Schumacher takes title advantage into final race as Prema crowned F2 champions

Mick Schumacher will take a 14-point advantage into the final F2 race of the season after the Prema driver finished sixth behind title rival Callum Ilott in the Sakhir feature race.

The race was eventually won by Yuki Tsunoda after a thrilling battle with Guanyu Zhou and Nikita Mazepin, but the Russian was subsequently slapped with successive time penalties for overly aggressive driving, demoting him to ninth.

“What an eventful race this was – we knew it’s going to be a difficult one, and the first lap, starting from P18, proved us right,” said Schumacher. “In the course of that lap, I had several contacts with other cars, and actually I felt like being more off the road than on the road during that period. It was very important to go through this chaotic part and phase, so when finally, I was P3 at some stage I kind of realized that I am now set well to be cool when it was necessary and attack when the moments were right.

“We could have pitted maybe one lap earlier, because the warming of the tyres afterwards was a bit difficult but nevertheless I think the pace advantage with the option tyres worked well for us. The car was supporting me all the way through the race, so I think managing to secure P7 and the way how this was achieved made this race one of the best drives that we had this year.”

Schumacher had started a lowly P.18 after a collision with Roy Nissany in qualifying, as Ilott started eight places up the field. Employing an alternate strategy and starting on the harder tyres, Schumacher quickly made up places with his customary fast start, gaining five positions by the third lap and into podium position by lap 22 as the leaders swapped their softs for the harder compound.

The championship leader made his stop for the softer compound on lap 30, shuffling back into the pack in 12th position as Ilott made his way up to fifth on his harder compound.

It made for a thrilling finish as both drivers on the harder compound and those on the soft tyre both faced drop offs in performance in the closing laps. An outstanding pass around the outside of Dan Ticktum into Turn 6 gained Schumacher another position, before passes on Pedro Piquet and Jehan Daruvala on the final lap saw him home 7th.

Ilott was too far down the road for Schumacher to mount another attack, but a fastest lap also means the German netted two bonus points and he will start on the front row ahead of Ilott for Sunday’s crucial sprint race.

Robert Schwartzman’s fifth place finish also means that the Prema team, partnered by Acronis, take a deserved team title for the first time since 2016, when the feeder series was GP2.

“I am really happy for Prema, to be Team Champion is great, so we now take these vibes with us for tomorrow’s race, starting from P2,” added Schumacher. “We have the best team, and I am happy to be in the position to finish the race and the season on a high together with them.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.