After wins for Théo Pourchaire and Frederik Vesti to open the season in Sakhir and Jeddah respectively, it was the turn of Ayumu Iwasa to step onto the top step of the podium for his second race win and first Feature victory of the year.

On Formula 2’s first visit to the Southern Hemisphere, the Red Bull Junior Team driver was a cut above the pursuing pack, holding off Pourchaire to secure Feature Race victory while rookie teammate Arthur Leclerc starred to put both DAMS cars on the podium.

A downpour for Qualifying meant drivers were tested to their absolute limits around the Albert Park street circuit. After an early Red Flag, Vesti set the pace to beat though track conditions improved rapidly. Home hero Jack Doohan, Dennis Hauger and Victor Martins took turns at the top until Iwasa clocked his 1:45.118 to go six tenths clear with less than five minutes to go. A crash for Martins at Turn 5 brought out the Red Flags once again and the session wasn’t resumed.

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Hauger ended up 10th and with reverse grid pole for Saturday’s Sprint. He held the lead from lights out despite a few side-by-side moments with Hitech Pulse-Eight’s Jak Crawford. Further back, teammate Isack Hadjar pressured Iwasa into a lock-up at Turn 1, taking eighth on Lap 2.

Kush Maini and Arthur Leclerc were locked in a close fight for the final step on the podium. The rookie pair went wheel-to-wheel into Turn 11 on Lap 7 after a late dive to the inside by the Campos Racing driver. Maini managed to get his car stopped in time to take third place from the Monégasque.

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Another rookie pulled off what was arguably move of the race as Zane Maloney went three-wide with Martins and Oliver Bearman into Turn 9, sweeping around the outside of both to take fifth, catching a snap of oversteer in the process at the fastest section of the track.

A Safety Car arrived on Lap 14 following contact between Doohan and Juan Manuel Correa that left the former stopped on track. With the pack closed up, Hauger had to reassert his lead and had no problem doing so, escaping up the road at the restart and he held firm to claim the Sprint win ahead of Crawford and Maini.

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Sunday’s Feature Race was headed up by another Red Bull junior as Iwasa controlled things from the front at lights out. Pourchaire was his closest pursuer in second with ART Grand Prix teammate Martins third.

An early Safety Car arrived after contact between Doohan and Crawford left the latter in the barriers at Turn 11. While Martins had stopped the lap prior to the deployment, Iwasa and Pourchaire remained on track and boxed the following lap, maintaining position over the rookie while Vesti took over the lead on the alternative strategy and yet to pit.

Iwasa and Pourchaire cleared the traffic while Martins was overtaken by Hauger on Lap 15 into Turn 1, the MP Motorsport driver moving up to an effective third before the second Safety Car was deployed on Lap 17 following a crash for Roy Nissany.

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Vesti and Maini took the opportunity to make their mandatory stops from the top five along with Enzo Fittipaldi who pitted from P8. The Rodin Carlin driver didn’t get to take the restart though after a spin on cold tyres left him in the barriers and extended the Safety Car.

With the race resuming on Lap 30 of 33, Hauger’s hopes of back-to-back podiums were extinguished after a lock-up from Martins behind sent the Norwegian spinning out of third. It allowed Leclerc through to take third position while Vesti was quickly up to fourth on his soft tyres.

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With too little time remaining, the Dane couldn’t make a greater impact and had to settle for fourth as Iwasa took the Feature win. Pourchaire added more important points with P2 ahead of Leclerc in the second DAMS finishing third.

The result meant Iwasa usurped Pourchaire to lead in the Drivers’ Championship, the Japanese driver heading the pack on 58 points to the Frenchman’s 50. Vesti also moved up the order, rising to third on 42 points ahead of Ralph Boschung. DAMS also took the lead in the Teams’ Standings, rising up to 91 points ahead of ART on 67 and MP Motorsport on 62.