Mick Schumacher clinches F2 title despite tricky race; now heads to F1

Schumacher clinched F2 championship
Joe Portlock/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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Mick Schumacher clinched the F2 championship in the final race of the season at Bahrain’s Sakhir circuit and now sets his sight on Formula 1, where he will debut in 2021 for Haas Racing.

It was supposed to be easy as Schumacher entered the race with a sizeable gap over the second-place driver in the points.

But it almost didn’t happen.

Coming off the line in the Sakhir Sprint Race, Schumacher made a bold move to pass Dan Ticktum and Jehan Daruvala in Turn 1. He was denied the position and heading into the second corner disaster nearly struck. Schumacher was forced to lock up his brakes. Under heavy braking, he nearly ran into the back of Ticktum.

Schumacher’s challenger for the championship, Callum Ilott launched off the grid fourth and watched the drama unfold before him.

After an early virtual safety car, Schumacher locked up his tires on another couple of occasions. The rubber could no longer stand up to the strain.

BAHRAIN – DECEMBER 05: Mick Schumacher also locked up his wheels under heavy braking during the Round 12 Sakhir Feature Race of the Formula 2 Championship. (Photo by Dan Istitene – Formula 1/Getty Images)

Schumacher was forced to pit for tires, reentering the race in 20th. Ilott needed a second-place finish and a fastest lap to catch Schumacher in the points.

But Illott’s determination was also too much for his tires and after a spirited battle near the front of the pack he began to fade with 10 laps remaining. Illott landed landed 10th in the final rundown. Schumacher clawed his way back to 18th.

After the race, Schumacher knelt beside his Prema with head in hands.

He survived the early-race drama with a 14-point advantage over Ilott to clinch the 2020 F2 championship 215 to 201. Illott narrowly clung to second in the championship by one point over the feature race winner Yuki Tsunoda.

“I have no words,” he said after the race. “Truly amazing.

“I feel overwhelmed. It’s going to take a few days maybe (to sink in).”

The battle at the front of the field was settled in Daruvala’s favor. He passed Ticktum for the lead and built a 3.5-second gap over Tsunoda, who was able to nip Ticktum by .34 seconds.

Daruvala became the 12th different winner in F2 competition in 2020.

“It feels really good to win the last race of the season and finish on a high,” Daruvala said afterward. “It was a great battle out there with Dan, which got close at times, but we respected each other and raced well. The car was really good and I couldn’t have asked for a better finish.”

 

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.