The fall of Michael Schumacher’s record? F1 2021 season preview

At just 103 days, the winter break between 2020 and 2021 is one of the shortest, certainly in modern history in Formula One. In actual fact, it was set to be shorter still, but with the postponement of the Australian Grand Prix, the new season will kick off in Bahrain, but what can we expect from this year?

Well, in truth, this year will probably be a case of “same, but different”, as regulations set in place for 2021 mean that the 2020 cars have been carried over to this year, and only aero parts and PUs are eligible to be changed. Fundamentally, though, the cars must remain the same, and the chassis will be identical to last year, so do not expect any massive jumps in performance.

This means to say that Mercedes should still be top dogs, Red Bull should be a close second, and the midfield will still be as intense as it was throughout the entirety of the 17 races last year.

Mercedes seek to win their eighth consecutive Constructors’ title this year – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

But while substantial increases or otherwise in performance is too much to expect, little nuggets of gold may just help swing the tide a little as someone, somehow, looks to topple Mercedes’ absolute brilliance at the front.

Sergio Perez, surprise winner of the crazy Sakhir Grand prix last season, will make his highly-anticipated Red Bull debut having replaced the hapless Alex Albon. The discussion has been raging as to whether he will be able to beat their current titan Max Verstappen, and whether the Mexican truly does have the pace to compete at the front and spur Red Bull into serious Constructors’ Championship contention. It is widely expected that, if Perez is dominated by Verstappen the way Albon and Pierre Gasly were, it is a case of the car being geared to the Dutchman, as opposed to a lack of pace from Max’s team mates.

264 points separated Mercedes and Red Bull last year, so it will be fascinating to see if Red Bull’s third driver pairing in as many years will be able to close the gap and make life a little more uncomfortable for the imperious champions.

After leaving Racing Point following seven years with the team, Sergio Perez arrives at Red Bull to replace the departing Alex Albon – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Speaking of whom, newly-crowned champion Lewis Hamilton has finally put pen to paper on a new contract with the German team, in a deal that takes him to the end of the 2021 season.

Reasons for just the one-season extension have been speculated about; who knows if it could be down to the impending salary cap, or whether it is because Hamilton feels as though he only has one year left with the Silver Arrows, and in Formula One as a whole?

This would make sense. Hamilton is set to win his eighth championship this season, beating Michael Schumacher’s remarkable seven in the process.  The sport could certainly do with having Hamilton around next year, and we are likely set to see one of the most historical moments in the history of Formula One.

His team mate Valtteri Bottas could well be going into his last year with the Silver Arrows, but conversely to Hamilton, his future may not be in his own hands. In spite of a second-placed finish in the championship last season, Bottas’ overall performance has occasionally left something to be desired, and he will need to show stronger title credentials this year if he is to remain a part of the team in 2022.

A large part of this equation is the impressive progress of George Russell who, with a good performance in the Williams in 2021, could find himself in line for a drive next season. Particularly after Russell’s magnificent pace last year in the Sakhir Grand Prix alongside Bottas, this season will be a monumental one for both of them.

Depending on his 2021 performance, George Russell could well be in line for a 2022 drive with Mercedes – Courtesy of Williams Media

Further down, Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo are definitely ones to watch as they make their debuts for Ferrari and McLaren respectively. Ferrari acquired the services of Sainz after Sebastian Vettel’s departure for Aston Martin, while Australian Daniel Ricciardo left Renault for McLaren, replacing Spaniard Sainz. Ferrari’s new engine and aero parts for this season could lift them further into the midfield battle, and above the abysmal eighth place they managed last season with Vettel and Leclerc. Vettel meanwhile, with his new team and new haircut to boot, will attempt to make his presence felt in his new adventure with the new Aston Martin team, who take over from Racing Point this year.

Just as exciting as the German’s new venture, Fernando Alonso makes his comeback in 2021 in the Alpine team that has replaced Renault for this year, and after two seasons out, expectation is high. Frenchman Esteban Ocon, who managed his first podium last season in Sakhir, gets a real test of his ability by going up against a driver who, as well as being a two-time champion, is widely regarded as one of the quickest and most skilled drivers in F1’s rich history.

Fernando Alonso returns to F1 this year after two years away from the sport – Courtesy of Renault Sport Media

Alonso, though, comes back probably feeling a fair bit older than he did when he left. He raced against Jos Verstappen and Michael Schumacher during his first 18-year spell in the sport, and he is now about to race against their sons.

While Max had already become a fixture towards the end of Alonso’s first tenure, Michael’s son Mick will now be on the same grid as one of his father’s greatest rivals, as two generations collide.

Ferrari Academy Driver Mick Schumacher makes his F1 debut with Haas this year – Courtesy of Ferrari F1 Media

Schumacher claimed glory in the F2 championship last season with Prema, and he arrives in Formula One with one of Ferrari’s junior teams: Haas. The American outfit enter this year will a new driver lineup; the departing Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen are replaced by Schumacher and car number nine.

As Lewis Hamilton seeks a record eighth championship, and Mercedes try to extend their record of Constructors’ championship successes, the 2021 season is a huge one for a lot of drivers, in what is the last year before the regulation changes in 2022.

Shwartzman stays with Prema for 2021

Prema have confirmed that Robert Shwartzman will remain with the team for the 2021 Formula 2 season.

Shwartzman joined Prema for his rookie F2 campaign this year after winning the Formula 3 title with them in 2019. He finished the 2020 season fourth in the standings with four wins—the most of any driver in the field—and helped Prema to secure the teams’ championship alongside teammate and drivers’ champion Mick Schumacher.

“I am happy to race in Formula 2 with Prema again in 2021,” said Shwartzman. “Our target as a team is obviously to win and make progress in terms of results, working hard and improving the car.”

Prema team principal René Rosin said: “We are delighted to extend our relationship with Robert into the 2021 season. He has a truly rare talent, and we are looking forward to seeing him take another step next year.

“In 2020 he immediately proved he could run for wins, and we want to build on that immediacy to be consistent contenders in 2021.”

Shwartzman will be joined at Prema next year by reigning F3 champion Oscar Piastri, and both drivers will represent the team this week during post-season testing in Bahrain.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

F2 Sakhir: Daruvala wins as Schumacher crowned champion in tense finale

Jehan Daruvala led a Carlin 1–2 in the Sakhir sprint race for his first win in Formula 2, while Mick Schumacher clinched the 2020 championship in a dramatic final round of the year.

Daruvala initially lost out at the start, as an unsuccessful move for the lead on polesitter Dan Ticktum into Turn 1 shuffled him back to third, with Schumacher benefiting to take second.

But at Turn 4 Schumacher had a major lockup as he tried to take the lead from Ticktum, and Daruvala retook second place as Schumacher got his car back under control.

Mick Schumacher, Prema (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

The lockup left Schumacher with a big flat spot on his right front tyre, which put him under pressure from his championship rival Callum Ilott in fourth. Schumacher briefly relieved that pressure by setting the fastest lap to catch and pass Daruvala again with a daring move around the outside of Turn 6. But that only lasted until lap 8 when Daruvala got back ahead once again.

As he struggled with the vibrations from his tyre, Schumacher made several lockups trying to keep Ilott behind. His teammate Robert Shwartzman tried to get involved as a rear gunner by harrying Ilott from fifth, but ultimately neither Prema was able to stop Ilott from breezing past Schumacher on lap 19.

Once Ilott was ahead, Schumacher plummeted through the points positions. He was passed by Shwartzman and Guanyu Zhou a few corners later, and spent the rest of the lap defending from Yuki Tsunoda before choosing to risk a pit stop for fresh softs.

With Schumacher coming back out in 20th, Ilott’s chances of winning the title rested on catching Ticktum and Daruvala to take the race win. But the laps spent trying to get past Schumacher had damaged Ilott’s tyres as well, and he wasn’t able to make any dent in his gap to the front.

Callum Ilott, UNI-Virtuosi (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

Meanwhile, Tsunoda started moving through the pack with rapid pace. On lap 24 he took fifth from Shwartzman, then fourth from Zhou a lap later.

On lap 26, Tsunoda caught Ilott and passed him into Turn 1. Ilott then began to drop back as Schumacher had. His teammate Zhou overtook him for fourth through Turn 4, before he was eventually shuffled back through the order and out of the points by Shwartzman, Giuliano Alesi, Luca Ghiotto and Nikita Mazepin.

As Tsunoda was carving his way through the field towards the podium, his teammate Daruvala was hassling Ticktum for the race lead as Ticktum struggled with fading rear tyres.

Daruvala cut the lead down to three tenths as early as lap 13. But despite Daruvala going for an overtake nearly every time the pair went through Turns 1 and 4, Ticktum was able to hold the Carlin behind for another 12 laps.

His defence came undone however with a lock up out of the final corner on lap 25, which allowed Daruvala through before the DRS straight. Daruvala then pounced clear for the remaining 10 laps, while Ticktum eventually fell back into the clutches of Tsunoda and had to settle for third behind the two Carlins.

Dan Ticktum, DAMS (Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

Zhou finished fourth ahead of Shwartzman, Alesi, Ghiotto and Felipe Drugovich. Schumacher could only improve to 18th by the chequered flag, but with Ilott unable to get back into the points his championship was assured.

Tsunoda clinched third place in the standings ahead of Shwartzman and Mazepin, securing enough points for his FIA Super Licence and earning him the Anthoine Hubert Award for the highest-placed rookie driver. Carlin also beat Hitech to third in the teams’ standings.

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Jehan Daruvala Carlin 15
2 Yuki Tsunoda (FL) Carlin 14
3 Dan Ticktum DAMS 10
4 Guanyu Zhou UNI-Virtuosi Racing 8
5 Robert Shwartzman Prema Racing 6
6 Giuliano Alesi MP Motorsport 4
7 Luca Ghiotto Hitech Grand Prix 2
8 Felipe Drugovich MP Motorsport 1
9 Nikita Mazepin Hitech Grand Prix
10 Callum Ilott UNI-Virtuosi Racing
11 Pedro Piquet Charouz Racing System
12 Christian Lundgaard ART Grand Prix
13 Louis Deletraz Charouz Racing System
14 Marcus Armstrong ART Grand Prix
15 Roy Nissany Trident
16 Marino Sato Trident
17 Sean Gelael DAMS
18 Mick Schumacher Prema Racing
19 Guilherme Samaia Campos Racing
20 Artem Markelov BWT HWA Racelab
21 Theo Pourchaire BWT HWA Racelab
Ret. Ralph Boschung Campos Racing

 

F2 Sakhir: Tsunoda wins as title goes to the final race

Yuki Tsunoda won the feature race on the Sakhir outer loop after a frantic battle at the front of the field, while Callum Ilott and Mick Schumacher finished in the lower points to take the title fight to the final race tomorrow.

Tsunoda started from pole but lost the lead of the race into Turn 1, as he was passed by both Nikita Mazepin and Robert Shwartzman. Jehan Daruvala slipped back off the line, promoting Felipe Drugovich to fourth.

Meanwhile, Guanyu Zhou and Mick Schumacher, both starting on the hard tyres, gained at the start, with the former reaching eighth and the latter moving from P18 to P16. Both drivers then set about making rapid progress past the cars on soft tyres around them throughout the opening laps.

As Zhou reeled in Ilott and Daruvala to move up to sixth, Schumacher picked his way through Louis Deletraz, Roy Nissany, Giuliano Alesi and Theo Pourchaire to get within touching distance of the points by the end of lap 7.

Mick Schumacher, Prema (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

At the front of the field, Tsunoda recovered from his drop at the first corner and retook second place from Shwartzman on lap 13. When Shwartzman and Mazepin then made their stops for hard tyres in the next few laps, Tsunoda stayed out to attempt the overcut and stopped at the end of lap 16.

The strategy seemed to work as Tsunoda emerged from the pits ahead of Mazepin, but his colder tyres meant he was soon passed by both Mazepin and Shwartzman on his out lap.

The overcut strategy was more successful for Drugovich, who stayed out until the end of lap 20 and managed to make up enough time to join Mazepin, Shwartzman and Tsunoda in the fight for the net lead.

With the frontrunners having stopped, the top three positions were assumed by Zhou, Dan Ticktum and Schumacher who were all running the alternative strategy having started on hards. Ticktum was the first of these to pit for softs at the end of lap 26, but Zhou and Schumacher both waited a few laps longer before making their own stops.

Once they were on softs, their pace advantage over the rest of the field on hards was plain to see. Schumacher rejoined the race in P12 but was very quickly up into the points with passes on Deletraz, Artem Markelov, Ticktum and Pedro Piquet, and set the fastest lap in the process.

Zhou meanwhile passed Daruvala and Ilott for the second time in the race to take fifth, and was closing rapidly on the leading quartet of Mazepin, Shwartzman, Tsunoda and Drugovich.

Felipe Drugovich, MP Motorsport (Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

As Zhou got closer behind them, Tsunoda took second from Shwartzman on lap 36 and started chipping away at Mazepin’s 1.3 second lead. Tsunoda got Mazepin within DRS range on lap 43, and at the start of the following lap he swung to the inside down the pit straight to make the move. Mazepin ran Tsunoda close to the pit wall to defend, but Tsunoda was through into the lead by Turn 1.

Mazepin then ran wide at the final corner of the lap, allowing Drugovich through for second and putting Mazepin under DRS pressure from Zhou, who had got by Shwartzman for fourth. After repeating the same defence he tried on Tsunoda a lap earlier, Mazepin briefly held his position but lost out to Zhou a few corners later.

Drugovich ran wide on lap 45 and gifted Zhou and Mazepin a position as he dropped to fourth. But the Brazilian regrouped to attack Mazepin for third on the final lap. Mazepin again put up a questionable defence, edging Drugovich towards the pit wall first and then off the road a few corners later, and was able to keep his car ahead.

With Mazepin defending from Drugovich, Zhou was able to pull clear to secure second place behind Tsunoda. Mazepin held on to third ahead of Drugovich, with Shwartzman coming home in fifth.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Dan Istitene / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Ilott and Schumacher finished sixth and seventh. With Schumacher taking an extra two points for the fastest lap, the gap between them in the standings remains at 14 points with 17 available in the sprint race. Daruvala will start that sprint race from pole after finishing eighth ahead of Ticktum and Piquet.

Schumacher only has to finish sixth or higher tomorrow to guarantee the title, regardless of Ilott’s position. For Ilott to overhaul his rival he’ll have to either win the race with Schumacher eighth or lower, or take second place and the fastest lap with Schumacher failing to score.

Nevertheless, Schumacher’s points together with Shwartzman’s fifth place was enough for Prema to secure the teams’ championship ahead of UNI-Virtuosi.

UPDATE: Mazepin was given two five-second penalties as well as two penalty points on his licence for forcing Tsunoda onto the pit exit on lap 44 and blocking Drugovich on the pit straight on lap 48. Mazepin drops to ninth in the classification, which promotes Drugovich to the podium.

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Yuki Tsunoda Carlin 25
2 Guanyu Zhou UNI-Virtuosi Racing 18
3 Felipe Drugovich MP Motorsport 15
4 Robert Shwartzman Prema Racing 12
5 Callum Ilott UNI-Virtuosi Racing 10
6 Mick Schumacher Prema Racing 10
7 Jehan Daruvala Carlin 6
8 Dan Ticktum DAMS 4
9 Nikita Mazepin Hitech Grand Prix 2
10 Pedro Piquet Charouz Racing System 1
11 Marcus Armstrong ART Grand Prix
12 Louis Deletraz Charouz Racing System
13 Artem Markalov BWT HWA Racelab
14 Ralph Boschung Campos Racing
15 Giuliano Alesi MP Motorsport
16 Luca Ghiotto Hitech Grand Prix
17 Marino Sato Trident
18 Theo Pourchaire BWT HWA Racelab
19 Sean Gelael DAMS
20 Roy Nissany Trident
21 Christian Lundgaard ART Grand Prix
22 Guilherme Samaia Campos Racing

 

F2 Sakhir preview: title showdown on the outer loop

Formula 2 takes to the outer loop of the Bahrain International Circuit this weekend for the final round of the season, and the title showdown between Mick Schumacher and Callum Ilott.

Last weekend’s racing on the traditional Bahrain circuit saw a mixed weekend for the two title protagonists. At first Ilott looked to be doing everything he needed to keep his championship hopes alive, by qualifying on pole and finishing second in the feature race. But in the sprint race a collision with Jehan Daruvala saw him finish outside the points.

However, Schumacher wasn’t able to take full advantage of Ilott’s crash and deal a crushing late blow to his rival’s hopes. While he put in a great damage limitation drive to fourth in the feature race, Schumacher struggled to keep his tyres alive on Sunday and slipped backwards, eventually taking home only two points for seventh.

As a result, the gap between Schumacher and Ilott has narrowed to just 14 points with 48 still available. The good news for Schumacher is that if he can still clinch the title on Saturday if he outscores Ilott by four points.

Winning the feature race would be enough regardless of where Ilott finishes, but if Ilott finds himself outside the points again then Schumacher can afford to finish as low as eighth and still be crowed champion before the sprint race.

As for Ilott, he just has to pick up as many points ahead of Schumacher as he can. Four points for another pole would be a great way to start, but he’ll have to convert that to a top three result at least—something Ilott has only managed twice from five pole starts so far this year.

Callum Ilott, UNI-Virtuosi (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

While Schumacher and Ilott fight it out for the F2 title, Yuki Tsunoda will be returning to Bahrain with a point to prove.

Last weekend he entered the event third in the drivers’ standings and with the pace throughout practice to be a definite contender. But a spin in qualifying that left him at the back of the grid for Saturday, then a puncture on the first lap of the sprint race, meant that potential went unrealised.

The Sakhir finale has now become a crucial event for Tsunoda’s hopes of graduating to F1 next year. He might be only five points adrift of Nikita Mazepin in third, but Tsunoda is also only eight points ahead of Christian Lundgaard in sixth, meaning another unlucky weekend could cost him the super licence points he needs.

It’s a different story, however, for Tsunoda’s Carlin teammate Daruvala. The Red Bull junior had a breakthrough weekend with his maiden podium in the feature race, followed by a strong performance in the sprint race before he was hit by Ilott.

After a difficult debut year that’s seen great qualifying pace often go unrewarded on race day, Daruvala will be aiming to build on this momentum and end his season on a high note.

Carlin will also be hoping Tsunoda and Daruvala return some strong results for the team as well as themselves. The British outfit is currently fourth in the teams’ standings with just seven points keeping them ahead of ART.

Jehan Daruvala, Carlin (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

F2 Bahrain: Shwartzman wins sprint race as Ilott crashes out of points

Robert Shwartzman took his fourth win of the season and first since Spa in the Bahrain sprint race, while Callum Ilott’s championship hopes took a big hit after a collision with Jehan Daruvala.

Shwartzman got a clean launch from reverse grid pole to hold the lead from Yuki Tsunoda, who jumped Marcus Armstrong for second off the line. Nikita Mazepin was slow away, allowing Daruvala and Mick Schumacher to take fourth and fifth respectively.

Tsunoda had strong pace to pressure Shwartzman through the opening sequence of corners, but before the end of the lap the Carlin driver picked up a right rear puncture and was forced to pit.

Without Tsunoda to defend from, Shwartzman was able to start putting in fastest laps and pull out a gap over Armstrong. Further back, Mazepin recovered from his slow start by taking fourth from Schumacher on lap 4, then demoting Daruvala off the podium a lap later.

Dan Istitene / Formula 1 via Getty Images

Shwartzman had a gap of almost three seconds over Armstrong at the start of lap 6. But this was wiped out when Theo Pourchaire stopped on track after his fire extinguisher went off in the cockpit, and the safety car was deployed.

The race restarted on lap 7, with Mazepin putting immediate pressure on Armstrong and Schumacher battling to hold fifth over title rival Ilott.

Schumacher had a big lockup going into Turn 10 and looked to be heading off the track. Ilott took advantage of the error by diving to the inside of his rival, but ended up locking his own tyres and spearing into Daruvala ahead.

Daruvala retired on the spot while Ilott tumbled out of the points with damage to his front wing and nose. Schumacher managed to get away without any contact, although he lost position to Pedro Piquet, who navigated the incident to emerge in fourth before the virtual safety car was called.

When the VSC was withdrawn on lap 9 Armstrong reacted well to put pressure on Shwartzman, but was unable to make a move for the lead stick. Armstrong ended up losing second instead to Mazepin after locking up at T1, then was passed for third by Piquet on lap 12.

But although Mazepin had much more pace than Piquet and Armstrong behind him, he didn’t have enough to make any impact on Shwartzman’s lead. Having been able to conserve his tyres out front while Mazepin hurt his fighting through the field, Shwartzman continued to pull away over the second half of the race and took the chequered flag with five seconds in hand over Mazepin.

Nikita Mazepin (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Behind the podium battles Schumacher was running in fifth but didn’t have the tyre life to take any more advantage of Ilott dropping out of the points. On lap 15 he was dropped to sixth by Guanyu Zhou, then immediately came under fire from Christian Lundgaard.

Schumacher got some brief respite on lap 17 when an unsuccessful move from Lundgaard at Turn 4 left the Dane instead defending from Felipe Drugovich in eighth. But shortly after the trio were caught by Louis Deletraz, who had taken the chance to pit under the earlier safety car and had the advantage of much fresher tyres.

Over the next five laps, Deletraz picked off Drugovich, Lundgaard, Schumacher, Zhou and Armstrong to run fourth behind his Charouz teammate Piquet. This then became third on lap 22, when Piquet pulled to the side of the road with a mechanical problem.

Armstrong managed to hold on to fourth ahead of Zhou, while Lundgaard pipped Schumacher for sixth on the final lap and Drugovich took the final point in eighth.

Shwartzman’s win means the Russian moves to fourth in the championship and is still mathematically in contention for the title. With Ilott failing to score, Schumacher now has a 14-point lead over his nearest rival going into the final round next week.

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Robert Shwartzman Prema Racing 15
2 Nikita Mazepin Hitech Grand Prix 12
3 Louis Deletraz (FL) Charouz Racing System 12
4 Marcus Armstrong ART Grand Prix 8
5 Guanyu Zhou UNI-Virtuosi Racing 6
6 Christian Lundgaard ART Grand Prix 4
7 Mick Schumacher Prema Racing 2
8 Felipe Drugovich MP Motorsport 1
9 Roy Nissany Trident
10 Artem Markelov BWT HWA Racelab
11 Marino Sato Trident
12 Dan Ticktum DAMS
13 Giuliano Alesi MP Motorsport
14 Sean Gelael DAMS
15 Yuki Tsunoda Carlin
16 Callum Ilott UNI-Virtuosi Racing
Ret. Jack Aitken Campos Racing
Ret. Guilherme Samaia Campos Racing
Ret. Pedro Piquet Charouz Racing System
Ret. Luca Ghiotto Hitech Grand Prix
Ret. Jehan Daruvala Carlin
Ret. Theo Pourchaire BWT HWA Racelab

 

F2 Bahrain: Drugovich wins feature race, Schumacher holds title lead

Felipe Drugovich took his third win of the Formula 2 season in the Bahrain feature race, while Mick  Schumacher recovered from tenth to fourth to keep his title lead ahead of Callum Ilott.

The feature race had looked like a chance for Ilott to retake the title lead as he qualified on pole with Schumacher down in tenth. But when the lights went out Ilott was passed for the lead by Drugovich from second, while Schumacher jumped up to fourth.

Meanwhile, Dan Ticktum had a slow getaway from third and dropped back to eighth, and Yuki Tsunoda got up to 16th from his back of the grid start.

Across the opening laps Ilott then struggled for pace on his medium tyres. On lap eight he was passed by Marcus Armstrong for second, before Schumacher on hard tyres passed Ilott for third a lap later. Schumacher then improved to second by the end of the lap, when Armstrong locked up and ran wide at Turn 11.

Callum Ilott, UNI-Virtuosi (Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

Ilott pitted to swap his mediums for hards on lap 12, but a slow front left meant he came out in 17th. However, by pitting earlier than Drugovich, who stopped on lap 15, Ilott was able to get the undercut advantage and take the net lead on Drugovich’s first lap out of the pits.

Schumacher led the race until his own pit stop on lap 19, where he swapped from his starting set of hards to new mediums. Prior to his stop Schumacher had been losing several seconds a lap to his rivals on fresh hard tyres, and as a result he lost ground in the pits, rejoining in sixth behind Jehan Daruvala, Armstrong and Robert Shwartzman.

On lap 20 Drugovich came back at Ilott, retaking the lead of the race and beginning to open a gap of several seconds once ahead. Meanwhile, Schumacher started coming back through from sixth on his faster mediums, passing Shwartzman on lap 21 and Armstrong on lap 23.

With five laps to go Schumacher caught Daruvala for the final podium position. But despite having the pace advantage on the medium tyre, Schumacher couldn’t find a way past Daruvala’s defence. In the end Schumacher ran out of grip, and Daruvala was able to hold on to third behind Ilott for his first F2 podium.

Jehan Daruvala, Carlin (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Schumacher finished fourth ahead of Nikita Mazepin, while Tsunoda came sixth with the fastest lap.

Tsunoda had made steady progress through the field after his rapid start, and by lap 26 was into the points with a pass on Sean Gelael. The Carlin driver then picked off more positions over the closing laps with the help of his fresh medium tyres, passing Luca Ghiotto, Ticktum, Shwartzman and Armstrong before the flag.

Armstrong, Shwartzman and Ticktum finished seventh, eighth and ninth, and Jack Aitken took the final point with a last-lap pass on Ghiotto.

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Felipe Drugovich MP Motorsport 25
2 Callum Ilott UNI-Virtuosi Racing 18
3 Jehan Daruvala Carlin 15
4 Mick Schumacher Prema Racing 12
5 Nikita Mazepin Hitech Grand Prix 10
6 Yuki Tsunoda (FL) Carlin 10
7 Marcus Armstrong ART Grand Prix 6
8 Robert Shwartzman Prema Racing 4
9 Dan Ticktum DAMS 2
10 Jack Aitken Campos Racing 1
11 Pedro Piquet Charouz Racing System
12 Luca Ghiotto Hitech Grand Prix
13 Sean Gelael DAMS
14 Guanyu Zhou UNI-Virtuosi Racing
15 Roy Nissany Trident
16 Louis Deletraz Charouz Racing System
17 Giuliano Alesi MP Motorsport
18 Theo Pourchaire BWT HWA Racelab
19 Christian Lundgaard ART Grand Prix
20 Marino Sato Trident
21 Guilherme Samaia Campos Racing
22 Artem Markelov BWT HWA Racelab

Feature image by Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images, courtesy of FIA Formula 2

F2 Bahrain preview: title in Schumacher’s grasp

Formula 2 returns to the track this weekend at the Bahrain International Circuit for the penultimate round of the 2020 championship.

It’s been a while since September 27th, when we last saw F2 action at the Sochi Autodrom. Guanyu Zhou left Russia an F2 winner at last, having taken victory from Nikita Mazepin in the curtailed sprint race, but it was championship leader Mick Schumacher who made the most of the weekend.

After taking his second win of the season in the feature race, Schumacher came back through the field on Sunday to finish third on the sprint race podium as well. As a result, Schumacher comes to Bahrain with a healthy 22-point lead over his nearest rival Callum Ilott.

In fact, Schumacher could wrap up the title this weekend, perhaps even as early as the feature race. With two rounds remaining, Schumacher would have to outscore Callum Ilott by 26 points across the weekend—a feature race win with either pole or the fastest lap would do it.

But although Schumacher has one hand on the championship trophy, the margin between him and Ilott is still close enough that it wouldn’t take much for the tables to turn. All Ilott needs is a pair of strong results and some bad luck for Schumacher, and we could be looking at a very different picture for next weekend’s Sakhir finale.

Callum Ilott, UNI-Virtuosi (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

As ever in F2, there plenty more tight championship battles right through the field than just the one at the front.

Yuki Tsunoda is currently third in the championship but only seven points separate him from Mazepin in sixth. With Red Bull open about wanting Tsunoda to race in F1 with AlphaTauri next year, he’ll be wanting to open that gap a little more to make sure he scores the necessary super licence points.

Tsunoda’s Carlin team didn’t have the most competitive outing in Bahrain last year, with Louis Deletraz’s pair of fifth places their best result. However, the British team does know how to prepare a good car for the circuit, as was seen by Lando Norris and Sergio Sette Camara scoring a win and two podiums respectively in 2018.

Further back again, Felipe Drugovich will be one to keep an eye on this weekend. The Brazilian has been one of the surprise stars of the season, taking two sprint race wins and a pole at Silverstone, and he’ll be well aware that any more great results this weekend will be a big help as he looks for a 2021 seat further up the grid.

Finally, Bahrain will see Formula 3 driver Theo Pourchaire make his F2 debut with HWA. Pourchaire, who finished runner-up in this year’s F3 championship, will take over the #17 HWA from Jake Hughes, who raced at the last round in Sochi following Giuliano Alesis’s mid-season switch to MP Motorsport.

Alesi will continue with MP Motorsport this weekend, despite reports earlier this month that he was in danger of losing his seat and backing from the Ferrari Driver Academy.

Theo Pourchaire, ART F3 (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

The Eifel Grand Prix Preview

Following Valtteri Bottas’ much needed win at the Russian Grand Prix, Formula 1 heads to the Nurburgring, set to stage the ever anticipated 2020 Eifel Grand Prix.

LOOKING BACK

The German Grand Prix has played host to F1 under a variety of names which include the Luxembourg and European Grand Prix. This year the race was named after the towering Eifel mountain range that straddles the famous circuit and stretches between Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia and three nations in Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany.

The Eifel played host to the German GP up until 1976 on the longer Nordschleife configuration. The demanding 23-kilometre-long track was abandoned after the horrific crash involving Niki Lauda on the 1st August 1976 when his Ferrari 312 T2 clipped the earthy bank at Bergwerk corner, collided with the wall and burst into flames.  Lauda narrowly escaped the inferno with his life after quick and decisive actions by fellow drivers: Guy Edwards, Harald Ertl, Brett Lunger and Arturo Merzario who pulled him from the wreckage.

The most recent iteration of the race came in 2013, won by Sebastien Vettel in the Red Bull, a race where Romain Grosjean nearly claimed his first win in Formula One until an unfortunate safety car meant he had to settle for 3rd. No hard feelings Romain?

A safety car and a late Kimi Raikkonen pit stop denied Lotus the win in 2013, with Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel winning his home race – courtesy of Red Bull content pool

THE TRACK

The Nurburgring is a fast and flowing circuit.  The 15 corners and 5.5 kilometres of tarmac is expected to test the drivers and cars to their very limits. Expect plenty of overtaking into the heavy braking zones of Turn 1 and Turn 13, both preceded by long DRS Zones. The first sector of the lap provides a significant challenge due to its twisty nature while many liken the final right-hand corner as ‘Hungaroring-esque’.

Interestingly, this will be the first time seeing this current generation of V6 turbo hybrid, high downforce cars at this circuit. The big stops and sensitive traction zones will be great fun for the current crop that now have significantly swifter power delivery than their predecessors.

Expect wind, cold track temperatures and low levels of grip to play a factor. We have seen certain manufacturers such as McLaren make no secret that they have a sensitivity to wind, while getting heat into the harder compound tyres may prove tricky.

While not as technically demanding as the Hungaroring, cars with quick cornering speeds will be rewarded in sector two and three.

 

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

Given that F1 has not visited the circuit in years, determining a winner would be difficult in any other circumstance. However, the W11 has looked strong at most circuits this year and would be expected to continue their dominance here this weekend.  Lewis Hamilton can make history by matching Michael Schumacher’s all time win record of 91 victories in Formula One to cement his legacy as one of the sport’s most successful drivers.

Lewis Hamilton is aiming to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins this weekend – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Further down the order, the fight for third in the constructors will be as tight and enthralling as we have seen all season. McLaren and Racing Point head into the weekend separated by two points while Renault are hot on their heels a further five points behind.

T​he Eifel Grand Prix will also be a historic one for a couple of young drivers currently in Formula 2. Championship leader Mick Schumacher will be rewarded an FP1 outing in the Alfa Romeo for his successes this season, including two victories and a plethora of podiums. It marks the first time a Schumacher will set foot in a Formula 1 car since his father Michael’s retirement in 2012. The Ferrari junior academy driver is touted for a full-time seat in 2021 allegedly alongside Kimi Raikkonen and will be looking to impress.

Mick Schumacher currently leads the F2 Championship – Courtesy of F1 Media

Additionally, championship hopeful Callum Illot will also be given an FP1 outing with Haas after rarely featuring outside the top two in the championship for most of the season. With Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen’s future in doubt, there is a big possibility that he could also be handed a full-time drive next year and will be one to watch closely.

Of course, following the news of Honda’s withdrawal from Formula One in 2022, expect media coverage to follow this news with fervent interest. Speculation is already happening as to what Red Bull’s options are in terms of their future engine supplier. Do they return to Renault? Will they build their own? Will this hamper their 2022 car development? And will this prompt the beginning of the end of the Red Bull – Verstappen love story?

This weekend’s race comes after the news that Honda will pull out of F at the end of next year – Courtesy of Red Bull content pool

Lastly, if weather forecasts are anything to go by in Formula One this year, disregard them entirely. However, rain could play a big part in this weekend with the Eifel Mountains particularly prone to cold and changeable conditions during this time of year. The weather forecast indicates there is strong possibility of rain across the entirety of the weekend which could shake qualifying up magnificently.

With all this in mind the Eifel Grand Prix should be a brilliant event. Make sure not to miss the race which is scheduled for 2:10pm local time, an hour earlier than usual. Set your reminders!

And as ever, ThePitCrewOnline will be here to keep you informed, entertained and up-to-date on all things Formula One throughout the weekend.

F2 Sochi: Zhou takes maiden win under red flag

Renault junior Guanyu Zhou was awarded his first Formula 2 win at Sochi, after the sprint race was ended early under the red flag following a heavy crash for Luca Ghiotto and Jack Aitken at Turn 3.

Zhou got a good start from reverse grid pole to hold the lead into the first corner, helped by Nikita Mazepin dropping back from second to third behind Aitken. Championship leader Mick Schumacher shot up from eighth on the grid, passing Jehan Daruvala through Turn 2 to get up into fourth.

Mazepin retook second from Aitken on lap 2, and a lap later Schumacher overtook the Campos for third. Aitken briefly lost fourth as well to Daruvala at the start of lap four, but he retook the place when Daruvala ran wide at Turn 2 and earned himself a time penalty for not rejoining the track correctly.

On lap 6 Ghiotto got past Daruvala and started reeling in Aitken for fourth. But on lap 7 the two made contact as they went wheel-to-wheel through Turn 3 and shot into the TecPro barriers. Both cars ended up between the layers of the barriers with Ghiotto’s car catching fire, but thankfully Aitken and Ghiotto were both unharmed.

Luca Ghiotto, Hitech (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

The race was immediately red-flagged, and the extent of the repairs needed to fix the barriers meant there wasn’t time for it to resume. As a result Zhou was declared the winner, albeit with half points, with Mazepin second and Schumacher third.

Aitken and Ghiotto were able to take the points for fourth and fifth as per red flag rules the race result was counted back to lap 5. Tsunoda, Ilott and Ticktum took the final points, while Mazepin claimed the two bonus points for fastest lap.

Guilherme Samaia and HWA rookie Jake Hughes also retired from the race after making contact on lap one.

After Sochi, Schumacher’s championship lead has extended as he holds 191 points over Ilott’s 169. Schumacher’s Prema team also extends its lead over Ilott’s UNI-Virtuosi with 331 points to 288.5.

Formula 2 returns on 28th November for the first of the double header finale in Bahrain.

Nikita Mazepin, Hitech (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Guanyu Zhou UNI-Virtuosi Racing 7.5
2 Nikita Mazepin (FL) Hitech Grand Prix 7
3 Mick Schumacher Prema Racing 5
4 Jack Aitken Campos Racing 4
5 Luca Ghiotto Hitech Grand Prix 3
6 Yuki Tsunoda Carlin 2
7 Callum Ilott UNI-Virtuosi Racing 1
8 Dan Ticktum DAMS 0.5
9 Pedro Piquet Charouz Racing System
10 Robert Shwartzman Prema Racing
11 Jehan Daruvala Carlin
12 Artem Markelov BWT HWA Racelab
13 Christian Lundgaard ART Grand Prix
14 Marcus Armstrong ART Grand Prix
15 Marino Sato Trident
16 Giuliano Alesi MP Motorsport
17 Louis Deletraz Charouz Racing System
18 Juri Vips DAMS
19 Roy Nissany Trident
20 Felipe Drugovich MP Motorsport
Ret. Guilherme Samaia Campos Racing
Ret. Jake Hughes BWT HWA Racelab