayed out and briefly found himself running as high as third place. He eventually came in and switched to the softer tyre compound on lap 18 of 32. Rejoining the race in 20th place, he wasted little time in climbing back into 18th. Although he momentarily fell back one position, the Frenchman showed his fighting spirit right through to the finish, eventually retaking 18th place on the final lap and going on to end the race in that position.
Théo made a better start on Sunday. From 18th on the grid, he gained four places on the opening lap. He was then embroiled in some hard-fought battles with his rivals, before an unfortunate incident brought his race to a premature end on lap five. The mechanism to activate the fire extinguisher was activated, forcing Théo to pull off the track and retire. 
Artem Markelov (Russia) made a good start on Saturday. From 20th place, he passed the cars in front of him on the inside to climb into 16th place. However, he was then involved in a minor collision with two other cars whilst attempting another overtaking manoeuvre on lap three, in which Artem's front wing was damaged. He rapidly lost pace and came into the pits as soon as the pit stop window opened on lap five. He returned to the track with a new front wing. However, Artem was unable to make up the lost ground over the remainder of the race, and the former Formula 2 runner-up eventually crossed the finish line in 22nd place.    
Artem started Sunday's race from the back of the field, but was not there for long. He immediately gained three positions in turn one and promptly set about putting pressure on the cars ahead of him. Among those he overtook was team-mate Théo, as he climbed into 14th place by the end of lap five. At the re-start, following the safety car phase resulting from Théo's retirement, Artem reacted quickly to take 13th place. The race was a hectic affair, as exemplified by a collision involving three cars at the front of the field. Artem took advantage to move into tenth place, and actually found himself in ninth after another successful overtaking manoeuvre. The race had not even reached halfway by this point. However, Artem's pace started to drop and he had to focus on managing his tyres. The cars behind him closed in and Artem dropped back a number of positions over the next few laps. With two laps remaining, he was running twelfth. On the final lap, Artem ultimately benefitted from the retirement of two rivals, and his slick display was rewarded by a gain of twelve positions and tenth place - just outside the top eight and a points finish.
The 2020 FIA Formula 2 Championship concludes with a further two races in Sakhir (Bahrain) on 5th/6th December.
Reactions to the race weekend 
Artem Markelov (26, Russia, car number 16), 22nd and 10th place
"The weekend got off to an extremely unfortunate start, with my retirement in free practice. This denied us the opportunity to find the right set-up before qualifying, and to reconfigure the car after the long break in racing. Despite that, I made a very good start on Saturday and overtook four cars on the opening lap. However, I was then unlucky whilst trying to pull off an overtaking manoeuvre on lap three. My front wing was damaged by the car in front, while the car behind damaged the diffusor. I had to come into the pits, and my race was basically over from that point. On Sunday, I did not actually get away quite as well at the start, but I then passed three cars in turn one. Later in the race, I passed two cars with one manoeuvre. That was great fun. After the virtual safety car phase, the rear tyres started to suffer and I had to drive very cautiously. We will have to analyse why that was the case. We can be really happy with today's result. Tenth place from 22nd on the grid - that is a really good result, although a points finish would obviously have been even better. We will now prepare meticulously for the final two races. I am looking forward to them." 
Théo Pourchaire (17, France, car number 17), 18th place and DNF
"I really enjoyed my first FIA Formula 2 races. It was obviously not easy. Everything was new to me: the team, the car, the pit stop. I was still a little cautious on Saturday, and perhaps focussed a little too much on looking after the tyres. However, I had totally found my rhythm towards the end of the race and managed to pull off several overtaking manoeuvres. Unfortunately, the second race came to an end rather sooner than hoped. I got off to a good start and promptly made up several positions. The car felt good - even though I then lost some places whilst battling for position. We might have been looking at a top-ten finish, but the issue with the fire extinguisher unfortunately brought my race to a premature end. I would like to say a big thank you to BWT HWA RACELAB, the Sauber Academy, my sponsors, and my family for giving me this amazing opportunity. I have learned a lot this weekend and am ready for the next two races."  

Thomas Strick (team principal BWT HWA RACELAB)
"Artem showed what could have been in race two. If he had not been unlucky with the damaged front wing on Saturday, we would have been in the points again. A big compliment to Théo too: you have to remind yourself that he is only 17 years old. He adapted very quickly to the new car and the new series. You cannot overlook his talent. We now benefit from the fact that we are staying here in Bahrain for the season finale. That allows us to analyse this weekend's races and to find an even better set-up for the circuit. We want to take this opportunity to end our first season as an independent team in FIA Formula 2 on a high."  

Result of race one, Saturday 28th November:
1. F. Drugovich MP Motorsport       58:24.004
18. Théo Pourchaire BWT HWA RACELAB 59:25.843   
22. Artem Markelov  BWT HWA RACELAB 59:40.023                
Result of race two, Sunday 29th November:
1. R. Shwartzman PREMA Racing     43:15.992
10. Artem Markelov   BWT HWA RACELAB     43:47.142
DNF Théo Pourchaire       BWT HWA RACELAB   DNF