Gabriel Bortoleto shines in his Formula 2 debut

.
Gabriel Bortoleto shines in his Formula 2 debut

The 19-year-old Brazilian secured pole position, scored points in both races, and leaves Bahrain in fourth place in the Championship

This weekend marked the beginning of the 2024 FIA Formula 2 season in Sahkir, Bahrain, the main championship leading to Formula 1. Making his debut in the category, Brazilian driver Gabriel Bortoleto had a memorable weekend where, against very experienced competitors, he managed to stand out by securing pole position and finishing both rounds in the Top-6.

Unlike the usual schedule, the on-track activities in the Middle East started on Thursday, with free practice and the qualifying session determining the starting grid for both races. Facing a new car, new team, and a new Championship, Gabriel showed himself well-prepared for the challenges ahead. During practice, still adjusting to the Championship, the driver and the Invicta Racing team focused on preparing the equipment for the two races rather than chasing the fastest lap time. However, during qualifying, the cars from the English team proved extremely efficient and spectacularly claimed the first two positions for the starting grid of the feature race. Unfortunately, Gabriel’s teammate Kush Maini was disqualified due to a 1.1-millimeter difference in the front part of his car. As a result, Gabriel confirmed his pole position for his first race in Formula-2.

“It was a strange feeling… obviously, I was very happy to debut with pole position in Formula 2, but, like the whole team, I was upset for Kush. He made a great lap and really extracted the maximum from the car. I couldn’t celebrate too much, but I really didn’t expect to arrive with pole in the debut,” commented the McLaren development program driver.

THRILLING RACES

Following the F2 regulations, the starting grid for the Sprint Race – the first race of the weekend – is formed with the inversion of the top ten from the qualifying session. Thus, Bortoleto lined up his car on the fifth row of the grid, in tenth place. After a good start, the Brazilian driver maintained a good pace, but with a strategy aimed at better performance in the final phase of the race.

Two tire compounds were available to the teams, one soft and the other hard. The main difference between them concerns the compromise between grip and durability. The soft tires offer better performance, but their wear is greater. Bortoleto and his team of engineers opted to use hard tires for this race, and thus, had a lot of work in the early laps to stay in the middle of the pack. Using all his skill, the Brazilian remained between ninth and 11th until five laps to go, when, with better tire condition than most of his competitors, he began a great recovery. With bold and precise overtakes, he climbed five positions to receive the checkered flag in sixth place.

This Sunday, again, Gabriel and his team opted for a start on hard tires. However, at the start, car #10 couldn’t get the expected traction and thus dropped to third place. To make matters worse, in the first corner, Bortoleto ended up touching Isaac Hadjar’s car and, for the maneuver, was penalized with a 10-second penalty by the race direction. Focused, the driver tackled the first part of the race losing some expected positions to competitors on soft tires. In a perfect pit-stop, Invicta Racing served the 10-second penalty and sent Gabriel back onto the track in 13th place.

At this point, with eight laps to go, Bortoleto began his recovery. With a lighter car and new soft tires, the Brazilian managed to put all his talent into practice. As on the previous day, he made great overtakes and, at the end of the 32 laps of the race, received the checkered flag in fifth place, less than a tenth of a second behind the fourth-place finisher. The highlight of the race was the great battle between him and Kush Maini, his teammate, who finished the race in seventh place.

“I can say that I had a lot of fun in the races. Even though it was my debut, I didn’t feel nervous and, with the guidance of my engineers, I was able to extract the best from our car and improve a lot in both races. Unfortunately, the touch in today’s race, followed by the penalty, certainly took away the chance of securing a podium in the Feature Race. However, I can say that I leave satisfied for having done a good job. I’m just not happier because, really, I know I had the potential to fight for the win and, with that, I couldn’t extract the best score of the weekend. I take this opportunity to apologize to Hadjar, who had nothing to do with the touch. I thank my sponsors and fans for all the support and messages that always motivate me to go further,” concluded the pilot sponsored by Banco BRB, Porto, Ebury, Snapdragon Brazil, Barthelemy, and KTF Sports.

After the first round, Gabriel Bortoleto has 15 points in the Championship, occupying fourth place. Ahead of him are Zane Maloney, with 36, Josep Maria Marti, with 24, and Paul Aron, with 19. The next round of the Championship will be held next weekend in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Pictures: James Gasperotti – Disclosure

Press Office of Gabriel Bortoleto
Responsible journalist: Flávio Quick