Jehan Daruvala capped his impressive drives across the two Bahrain weekends by winning the Sakhir F2 Sprint Race. But his superb achievement was overshadowed by Mick Schumacher who was crowned F2 Champion for 2020. It was a dramatic and exciting desert showdown that very nearly saw a title upset.
The track temperature was higher than yesterday at 33 degrees and the wind crossing the track at Turn 4 would make the popular overtaking spot more of a challenge than usual throughout the race. With the famously high degradation on this circuit, we were wondering pre-race whether the front runners would use a pit stop for the soft rubber. All started the race on hards.
Dan Ticktum had a poor getaway from pole position while Schumacher had a customary lightning start to immediately attack Daruvala and get past into 2nd. A huge lockup for the championship leader into Turn 4 though left him with a flat-spotted right front tyre and he dropped back to 3rd. Instead of Schumacher attacking, it was now the turn of title rival Callum Ilott to attack the Prema.
Schumacher’s teammate Robert Shwartzman was running 5th and he bought his teammate some breathing room, drawing alongside the Carlin and sweeping past through Turns 10 and 11. Ilott wasn’t done though, fighting back down the main straight and getting back past the Russian into Turn 1. The British driver was all over the road through the next sequence of corners as he fought for speed, but he was back in 4th place.
Behind the top 5, cars were fighting three-wide down the main straight as Marcus Armstrong, Guanyu Zhou, Luca Ghiotto, Nikita Mazepin, Yuki Tsunoda and Felipe Drugovich all battled for track position.
Back at the fight for the front and Schumacher radioed his pit wall to inform them he has a big flat spot on the right front as suspected. Indeed it was visible from the onboard of the German’s car, with the vibrations extremely visible. This didn’t slow him down though, and he closed on Daruvala and forced past him through the bumps of Turn 6. Further back, Ilott had gained some breathing room from Shwartzman behind.
Further back on lap 5, the returning Ralph Boschung passed Pedro Piquet with a clean move on the back straight for 14th place. The next lap it was Tsunoda making moves with a bold pass on Mazepin in Turn 6.
Schumacher was now 1.6 seconds behind Ticktum as Shwartzman posted the fastest lap of the race so far. Mick was closing the gap but Daruvala was hanging onto his rear wing and not letting him get away.
We only got as far as lap 8 before Ticktum was on the phone to his DAMS team to tell them his rear tyres were falling away. The London born driver has struggled all season with keeping the life in his tyres, but with so many laps left to run, this was pretty dramatic. Also suffering with his tyres was Schumacher who could do nothing about Daruvala who swept around the outside of Turn 4 to regain 2nd place. It was again the turn of Ilott to begin hunting the young German.
Right at the back and unseen by the cameras, Guilherme Samaia overtook Marina Sato for 21st place. Also in trouble was Boschung who plummeted down the timing screens and into retirement. Check back soon on GP Grandstand to find out what happened to his Campos. Replays show a turning vane falling from Louis Deletraz’s car. A brave marshal rapidly retrieved it under a very brief Virtual Safety Car.
Thirteen laps in and Ticktum was under increasingly stiff pressure by Daruvala. Ticktum was weaving onto the main straight and on the run to Turn 4 as he sought to break the advantage of the DRS which the Carlin driver could now make use of. Race Control also announced that Deletraz had a time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.
Lap after lap Daruvala attacked Ticktum for the lead, trying to pass on the inside and the outside of Turns 1 and 4, even driving right over the pit exit on one audacious attempt. Also battling were Schumacher and Ilott for 3rd and 4th, and this slowed them enough for Shwartzman, Zhou, Drugovich, Armstrong and Tsunoda to join the party.
Schumacher’s tyre was now so damaged that he was repeatedly locking up into the braking zones and on lap 19, Ilott forced his way past with just his left wheels on the track as they charged for Turn 4. Shwartzman and Zhou barged their way past in successive corners, and Schumacher was down to 6th place.
The drama was ratcheted up a notch as Schumacher pitted at the beginning of lap 20 and was fitted with the soft tyres for the final 15 laps. When the Prema re-emerged on track he was only ahead of Artem Markelov who had also pitted for fresh rubber. The championship at this point in the race was blown wide open. Schumacher was out of the points and at the back. Ilott was running 3rd, and if he could pass Daruvala and Ticktum ahead, he would complete a miracle fight back.
Prema needed Shwartzman to ensure that didn’t happen and the Russian began probing Ilott’s defences, trying to drive round the UNI-Virtuosi at Turn 4. This attempt allowed Zhou to go to the inside of Shwartzman moments later and triggered Tsunoda to make a lovely pass on Drugovich around the outside of Turn 10 too. Pass or be passed was in full force once again in Formula 2.
With just 10 laps to go, Ticktum was locking up repeatedly as he tried to hang on ahead of Daruvala. But the Indian driver continued to harass the DAMS and finally slid by on the inside of Turn 10. Ticktum fought back towards Turn 1 but the lead was lost. The positions were changing fast behind and the driver gaining the most was Tsunoda who, having got through Shwartzman, then passed Ilott for 3rd into Turn 4.
Ilott’s tyres were completely gone and his teammate Zhou was next to pass him. The next lap Drugovich tried an ambitious move on Armstrong and flew into the gravel but the Brazilian kept going. Pourchaire made a super late pitstop for new tyres, rejoining last.
The moves continued on lap 28 with Guiliano Alesi passing Armstrong for 7th and Shwartzman taking Ilott. Schumacher’s team informed their German star that Ilott’s tyres were gone and he was no longer a threat for the championship. Indeed Ilott lost 6th to Alesi as he continued to struggle on his worn rubber. Ghiotto, Mazepin and Drugovich all eased past the ailing UNI-Virtuosi in those final laps.
With one lap to go, Tsunoda hesitantly overtook Ticktum. The DAMS seemed so slow that the Carlin driver seemed worried about there being a yellow flag. However, it could’ve been Ticktum hoping to use DRS as his shield. Tsunoda was vulnerable to a Ticktum fight back into Turn 1, but on the final corner, Tsunoda went back through to secure an incredible Carlin 1st and 2nd. Ticktum hung on for 3rd place.
Poor Callum Ilott eventually crossed the line in 11th, his championship dreams scattered across the desert-like the marbles from his knackered Pirelli tyres. Schumacher came home 11th place, a point-less race but it didn’t matter as he had done it and was now the champion. A fantastic double championship for Prema and the end of a superb weekend of F2 racing.