(Reuters) – An ‘overwhelmed’ Mick Schumacher graduated to Formula One as the 2020 Formula Two champion on Sunday despite failing to score in his last race before joining the U.S.-owned Haas F1 team.
The 21-year-old son of seven-time world champion and Ferrari great Michael was 18th in a sprint race won by Indian driver Jehan Daruvala while his sole title rival, Callum Ilott, finished 10th with only the top eight scoring.
Schumacher signed off with 215 points, 14 clear of Briton Ilott, with Japan’s Yuki Tsunoda, now expected to move up to Formula One with Red Bull’s Honda-powered AlphaTauri team, a further point behind.
Tyre damage forced the German to pit after 15 laps, sending him to the back of the field.
“It would feel or sound a lot better if I had a good race today,” Schumacher said of the title, achieved with two wins and no poles but plenty of consistency. “Nevertheless, we did enough.
“To be honest, I’m a bit overwhelmed,” he added. “I don’t really understand or feel like a champion yet. It’s going to take a few days maybe.
“We pitted, we didn’t manage to get back to the front but nevertheless we are champions now today, and that’s what people will remember. They will forget this race today and only see the good times of this year, and I will too.”
Michael Schumacher retired in 2012 after a three-season comeback with Mercedes and has not been seen in public since suffering severe head injuries in a skiing accident in the French Alps in 2013.
Mick was European F3 champion in 2018 and joins Charles Leclerc and George Russell, now with Ferrari and Williams respectively, as recent F2 champions who have stepped up to F1. The series was previously known as GP2.
A Ferrari Academy driver, Schumacher was announced by Ferrari-powered Haas last Wednesday as one of their 2021 race drivers along with Russian Nikita Mazepin.
He will bring a sizeable support with him to Formula One as son of one of the greatest drivers of all time.
The German already has 1.3 million followers on Instagram, and more than 180,000 on Twitter and can count on strong commercial backing.
According to Nielsen Sports, a majority of Schumacher’s fanbase is Italian with Germany accounting for only 10% of that following.
“Bringing in Mick Schumacher will increase Haas’ global commercial viability,” said Nielsen Sports’ senior vice-president of global motorsports Nigel Geach.
“We expect sponsorship appetite to be substantial. There is a real incentive for his father’s old sponsors to be involved, as well as interest from new parties.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Hugh Lawson)