Schu­macher un­beat­able to put ti­tle pres­sure on

Autosport (UK) - - WORLD OF SPORT - TOM ER­RING­TON

EURO­PEAN FOR­MULA 3 NUR­BUR­GRING (D) SEPTEM­BER 8-9 ROUND 8/10

Schu­macher dom­i­na­tion in a red car at the Nur­bur­gring in­vites all sorts of analo­gies be­tween Michael Schu­macher and his son Mick. But that would do a dis­ser­vice to Schu­macher Jr in what was by far and away his most im­pres­sive week­end in car rac­ing.

His first For­mula 3 Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship win at Spa in July in­vited all the me­dia at­ten­tion, com­ing as it did on a cir­cuit syn­ony­mous with his fa­ther, but that was merely the first step in a break­through year. At the Nur­bur­gring, he be­came the first in the se­ries to clean-sweep all three vic­to­ries on a week­end since Lance Stroll in 2016, and it’s clear that he is now earn­ing the re­wards of a fruit­ful pre-sea­son.

Schu­macher’s first F3 sea­son last year had mo­ments of prom­ise, hid­den in the mael­strom of the mid­field, but the Prema Pow­erteam squad worked tire­lessly over the win­ter to en­sure that his big­gest weak­ness in qual­i­fy­ing would be rec­ti­fied. “There are driv­ers who can do it in the first year and some who take two,” ex­plained Prema boss Rene Rosin. “It’s nor­mal. I was ex­pect­ing these sorts of re­sults from a driver like Mick since the be­gin­ning so I’m not sur­prised.

“Mainly the prob­lem was qual­i­fy­ing – he was not able to achieve a very good lap time, which is so im­por­tant in For­mula 3 be­cause over­tak­ing is quite dif­fi­cult. But we worked on that in win­ter test­ing and now he’s earn­ing the re­sults.”

Rosin’s words played true in all three races. Schu­macher locked out pole for races two and three ahead of rookie Robert Shwartz­man – who had earned race one’s pole – and points leader Dan Tick­tum.

Schu­macher not only dom­i­nated, but he was op­por­tunis­tic at the one mo­ment where vic­tory looked slightly more un­likely. In the opener, Shwartz­man’s pole counted for lit­tle when a new clutch led to a stall in his mock at­tempt and wheel­spin at the get­away proper.

That meant Schu­macher seized the lead into Turn 1, but he could not pull a gap. Not to be de­terred, he was able to keep an edge of around a sec­ond as Shwartz­man was reeled in by the quicker Tick­tum, who con­sid­ered sev­eral moves late on.

It was deja vu in the sec­ond race as the top three fin­ished in the same spots once again, but this time Schu­macher had drawn a more de­ci­sive gap from pole. Two safety-car restarts forced Schu­macher back to the pack, but he left no chinks in his ar­mour to Shwartz­man and Tick­tum.

Schu­macher was thrown an­other chal­lenge in the fi­nale by team-mate Shwartz­man turn­ing the ta­bles at the race start. His su­pe­rior launch forced Schu­macher into dart­ing across the in­side line at Turn 1 as Shwartz­man chal­lenged for the lead. But while the Rus­sian was once again left in the slip­stream of Schu­macher, he could cel­e­brate his best week­end yet in F3.

Schu­macher’s dom­i­nance put the pres­sure back on se­ries leader Tick­tum, who en­tered the week­end 12 points clear of Juri Vips, but is now just three in front of Schu­macher, who ac­knowl­edged “this week­end was the best of my ca­reer in mo­tor rac­ing to date”.

Mo­topark driver Tick­tum, who be­lieved Prema had found “some­thing” at the

Nur­bur­gring, felt that con­stant F1 spec­u­la­tion putting pres­sure on him to se­cure su­per­li­cence points for a ti­tle win was start­ing to “im­pact” his ti­tle chal­lenge. “When I had all the F1 ru­mours, all I was think­ing about was that I needed to win the ti­tle for the [su­per­li­cence] points,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it was hurt­ing me but there were a cou­ple of sit­u­a­tions that I prob­a­bly would have done dif­fer­ently if I wasn’t think­ing about it. Very quickly with my coach we de­cided to fo­cus on the cham­pi­onship less, and more race by race.”

He proved his point in the first race with a ballsy over­take of Ralf Aron around the out­side of Turn 1, keep­ing calm when his ri­val pushed him onto the kerb and keep­ing his foot in to move into third and onto the rear of Shwartz­man. His back-to-back third places were fol­lowed by a slip to fourth in the fi­nale af­ter los­ing out to Alex Palou in the open­ing se­quence of cor­ners.

That slip-up looked mi­nor com­pared to the down-on-his-luck Vips, an in­no­cent by­s­tander in the opener’s first-lap, first­corner melee when Je­han Daru­vala started a domino ef­fect that led to Vips be­ing punted out. He was again caught up in some­one else’s ac­ci­dent in race two when Enaam Ahmed turned the Es­to­nian around. An­other ti­tle con­tender out of luck was Mar­cus Arm­strong, who lost much of free prac­tice to en­gine prob­lems, and took a 10-place grid penalty for a new pow­er­plant.

That meant that the cham­pi­onship is now tan­ta­lis­ingly look­ing like a Schu­macher-ver­sus-tick­tum fight.

Schu­macher was the master of all three races

Tick­tum passes Aron on his way to third place in open­ing race

Shwartz­man took a pole, two front-rows and three sec­onds

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.