With a dramatic enough Feature Race, a quieter affair for the F2 sprint race at Bahrain wouldn’t be a problem. That wasn’t to be the case whatsoever though with action all through the field. The second race of the four that F2 will have in Bahrain over these two weekends saw Shwartzman lead from start to finish. But behind him, the implications for the championship were significant…
There was drama before the lights even went out as Nikita Mazepin couldn’t get off the line for the formation lap. However, he quickly made up the positions before the final car overtook him. The Hitech driver ensuring he was going to start from his allocated fourth position spot.
Mazepin then struggled to get away again at the starting lights too. The Russian dropped down to sixth place off the line.
Bahrain F2 Sprint: Tsunoda’s rollercoaster weekend continues
In contrast, the star man of the Feature Race, Yuki Tsunoda, had a lightning start from third place and was hassling Shwartzman for the lead over the first half of lap one. The Carlin driver had taken second place from Marcus Armstrong easily off the line.
However, the Japanese driver’s inconsistent weekend continued. He had tagged Armstrong at the first corner as when completing his overtake, triggering a right rear puncture. The Carlin team were required, as they pitted on the very first lap, only changing Yuki’s punctured Pirelli. Tsunoda having to have his second race in two days fighting from the back.
The possible Haas drivers of Schumacher and Mazepin swapped positions in a battle for fourth place. Mazepin took Schumacher on the main straight even without the aid of DRS, but Schumacher fought back at turn four. The fight continued and Schumacher almost took Mazepin’s nose off with only millimetres separating the Prema and Hitech cars as they swept around turn 11. Mazepin was the eventual victor, with another fantastic move down the pit straight.
The Feature Race’s second-place man, Callum Ilott sat behind those fighting in front of him in seventh. Seeing Schumacher coming close to contact would’ve filled Ilott with hope as he looked ahead of Jack Aitken, the driver between him and Schumacher. Ilott seemed unable to find his way past the Campos driver at this point in the race. With Mazepin despatching Schumacher, the Russian wasted no time in catching up to the Carlin of Daruvala, who was now in front of him, to take third place.
Bahrain F2 Sprint: Safety Cars, virtual and real
The Formula 3 turned Formula 2 driver, Theo Pourchaire had his HWA fail with the fire extinguisher spraying all over his race suit, similar to what we saw with Mick Schumacher at Styria. His stationary HWA required the use of a safety car to recover it. Fortunately for Ilott, he was able to overtake Aitken at turn four just beforehand and was only one place behind championship leader Schumacher on track.
Just half a lap from the safety car pulling in, the virtual safety car was deployed. In a move with huge consequences for the championship, Schumacher locked up into the downhill sharp left-hander of turn ten. Ilott behind him sensing an opportunity braked a little later but was unable to slow his UNI-Virtuosi down. The Brit smashed into Daruvala, a fully innocent party, taking the Indian out of the race. Schumacher, despite triggering the incident had no damage aside from losing fourth-place to Pedro Piquet. Meanwhile, Ilott lost his front wing and had to pit, sending him down into 17th place.
Following the VSC, Mazepin and his poor start were well forgotten and the momentum on his run forwards resulted in Armstrong almost losing the back end of his ART under braking at turn one. Mazepin took second place from Armstrong with minimal fuss. The New Zealander then spent the first sector of the following lap side-by-side with Pedro Piquet. Armstrong slipped out of the podium positions, really struggling with pace as Piquet snatched up third place. The next man behind him was Schumacher, who would’ve been delighted to see additional points for his championship campaign edge closer.
Bahrain F2 Sprint: Not plain sailing for Schumacher
Schumacher‘s advantage was made even greater as the stewards deemed Ilott guilty enough of the contact with Daruvala to issue a drive-through penalty to the title contender. But shortly after this decision, the German began falling back, and Renault academy driver Guanyu Zhou was able to glide past the Prema for fifth place.
Christian Lundgaard next fancied his chance to take Schumacher who was obviously struggling on his tyres. The earlier lockup was really slowing Schumacher down. His team radioed him to point out he needed to up his pace in order to maximise his advantage over Ilott. But Schumacher just didn’t have the pace to press forwards, in particular when having to fight so hard to keep the positions.
There was some fortune for Schumacher, though, as Lundgaard and Felipe Drugovich began racing each other hard behind the Prema driver. Lundgaard was able to keep the Feature Race winner behind him, but at the expense of being on the rear wing of the championship leader.
Bahrain F2 Sprint: Enter the Delétraz
With only five laps to go Louis Delétraz made his entrance into the point-scoring positions. He pitted earlier during the safety car periods after starting in 16th. The Charouz driver was flying around the track on his fresher rubber. The Lundgaard/Drugovich fight ensured neither driver had any tyres left to fight the much quicker Dane who sailed past both. Schumacher was next up, and with one eye on the championship, possibly two, Mick didn’t fight the move whatsoever and dropped down to 7th.
The question now was just how far Louis Delétraz was going to go up the order. The Swiss driver took Zhou at turn one in an identical move to his overtake on Schumacher. On the penultimate lap, Delétraz got a two for one. Armstrong was his latest turn one victim, but it was heartbreak for his teammate Piquet. Pedro, who was on for his first-ever podium in Formula 2, appeared to lose power and pulled his car off to the side of the road. Delétraz was now up from 16th place on the grid and into a podium position in an amazing race for the ART driver.
Schumacher would’ve been delighted to have passed Piquet and claim a few more points for his title run. However, on the last lap and with just five corners to go, Lundgaard who had shaken off Drugovich finally took the place from the German as he had threatened to do at several points earlier in the race. Schumacher finished the race in seventh, extending his championship league by just two points.
But it was the sister Prema of Schwartzman who was victorious. The Russian driver had no competition throughout the entire F2 Bahrain sprint race. It was a Russian 1-2, too, with Mazepin taking second place. Delétraz completed the podium with what must be considered one of the drives of the season for the Swiss driver.