Chennai: Mick Schumacher, son of legendary driver and seven-time Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher, will race for the first time in India when the 16-year-old debuts in the final round of the MRF Challenge at the Madras Motor Race Track (MMRT) here this weekend.
After three thrilling rounds in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Dubai, the FIA-inscribed series will crown its fourth champion with four remaining races and all to play for. The 14-race championship, which is being led by Pietro Fittipaldi — grandson of two-time F1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi — will see prize money of Rs.64 lakh being handed to the winner.
Mick will race outside Europe for the first time when he steps into the MRF F2000 car. He will be joined by Harrison Newey, son of leading F1 designer Adrian Newey, and Giuliano Alesi, son of former Ferrari F1 driver Jean Alesi. Karting star Max Fewtrell and Enzo Bortoleto, both 16, will also be the young guns to look out for.
Mick’s father is still critically ill after suffering a serious head injury in December 2013 while skiing in France. He was placed in a medically induced coma initially after which he was relocated from the hospital to his home where he continues to receive medical treatment.
India will be led by local boy Tarun Reddy, who has had only one podium this season. Also returning will be Laura Tillett, Dylan Young, who has a podium finish here, and female driver Tatiana Calderon.
Fittipaldi leads the championship with 168 points with Calderon second (150). Nikita Troitckii, who was disqualified in the final race of the last round, is a further 13 points behind on 137. Four-time race winner this season Alessio Picariello is on 134 points and will be one to watch for after he finished on the podium in five of the last six races.
“Coming back to race in front of the home crowd is always an exciting feeling for us. The drivers really enjoy coming here and it is the ideal venue for the title showdown,” MRF Tyres managing director Arun Mammen said on Wednesday.
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“If you look at the names associated with the MRF Challenge it is clear that we are doing the right things and garnering the deserved recognition. I wish all the drivers the best of luck in what has already been a highly successful season.”
January 30 and 31 will also see Round 1 of the MRF F1600 Championship. The winner of the series will get a full season in the MRF Challenge and in addition will be sent for the Mazda Road to Indy shootout, the winner of which will receive a scholarship of $200,000.
Reigning champion Karthik Tharani Singh is the running favourite after being unbeaten in the last two years in MRF FF1600 and Volkswagen Vento Cup. Runners-up last year, Goutham Parekh and Arjun Narendran will also return for another shot at the title.
Vento Cup winner Anindith Reddy will join the grid along with former MRF F1600 race winner Lee Keshav. Tejas Ram, Sudharshan Rao, Abhinay Bikkani and Akshay Gupta will be looking to upset the favourites.