FIA F2: Belgium preview

The three week summer break is over, and this weekend FIA Formula 2 returns for round 9 at Belgium’s Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

At the last round in Hungary, Nicholas Latifi struck back at title rival Nyck de Vries with victory in the feature race—his first win since Spain in May. However, with 30 points still the difference between them in De Vries’ favour, Latifi will need another strong result here at Spa if he’s to swing the momentum back towards him for the final four rounds of the season.

Luca Ghiotto dropped back from the title contenders in Hungary, and now sits fourth in the standings behind DAMS’ Sergio Sette Camara. With Jack Aitken only one point behind him, Ghiotto will be looking for a strong return from the summer break to reassert himself at the top.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

There will also be plenty of drivers to watch outside of the main title contenders. Carlin’s Nobuharu Matsushita—who won the feature race in Austria and finished on the podium again in Hungary—has said he is still hoping to earn an F1 promotion via his Honda academy links, but he will need to put in the results to get there. The Japanese driver needs to be at least fourth in the standings to earn his superlicence, which means overcoming the 50-point gap to Ghiotto.

Guanyu Zhou comes to Spa as the season’s best rookie in P6 with 107 points. But although he’s enjoyed a successful F2 debut with three podiums and pole position at Silverstone, the UNI-Virtuosi driver still has yet to claim his first win in the series.

Zhou’s closest competition for “best rookie” is fellow Renault academy driver Anthoine Hubert. Although Hubert is 30 points adrift of Zhou, he has picked up two sprint race victories for BWT Arden this season and will be hungry for more in the final rounds as he chases a drive with DAMS or ART for next year.

And finally, Mick Schumacher won’t be able to avoid the spotlight this weekend following his first F2 victory in the Hungary sprint race. His fans will be hoping that win proves a breakthrough result after a sobering start to his F2 debut, especially with Spa and Monza being tracks Schumacher knows from his European F3 days.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

Mick Schumacher to make F1 test debut in Bahrain

Mick Schumacher will drive for Ferrari and Alfa Romeo in the upcoming in-season test in Bahrain, after this weekend’s Grand Prix at the Sakhir circuit.

Joe Portlock / FIA F2 Championship

The 19-year-old son of 7-time world champion Michael Schumacher will compete in the F2 championship this season, with the Prema team.

His career started in karting in 2011, where he did not race under his real surname, and he had the nickname ‘Mick Junior’.

Schumacher moved to the ADAC Formula 4 championship, in 2015, after testing the single-seater in 2014. His tenure with the Jenzer Motorsport outfit saw him take one win in 22 races, and 10th in the drivers’ standings.

In 2017, Mick made the next step in his career, driving in European Formula 3, with Prema. After a sub-par season, claiming just one podium, Schumacher pushed through and, in 2018, he drove phenomenally, clinching the title with 8 wins and 7 pole positions.

Glenn Dunbar / FIA F2 Championship

Late in 2018, it was announced that he will graduate to the F2 championship with Prema, and early in 2019 Scuderia Ferrari took him under its wing, adding him to its Young Driver Academy.

This gives him the opportunity to drive Ferrari’s SF90 and Alfa Romeo’s C38 next week, in the young drivers’ test in Bahrain.

That will be the first time the Schumacher name will appear in an F1 session since his father’s retirement at the end of 2012.

Formula 2: 2019 Season Preview

The 2019 Formula 2 season kicks off this weekend in Bahrain with some new faces on the grid and a lot of surprises after an unusually unpredictable silly season. Normally, it is possible to figure out who is going to be where after the post-season test in Abu Dhabi, but this time what deals seemed to be done in December changed completely in January.

Some big names from last year are missing. Lando Norris and Alex Albon followed the 2018 champion George Russell in securing a Formula One seat, while Artem Markelov, who has become a fan favourite throughout the years, joined the Super Formula field in Japan. These departures could lead to a discussion on whether the talent in the grid has decreased, but we have to bear in mind that excellent drivers will make their debut in Bahrain even if they are not so well-known.

Anthoine Hubert (BWT Arden) / Glenn Dunbar, FIA F2 Championship

Among the youngsters approaching their first Formula 2 weekend we have last year’s GP3 Series top three. The champion Anthoine Hubert will enter the championship with BWT Arden in association with Mercedes’ feeder categories brand HWA despite the fact that he is a member of Renault Sport Academy. Nikita Mazepin, who has already tested in Formula 1 with Force India, will take part in the series with last year’s champions ART, and Ferrari Driver Academy member Callum Ilott will compete for the renamed Sauber Junior Team by Charouz. Even if they have proved their talent in the past, none of them are expected to be in the hunt for the big trophy after pre-season testing results, but for sure they will put on a good show and aim for podiums, even victories.

On the contrary, there is one man who is expected to fight for the championship from the beginning: Mick Schumacher. The son of the Formula One legend Michael Schumacher will drive for Prema, a team who won twice since they entered in 2016. Mick must not crack under pressure and confirm the speed showed last year in an outstanding second-half of the season which crowned him as FIA F3 European Champion. If he delivers, a seat in the 2020 Formula One grid is almost guaranteed for him.

Furthermore, Tatiana Calderón will be the first woman to race in the GP2 Series/FIA F2 since they started back in 2005. Partnering Hubert in BWT Arden, the Alfa Romeo Racing test driver will try to keep her momentum going to continue taking points as she did in the last five GP3 races.

Louis Deletraz (Carlin) / Glenn Dunbar, FIA F2 Championship

Looking now at the battle for the championship, four F2 veterans are expected to fight the already mentioned Mick Schumacher. They are Nyck de Vries (ART), Sérgio Sette Câmara (DAMS), Luca Ghiotto (UNI Virtuosi Racing) and Louis Delétraz (Carlin). All of them were pace-setters in testing and are capable of performing at any track—only reliability issues or race incidents would prevent them from having a chance to become champions.

We should also keep and eye on Jack Aitken. If it is true that he struggled a lot during his maiden season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him challenging for race wins throughout the year. However, the fact that he drives for Campos Racing may keep him away from the championship battle.

Regarding this first weekend in Bahrain, it may bring some surprises given that qualifying conditions are not the same as race ones. Qualifying is scheduled in the night while races are in the afternoon when temperatures are their highest. Tyre degradation is set to play a very important role, allowing different strategies as we already saw in the past. In 2017, Charles Leclerc decided to pit during the sprint race when he started to suffer with his tyres and he was able to make an impressive comeback overtaking 14 cars to win the race on the last lap. Will we see something like that again this year? We will know on Sunday!

Giuliano Alesi (Trident) / Glenn Dunbar, FIA F2 Championship

Mick Schumacher joins Ferrari Driver Academy

Ferrari have announced that they have signed Mick Schumacher to their Driver Academy ahead of the 2019 season.

In a press statement, Schumacher said, “I am thrilled that Ferrari has entered into a partnership with me and [that] my next future in motorsport will be in red, being part of the Ferrari Driver Academy and also of the Scuderia Ferrari family.

“This is another step forward in the right direction, and I can only profit from the immense amount of expertise bundled there. Be sure I will make everything to extract whatever helps me achieve my dream [of] racing in Formula 1.

“It is more than obvious that Ferrari has a big place in my heart since I was born and also in the hearts of our family, so I am delighted on a personal level about this opportunity as well. At this stage it is, however, also time to say thank you to my family, friends and partners who supported me all along and helped me arrive at this point.”

Zak Mauger / FIA Formula 2

Past alumni include Charles Leclerc, Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll, Antonio Giovinazzi and the late Jules Bianchi, who was the first driver to be signed to the program when it was formed back in 2009.

Schumacher joins the Academy on the back of his title-winning campaign in the Formula Three European Championship, where he won eight races and finished on the podium on six other occasions. He finished the season 57 points ahead of second-place Dan Ticktum.

New Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said that despite the more sentimental aspects of the signing, Schumacher had been picked first and foremost because of his racing talent.

“For someone like me who has known him from birth, there’s no doubt that welcoming Mick into Ferrari has a special emotional meaning,” he said, “but we have chosen him for his talent and the human and professional qualities that have already distinguished him despite his young age.”

Alongside his duties with the Academy in 2019, Schumacher will make his debut in FIA Formula 2, where he will compete with Prema Racing.

 

Featured image – Joe Portlock / FIA Formula 2

The Goal Of F1 – Mick Schumacher On Following In His Father’s Footsteps At Spa-Francorchamps | M1TG

Check out the latest Mobil 1 The Grid feature with Mick Schumacher, during which he talks about the Schumacher family legacy at Spa, what it was like to drive Michael’s title-winning 1994 Benetton at last year’s Belgian Grand Prix, and his ultimate ambition of reaching F1.

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Copyright (c) FIA Formula 3 European Championship / Thomas Suer

On the Schumacher legacy at Spa: “I have only good memories of Spa. As everybody knows, this is, let’s say, the living room of my dad. I really like and love racing here, because I know that he raced here as well. I’m always happy to be here and every year to come back here.”
On driving Michael’s title-winning Benetton: “The 1994 car was, for sure, stunning to have a lap in here. Unfortunately, it was only one. To be honest, it wasn’t that much of a difference to an F3 car. I had hoped to have a bit more, let’s say, mileage in it, but it wasn’t the case. Hopefully in the future I will be able to drive some other cars.”
On the European Formula 3 season: “The championship is, for sure, very strong. We have good drivers, who all came from karting. For me, unfortunately, the luck wasn’t on my side up to now. I’m really hoping that the rest of the season gets better, and that the luck is a bit on my side. I will fight until I’m on the top step.”
On fans and his Formula 1 goal: “To be honest, here I’m a bit more focused on what I’m doing on track, so I don’t really notice it too much. For sure, my goal was always F1, and it’s still my goal. Now we’re doing one step after the other. I’m looking forward to it.”