F2 Bahrain: Ahead of the showdown the story so far

While the Formula 1 season is done and dusted, the FIA Formula 2 Championship heads to Sakhir, Bahrain, for the final two races of a thrilling title battle to be resolved.

And, among the subplots, the big prize a seat in F1 next year beckoning for the best of the class of 2020 and maybe even a couple more.

The Story So Far

After 10 rounds of the 2020 Formula 2 season, the dramatic race for the tile is still well-and-truly on.

Mick Schumacher leads the title charge after his second Feature Race win of the campaign last time out in Sochi, ahead of Championship contenders Yuki Tsunoda and Callum Ilott. Guanyu Zhou then took his maiden F2 victory in a curtailed Sprint Race.

Luca Ghiotto topped Free Practice, with Carlin duo Tsunoda and Jehan Daruvala behind by only one tenth of a second. The pair found something extra in Qualifying however, to lock out the front row – Tsunoda just 0.006s faster than his teammate.

Tsunoda started brilliantly on Saturday, but immediately had to defend from Schumacher going into Turn 1. The Japanese racer held on, escaping any drama behind, and leading through the field as drivers boxed for fresh tyres.

Schumacher remained patient, and with 10 laps to go he slipped past for the lead and the race win. Ilott initially followed to take second, but lost grip in his relentless pursuit of Schumacher. Tsunoda capitalised, fighting back to take second with Ilott in third.

Sunday’s shortened action saw Zhou become the first Chinese racer to win an F2 race, with Schumacher finishing second after a strong start from P8.

Nikita Mazepin joined them on the podium with a third-place finish on home soil. Half-points were awarded as just five laps were counted after a fiery accident between Ghiotto and Jack Aitken on Lap 7 brought the race to a halt.

Track repairs were necessary, but both drivers were thankfully unharmed.

The Contenders

Schumacher (191 pts) has extended his lead in the Drivers’ Championship to 22 points over Ilott (169) in second, and has now scored points in 12 consecutive races.

Tsunoda (147) is just two points ahead of Christian Lundgaard (145) in third. Robert Shwartzman (140) is only five points further back in fifth, level on points with sixth-placed Mazepin (140).

PREMA Racing (331 pts) are 42.5 points in front of UNI-Virtuosi (288.5) in the Teams’ Championship, as the Italian outfit continues to extend their lead. Hitech Grand Prix (244) sit third, ahead of ART Grand Prix (183) and Carlin (183) who are level on points with two rounds to go.

The challenging Bahrain International Circuit hosts the run-in as we begin the final double-header of the campaign. Pirelli’s hard and medium compound tyres will need to be managed wisely in heavy braking zones to come out on top as Formula 2 returns!

Yuki Tsunoda (Carlin) previews Bahrain:

“I’m really excited to get back to Bahrain with Formula 2. I’ve not driven an F2 car since Russia, but I’ve been behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car for a test and that was a good experience. I want to use that and go faster in F2. I’ve prepared as I did before that test, as I always do before a race weekend. We’ve had good pace since the first round. We’ve had a good preparation, especially with Carlin, and I’m focused.

“The circuit is a little sandy, and that makes the grip levels lower than other tracks, but it’s still good. Braking is the most important thing. For me, my strongest point is braking, so I’m looking forward to it. I’ve got a good feeling from the rookie test at the beginning of the year. I just need to put it all together.

“It’s one of the most difficult tracks to manage your tyres. It’s easy to spin the rears and that can make for bad traction. For example, Silverstone is ‘front-limited’, and it’s easy to understeer, but it’s the opposite in Bahrain and it’s easy to lose grip at the rear. It requires a slightly different driving style, but I’m confident.

“There are lots of overtaking zones. Braking into Turn 1 is the most popular. Turn 4 is a complicated corner. You can overtake from inside, but you have to go wide on the exit, and who you’re overtaking can then go inside, hitting the throttle as soon as possible. In the next corner he’s on the inside for the chicane. I like that corner. I think it’s the most exciting overtaking zone.

“I want to be first to the finish line in the Feature Race, which I’ve never done before. Not properly. I want to do that and celebrate with my team.”

When to watch: All times local (GMT +3)

  • Friday Free Practice: 12:35 – 13:20 Qualifying: 16:15 – 16:45 Press conference: 17:15
  • Saturday Feature race: 12:10 (32 laps) Press conference: 13:30
  • Sunday Sprint race: 13:00 (23 laps) Press conference: 14:05

F2 Facts & Stats

  • The F2 race lap record at the Bahrain International Circuit is 1:43.950, set by Sérgio Sette Câmara with MP Motorsport in 2017.
  • This weekend will be the first time that Bahrain has appeared on the calendar of the FIA Formula 2 Championship without being the opening round.
  • The eventual Vice-Champion has won every Feature Race at Sakhir since the start of the modern era of F2 in 2017.
  • 2018 and 2019 Feature Race winners, Lando Norris and Nicholas Latifi, went on to drive in Formula 1 the following season.
  • Mick Schumacher scored his fourth double podium finish of the year last time out in Sochi. The German driver won the Feature Race before finishing third in the shortened Sprint Race.
  • Schumacher’s victory means that PREMA Racing have now won more races than any other team in FIA Formula 2 (17).
  • In order to win the Championship this weekend, Mick Schumacher needs to have a lead of 49 points in the Drivers’ Championship at the end of the weekend. Schumacher is currently 22 points clear of Callum Ilott in second place.
  • Guanyu Zhou won his first FIA Formula 2 race last time out in Sochi, becoming the first Chinese driver to do so, after taking victory in the Sprint Race.
  • Zhou’s victory set a new record for the number of unique winners in an F2 campaign, becoming the 11th different race winner this season (2017 & 2018 = 10).
  • Théo Pourchaire is due to make his FIA Formula 2 debut this weekend with HWA RACELAB. The French driver is replacing Jake Hughes, who made his own F2 debut with the team last time out in Sochi.
  • Pourchaire is on course to become the youngest driver to take part in an FIA F2 race, at the age of 17 years, 3 months and 8 days on the day of the Feature Race. The previous youngest was Lando Norris in the 2017 season finale (18 years and 12 days).
  • 15 different drivers have stood on the podium so far this season, already matching the record of unique podium finishers in a season (2018).
  • Louis Delétraz and Jehan Daruvala are the only drivers to have completed every racing lap so far this season.