Schumacher closing on F2 title and F1 debut: Bahrain GP talking points

2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

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The Formula 1 titles have been decided but with three grand prix weekends left to go, there’s plenty still to race for.

Mick Schumacher’s Haas future

Haas’s driver announcements have tended to coincide with race weekends. The departures of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen have already been confirmed, and details are expected soon on who will replace them.

Mick Schumacher is a clear favourite. He has a handy lead in the Formula 2 championship and Haas announced last week he will appear for them in the post-season young drivers test.

Ferrari has previously indicated they will confirm which of their juniors will progress into F1 before the F2 season ends, now just 10 days away. Sparing Schumacher the disruption of having that on his plate during next week’s potentially championship-deciding round would be a smart move. That said, there’s a fair chance Schumacher could get that job done with one double-header event to spare.

He may not be the only F2 driver stepping up to the top flight next year. Yuki Tsunoda and Nikita Mazepin are tipped to make their debuts, with AlphaTauri and Haas respectively.

Tsunoda is being prepared for an F1 debut
Both need to ensure they have sufficient superlicence points. Mazepin should be eligible already, due to the more lenient approach the FIA are taking this year due to pandemic-related disruption.

Tsunoda, currently third in the standings, will get the job done so long as nothing disastrous happens to him over the next two rounds. But it is perhaps more important is that he impresses on-track, especially if any of the current Red Bull or AlphaTauri drivers have a poor result. While F1 begins the first of three ‘dead rubbers’, F2 may be where the action is this weekend.

The return of grip?

Sakhir is normally a slippery circuit, compared to the rest of the season, due to the large amount of sand that makes its way onto the track from the surrounding desert.

However it’s seen more running than usual recently. WEC held their finale there just a few weeks ago, putting down a lot of rubber. Plus, unlike at Istanbul, F1 will have support races this weekend. Formula 2 and a regional Porsche series will both be running, giving a chance to clear the racing line before the top cars hit the track.

Following an extremely slippery weekend in Turkey, Bahrain could turn out to be one of the grippiest tracks we’ve had to run on this year, flipping the form book as a result.

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Ferrari’s true form

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019
Leclerc earned a win last year, but didn’t get one
Ferrari had a good result at Istanbul Park, despite Charles Leclerc late-race error costing him a podium finish. However, the Turkish Grand Prix was a very shaken-up race with cars running well below full speed all weekend due to the very low grip surface and wet conditions.

The Scuderia have completed their upgrade plan for 2020, so Bahrain will show whether that’s made a significant difference. Leclerc very nearly took his first win here last season and they looked faster than the Mercedes all weekend. While that won’t be the case this weekend, it points to the circuit potentially suiting them better.

However both Sakhir layouts will have high power demands, which generally hasn’t suited this year’s Ferrari.

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Team mate battles

Sainz edged past McLaren team mate Norris
For a lot of teams this season, there’s been a clear driver in the lead in terms of points – notably at Red Bull, Ferrari and AlphaTauri.

However some team mates are very close as we go into the final rounds. In a tricky year for Alfa Romeo, Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen are neck-and-neck on four points each, with Raikkonen ahead on finishing position but Giovinazzi having passed the chequered flag in the top 10 more times.

Closer to the top, Carlos Sainz Jnr has finally passed Lando Norris in the points, but only just. Sainz is on 75 points, Norris 74. Although both will be focussed on McLaren’s tight battle for position in the constructors’ title, neither will want to lose the intra-team one either.

Three- or four-way fight for third?

Racing Point’s Istanbul haul could have been bigger
It’s almost repetitive at this point to say that this is a very competitive F1 season in the midfield. But that’s definitely something to relish, particularly with the titles already won. Racing Point, McLaren and Renault remain locked in a three-way fight for third place in the constructors championship and Bahrain could be a key race in deciding that.

With the outer Sakhir circuit an as-yet unknown quantity and Abu Dhabi often difficult to overtake on, Bahrain could be the moment when clever strategy will let one of the three get a major lead. The points spread widened in Turkey (prior to which just one point separated all three) but they’re close enough to each other that a good weekend could tip things either way.

Racing Point have the lead on 154 points, followed by McLaren on 149 and Renault trailing a bit on 136. Their biggest differences, over race weekends, have been qualifying pace. But Bahrain usually offers opportunities to address that with racecraft, so we could see some bold calls, especially on tyre wear – recall Sergio Perez’s superb run at Imola before a costly Safety Car pit stop.

Nor can Ferrari necessarily be ruled out of the contest following their surprise result at the last round. However it’s doubtful the red team can expect to be contenders on pure pace alone.

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2020 so far

Will Lewis Hamilton continue his winning ways in Bahrain? Have your say below.

And don’t forget to enter your predictions for this weekend’s race. You can edit your predictions until the start of qualifying:

2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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5 comments on “Schumacher closing on F2 title and F1 debut: Bahrain GP talking points”

  1. It’s Racing point thing to loose the 3rd championship position, they have the car to do that but am sceptical about stroll living upto to the expectations, racing point has a good car but gonna loose the 3rd because of stroll. I think McLaren gonna take third for their consistency, and renault is too inconsistent and their car is weak in high downforce tracks, with Ferrari it’s gonna be difficult as they have to come from the back even if Leclerc scores a podium you need the other three teams not to score that’s not gonna happen. And I don’t think Vettel can perform agin well.

    1. @Raveen Mclaren has the advantage on the driver side against the other three, but I still expect RP to keep third until the end. Yes, they’ve had to rely on Perez quite a lot since Mugello, but the last race showed a sign of things going in the right direction for Stroll until the tyre problems dropped him to 9th. The results will come for him as long as he keeps the level of performance from Turkey until that point.

  2. The main problem with stroll is that he’s pretty hard on his tyres, so as you said if stroll finds his pre mugello form then racing point will definitely keep 3rd. The thing is they racing point is finding it difficult to keep both drivers firing at the same time. I hope that for racing points sake stroll does well next race.

  3. It’s a long shot but I really hope Checo finishes the season in 4th while RP drop as low as possible.

  4. Kimi and GIO “neck and neck”??
    On points yes, but last time I looked, Kimi was 8 – 6 in quali, and 10 – 4 on race day.

    Maybe the suggestion implied here is that GIO has a long long neck.

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