How Schumacher earned F3 breakthrough with Nurburgring hat-trick

Mick Schumacher's first win in the Formula 3 European championship at Spa invited inevitable comparisons to his father, but his Nurburgring dominance was the "most complete weekend" of his career

How Schumacher earned F3 breakthrough with Nurburgring hat-trick

Three victories and two pole positions were enough to vault the Prema Powerteam driver into title contention and he now lies just three points behind leader Dan Ticktum with just two rounds to go.

Ticktum was no slouch at the Nurburgring, as a brace of third places and a fourth shows, but he reckoned that Prema had found "something" to gain an edge.

There was merit to the Red Bull junior's words, as he was surrounded in a sea of Prema-run cars. His nemesis, Robert Schwartzman, finished ahead of him in all three races, but Ticktum kept title rivals Marcus Armstrong, Ralf Aron and Juri Vips behind him.

That close-fought battle demonstrates qualifying's importance in F3, and Schumacher's trio of front-row starts was the platform for his Nurburgring success - an area where he had been a weak earlier this year.

Prior to Spa, his one-and-a-bit season of Euro F3 had yielded an average starting position of 12.5, with just one start inside the top three in 2017.

"He's [now] doing the job we expected last year," Prema boss Rene Roisin explains to Autosport. "And last year we saw some spots of performance, some dips.

"Mainly the problem was in qualifying, where 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. It's normal in a category that is so very competitive."

Schumacher's early career also followed a pattern of improving significantly in a second season. From his two years in ADAC Formula 4, he was 10th in the standings in his first campaign, but was the runner-up in the 2016 championship with four poles and five wins.

That's no bad thing, despite the swift rise of drivers such as Max Verstappen jumping to F1 from Euro F3 in recent years.

"For sure, there are drivers who can do it in the first year and some who take two - it's normal," adds Roisin. "You must remember that until the last few years ago, drivers were doing several years in F3, not just one or two."

Schumacher was coy on his breakthrough since Spa, telling Autosport: "We've managed to get everything together. The win and the pole at Spa really helped.

"I guess we are pushing, even more. I've managed to be consistent and build an advantage in terms of how to arrive at a race weekend and really be 100% prepared wherever we are.

"I have two more race tracks coming that I really like - Red Bull Ring and Hockenheim. I'm looking forward to that."

Schumacher now has more wins than any other driver in the championship this year, and his hat-trick was the first since Lance Stroll in his 2016 title-winning campaign.

"This weekend was the best of my career in motor racing to date," adds Schumacher.

"In the drivers' standings, I am now closely behind Ticktum, but I am not looking at the standings in the championship too much. Now, I am focussing on the two final race weekends."

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