BERLIN: Mick Schumacher, the teenage son of the stricken Michael Schumacher, was crowned 2018 Formula Three European champion on Saturday to claim the first key title of his career, increasing the possibility of a future in Formula One.
With one race left this season, the 19-year-old Schumacher finished second in the day’s second race at Germany’s Hockenheim circuit to leave him with an unassailable lead in the drivers’ championship.
“It has not really sunk in yet,” Schumacher said.
“I’m delighted, the team has achieved so much throughout the year.”
Schumacher had been a picture of concentration in the final laps to hold second and secure the title, but punched the air after crossing the finish line.
“I was actually annoyed by a mistake I made earlier in the race,” he said with a grin.
Estonia’s Juri Vips took the chequered flag, but all the attention was on Schumacher, who dominated the second half of the F3 season after claiming five straight wins last month.
He hugged his team after finishing on the podium for the 13th time in 29 races this season.
Before Sunday’s final race, Schumacher had 347 points, 51 ahead of Britain’s Daniel Ticktum, who was second in the table and the only driver who could have caught the German.
Schumacher had finished 12th on Saturday morning after an early crash forced him into the pits, but made no such mistake in the day’s second race.
His first F3 title means Schumacher has qualified for a FIA ‘super licence’, a prerequisite for the jump to Formula One, and follows on from his father, who won the German F3 championships 28 years ago.
The presence of the German teenager with the famous name generated huge media interest in F3 this season.
After a mediocre start, things clicked in July, when he won at Spa in Belgium, to claim his first victory in the 15th of 30 races this season.
He then began a run of nine podium places of the next 12 races.
In September he racked up five straight wins, three on Germany’s Nuerburgring followed by the first two at Austria’s Spielberg circuit, to seize control of the drivers’ championship.
Born in March 1999, the year before his father won the first of five consecutive F1 world titles for Ferrari, Mick started his racing career in karting aged nine.
To avoid attention he raced as “Mick Betsch”, using his mother Corinna’s maiden name.
He was on the piste with his father in December 2013 when a accident in the French ski resort of Meribel left Michael Schumacher with serious head injuries.
The 49-year-old has not been seen in public since as he recovers from his injuries at the family home in Switzerland.
In 2014, Mick junior finished the karting season second overall in the German, European and world championships.
Finally racing under the family name, he stepped up to F4 racing in 2015.
Schumacher scored his maiden win at Oschersleben for the Van Amersfoort Racing team, but eventually finished tenth overall after only two podium places.
With the spotlight permanently on young Schumacher, he was fiercely guarded from reporters’ questions by Sabine Kehm, his father’s manager.
In 2016, Schumacher junior finished second in both the German and Italian F4 championships and last year when he stepped up to the F3 championships he was 12th with just one podium finish.
This season, he has been a revelation for Prema Theodore Racing, sparking speculation that he will race in Formula Two next season — or step straight up to F1.–AFP