Mick Schumacher appears to have won the battle for a 2021 seat in F1 against his Ferrari stablemate Callum Ilott. But before he can claim his prize there is the F2 championship to fight over.
Ninety-six points remain up for grabs across two feature and two sprint races. That’s forty-eight at each of the two Bahrain weekends. Schumacher’s twenty-two-point cushion at the top of the table could soon evaporate with one non-point scoring finish.
Many people continue to bemoan the mere existence of Hermann Tilke designed circuits. But only a fool would deny that the Bahrain International Circuit has been the venue for some great racing over the years. And F2 races here always feature some superb wheel to wheel action.
Bahrain hosts the third single venue doubleheader event of the season (after Silverstone and Spielberg). But the organisers have come up with a plan to create additional variety and potentially spice up the proceedings. Round 11 will take place on the usual 5.4km Grand Prix layout. However, Round 12, one week later, will be on a 3.5km outer circuit.
The outer layout follows the course of the normal track until the exit of Turn 4. A series of fast sweeping bends will carry the cars to the exit of the usual Turn 13, before the final back straight and double apex final corner. No one knows for sure how the Outer Track race will go, but in this video, renowned sim racer Jimmy Broadbent samples the virtual track.
Mathematically, 9 drivers remain in the title fight. But the chances for Louis Delétraz, Guanyu Zhou and Luca Ghiotto all rest on the 6 drivers ahead failing to score in all 4 races, so let us wish them good luck and focus on the real title fight.
F2 Bahrain Preview: Mick Schumacher – 191 points
Throughout his career, Schumacher has consistently shown an impressively methodical
work ethic. His first season in a series always appears slightly underwhelming before his second season catapults him into the title fight. Schumacher has timed his performance peak to perfection.
Winning last time out at Sochi, he appears to have the measure of Ilott right when it is needed. Irrespective of his finish position this season, the drive at Haas seems a formality. But Mick will no doubt want to add another championship to his 2018 Formula 3 title.
F2 Bahrain Preview: Callum Ilott – 169 points
The beginning of 2020 felt like it was Ilott’s championship to lose. He opened his campaign with a win and bagged a second victory at Round 5. But whereas Schumacher’s season has predominately featured consistent scoring across both the weekend’s races, Ilott has not managed so well.
If he can deliver two weekends where he scores well in both feature and sprint events, Callum has a good chance of scooping the gold.
F2 Bahrain Preview: Yuki Tsunoda – 147 points
Another campaign that has delighted so much in one race and underwhelmed the
next. Tsunoda has had 3 non-scoring weekends so far, and plenty of weekends where he has only scored in one of the two races. Fortunately for him, his pace and outstanding racecraft mean his point-scoring races usually bag Tsunoda a big haul of points. But Yuki needs a maximum-score over a weekend just to draw level with Schumacher so his title hopes are slim.
If he remains in the top 4 by the season’s end, he will earn his Superlicence and perhaps get the call up to AlphaTauri. Personally, I feel this promising young talent would gain more from a second F2 campaign in 2021. I could see him going on to a superb Grand Prix driver in 2022.
F2 Bahrain Preview: Christian Lundgaard – 145 points
Lundgaard is the youngest of the six potential title challengers at 19. But just like Tsunoda, Shwartzman and Mazepin, his title hopes rest on a disaster for Schumacher and Ilott along with a fantastic performance from Christian himself.
The Renault backed Dane is clearly no slouch as his two sprint victories show, but he needs
to achieve greater heights on a Saturday. Second place at Silverstone is still his best feature race result.
F2 Bahrain Preview: Robert Shwartzman – 140 points
Taking the championship lead at the second round, Shwartzman demonstrated why
he is so highly regarded by Ferrari and fans of the junior categories. His feature race wins at Spielberg and the Hungaroring were masterpieces in tyre management.
Then the championship moved to Silverstone and Shwartzman’s pace vanished. He recovered his form later on in the season, going to the top of the standings again after his Belgian win. But four point-less finishes over the last four races have hampered his chances.
F2 Bahrain Preview: Nikita Mazepin – 140 points
Despite currently being 6th in the standings, Mazepin seems assured of stepping up into F1 at Haas alongside Schumacher for 2021. Money obviously plays a role in this but let’s
not be too hasty in writing off Nikita as just another financially entitled seat warmer.
He has scored two superb feature race victories this season at Silverstone and Mugello. He also has 3 further podiums to his name. Clearly then, 2020 Mazepin is a much-improved driver to the version who drove for ART in 2019. And he has some phenomenal racecraft to go with it. His overtaking prowess was on full display at Silverstone for example.
While he is an outside bet for the 2020 F2 crown, I remain optimistic that he can be a positive addition to the 2021 F1 grid. If that is enough to win over the fans is debatable.
F2 Bahrain Preview: GP Grandstand Prediction
Mick Schumacher is in the title driving seat. If he can continue his consistent scoring he’ll have no problem wrapping up the title. We’re not discounting Callum Ilott. However, as we noted in our previous article on Callum, he could be better off doing a third season of F2 in 2021, ahead of hopefully graduating to F1 in 2022.