Spare Mick Schumacher the crushing burden of expectations as he follows his father into F1

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Has any driver in the history of Formula 1 arrived in the sport with a surname which carries anything like the same weight of expectation as Mick Schumacher?

Bruno Senna can possibly relate, having followed in the footsteps of Ayrton between 2010 and 2012. But there are differences in degrees: Bruno was Ayrton’s nephew, not son, and for all his uncle’s indisputable greatness, Senna was not empirically the most successful Formula 1 driver ever.

Until two months ago, Michael Schumacher was the only driver in the sport’s history to have won 91 races. Until two weeks ago, he was the only driver in the sport’s history to have won seven world championships.

Lewis Hamilton may have proved at least his equal in terms of raw numbers, but this does little to diminish the potency of Schumacher’s legacy. And no one will feel that legacy more keenly than his 21-year-old son, who will follow his father into Formula 1 next year.

Mick Schumacher, Prema, Formula Three, Red Bull Ring, 2018
Schumacher won the 2018 F3 title with Prema
Undoubtedly, the association has brought with it privileges and opportunities which are not just unavailable to most people, but to anyone who isn’t a junior Schumacher. But it also brings with it a fearsome weight of expectation which will rise to new levels following today’s announcement of his grand prix debut in the 2021 F1 season.

At the obvious risk of adding to such judgements, what has Schumacher’s career to date told us about how he stacks up compared to his father?

Having followed much of his career up to this point, starting when he disguised the famous surname to shield himself from the inevitable media glare, the fairest word to sum up Mick Schumacher’s status as a future F1 talent is, to my mind: ‘credible’.

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This is not intended as damning with faint praise. There have been many drivers who I wasn’t convinced by in the junior categories who have exceeded my expectations since they arrived in F1.

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Spa-Francorchamps, 2004
Michael Schumacher broke a string of F1 records
But setting aside the implications of that surname, Mick Schumacher has not up to this point struck me as a blinding talent of the type that screams ‘give this kid an F1 car now’.

I remember being stunned by Charles Leclerc’s performance as a wildcard at a damp Nurburgring in the 2014 Formula Renault Eurocup. Max Verstappen’s masterpieces of controlled aggression in the European Formula 3 field the same year stuck in the mind in much the same way.

Schumacher has been more of a slow-burner. But the silverware is there. He won the European F3 championship in his second season. Oddly, he didn’t score his first win until halfway through the campaign. He went into that race 10th in the championship, 67 points behind leader Dan Ticktum, yet came out on top by 63 having been a serial winner in the second half of the year.

His F2 campaign this year has had similar traits. Eight races in he was ninth in the standings, yet he will go into the season finale this weekend with a 14-point lead over Callum Ilott.

Attempting to draw any comparison with his father’s career up to this point is futile because they raced in largely different series. Schumacher senior won the German Formula 3 crown 30 years ago, dovetailing his commitments with an apprenticeship at Mercedes’ sports car team, where he learned the fuel management techniques which served him so well in F1’s era of refuelling races. He continued with the three-pointed star into 1991, when he grabbed the chance to make his Formula 1 debut with Jordan.

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Besides being a seven-times world champion and winner of 91 races, Schumacher’s legacy was tainted by controversies, notably those title-deciding clashes in 1994 and 1997, and later ‘Rascassegate’. These were arguably foreshadowed by incidents before he reached F1: Parking his damaged car on-track to trigger a race stoppage at Le Mans in 1990, or his controversial clash with future championship rival Mika Hakkinen at Macau the same year. There are no obvious parallels in Mick Schumacher’s career to date.

Mick Schumacher, Benetton B194, Spa-Francorchamps, 2017
Driving his father’s Benetton in 2017
With all due respect to Haas, it’s hard to imagine Mick Schumacher will have the same opportunity to impress on his debut the way his father did. Michael Schumacher’s astonishing arrival, planting his nimble Jordan 191 seventh on the grid at Spa, seven-tenths of a second ahead of his highly experienced team mate Andrea de Cesaris, prompted an immediate scramble to put his name on a contract.

F1’s newest Schumacher is unlikely to find his Haas is that competitive next year. And the guy on the other side of the garage is also an unknown quantity.

Last weekend Haas were the slowest team on track for the fifth time this year. The VF-20 has had next to no development, its successor will be a reworked version of the same chassis, and will also want for upgrades as the team turns its attention to the new 2022 regulations.

Schumacher’s immediate benchmark will be fellow rookie Nikita Mazepin. Barring a surprise in this weekend’s F2 title fight, Mazepin will arrive in F1 without a junior title to his name, but like Schumacher has had opportunities to test F1 machinery.

The first objective for Schumacher – and, indeed, for Mazepin – is to put clear daylight between him and the guy in the other car. Points may only be on offer infrequently next year, so to make a case for his promotion Schumacher needs to do to his team mate what George Russell has been doing to his. And, indeed, what Michael Schumacher regularly did to the likes of Eddie Irvine and Rubens Barrichello.

Arguably, his father’s reputation is so great that benchmarking Mick against it is so obviously unrealistic that it doesn’t matter. Long-term followers of the sport with a realistic perspective will surely take this view; millions of casual fans may simply be expecting a ‘Schumacher II’.

But none can doubt the emotional dimension to Mick Schumacher’s arrival in F1. He was only 14 years old when his father suffered brain injuries in a skiing crash at the end of 2013, since when he has been out of the public eye, the details of his condition a closely guarded secret.

Mick Schumacher has spent all of his life in the reflected glory of his famous father, but lived a third of it since that terrible day seven years ago. Notwithstanding this, he has used both his talent and the unique opportunities available to him to make a convincing case for his own promotion into F1. Next year we will begin to learn how much further he can go.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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48 comments on “Spare Mick Schumacher the crushing burden of expectations as he follows his father into F1”

  1. Happy for Mick,

    Saw him in India years ago when he was racing in the MRF series in Chennai.

    I really hope he stays a bit (2years) in the lower/mid field before hoping in to the bigger teams, it seems like he takes time to learn and adapt but surely he is getting there !

  2. Mick has raced better than Callum in the F2 season. It’s the qualifying where Callum has pocketed 20 points which has been the difference.

  3. In some ways the Haas drive will suit Mick well. If he follows the pattern of needing a year (or slightly longer) to acclimatise to a new series, he will be spending at least the first season in a car that no one expects to be very competitive. The odd Q2 appearance and maybe a fortunate point or two should be enough to cement his place in F1.

    Then, whether he stays with Haas or moves elsewhere for the new regulations in 2022, he should have enough experience in F1 to start properly performing. That is when the burden of expectation might start to weigh heavier.

    1. Good point @red-andy, and matches this article well too. I agree that he is a credible F1 rookie, but also think that the expectation will have to be for him to need some time (but, look at Leclerc’s first half of his rookie season – took a bit of time there too, nothing bad about that, right?), and it is good he seems to be getting that. If he follows it with something like this season, it’s going to be interesting.

    2. I would imagine an Alfa seat or two will likely become available in the near future (2022?). GIO has done nothing there but keep a seat warm for new Ferrari talent. Kimi may stay longer just to help develop the 2022 car and those beyond. But I think there will be an open seat there soon.

      Beyond that, is Sainz a stopgap until a Ferrari Academy driver is ready or is he a long-term commitment? We’ll see.

  4. Jose Lopes da Silva
    2nd December 2020, 11:25

    The pressure is on to clearly beat Mazepin, please.

  5. Schumacher ver.1 made Verstappen ver.1 look pretty second rate. It will be interesting in the fullness of time to see whether history repeats itself or whether Verstappen ver.2 turns the tables and evens the score.

    1. Not really. if you knew the situation at that time . The cars were widely different and like his Ferrari years later the contract prohibited the “other driver” to dominate.

      1. Just remind us when “the other driver” showed any potential to dominate Michael please?

        1. Also, is Hamilton’s car different to Bottas’?

      2. Really? I don’t think either during their time together at Benetton or taken across their careers as a whole that one stands up to much scrutiny.

        Max may be something a bit special, but I think the kindest description you could apply to Jos would be ‘journeyman’.

      3. Jonathan Edwards
        2nd December 2020, 20:01

        Nonsense. Do you honestly think Schumacher would have had anywhere near enough clout to demand preferential treatment over his teammates in his third full season? Do you honestly believe Benetton, hardly a powerhouse team at the time, would sacrifice potential pace for the other driver just to make Schumacher look better?

        If so, consider that Benetton carried out a test in 1994, with Schumacher driving the other car just to see if there was an issue. His pace was the same in both cars. Whether by talent differential or chassis/driver suitability, Schumacher was simply better than his Benetton teammates.

      4. The cars were widely different, just like they are now at Red Bull you mean?

  6. Don’t put a burden of expectation on him, you say…

    Russell’s big opportunity is a clear threat to Bottas, you say…

    Why put a burden of expectation on Russell then? It’s a bit unfair to write he is a threat to Bottas I would say

    1. I think the article is saying don’t expect Mick to perform at the level of his father. He’s a good racer with good results in European F3 and F2 but I suspect his performance will be more similar to Lando Norris than Lewis Hamilton.

      I don’t know how many people actually expect George to outperform Valteri on his first race in the W11, but out-qualifying his team mate every race in F1 up to now does bode well for his comparative performance. We know he’s good but this it’s hard to tell how much so as he battles for P17 most of the time.

    2. These comparisons are not the same.

      Mick will almost certainly be compared to his father, who until recently still owned most of the F1 records. He will be in a $%&# team, with no real chance to excel, but still carrying the weight of his last name. If he destroys his teammate, great, but being 17th on the grid doesn’t really do much for you.

      George Russell, has no such weight. He has zero to lose. If he gets in the Merc and Bottas beats him–that is expected. Bottas has more life experience, F1 experience, and Merc car experience, so no loss to Russell. If Russell performs well, his stock rises. On top of which, Russell has basically 2yrs of F1 under his belt and is being gifted a drive in the best car. Win-win.

      These are the opportunities that drivers need to do well in when they happen, because they don’t always happen (see: Hulkenburg). And, in two years, if Mick gets a chance in a top-level car, he will surely get more pressure, and rightfully so.

      1. I don’t think I agree. I do agree that people will take note of whatever Mick does. But it kind of is that way his whole life. It will be more of the same for him I suppose.

        Russel was in the exact situation you described for Mick. He now gets his break. He will be hell bent on showing everyone his talent is wasted at the back of the field. This is his moment to shine. And by shine, I mean not *** up as well. He wasn’t exactly flawless and he will try to do his best to undo that image.

        I’d suspect the pressure to be as high as it can get for both of them

      2. Well, most drivers start in a bad team usually, MSC started in jordan, which wasn’t that great, but after 1 race he was already bought out by benetton which was better.

        True that MSC never had as bad car as the haas is now, but things can change quickly if you’re good.

  7. Forget about Hill and Villeneuve Jr, this young man has the most famous name in motorsport, he will face huge media pressure. That’s the reason why he took his mother’s name to compete in go-karts.

    …and his dad not there to tell him «everything gonna be alright kid»

    1. @jeff1s No need to forget about the history of F1. This needn’t be part of the competition. I can speak moreso for JV than for DH, but do keep in mind JV lost his Dad when he was only 8 and it was in an F1 car. The Schumacher name didn’t exist in racing at the time JV decided he too wanted to race. JV did much of his early youth racing in Japan, in part to be away from the European media. You see JV was hounded by them anyway, was expected to win because of his name, and he has said of that that it is what made him learn to handle pressure at a young age as well as to be his own man, for who could ever fill the shoes of GIlles anyway.

      I do take the point of the article and it is correct to not heap too many expectations on MS, but I think that will be inevitable anyway.

      1. You are truly right about Jacques ans Damon. Mick is tragically in the kind of same context as them, but medias are everywhere now.
        And F1 actually is on a media-high with Hamilton 7th title, Grosjean’ accident and the return of the Schumacher name at the same time.

  8. Yes, Schumacher has a big name and Mazepin has a huge piggy bank but they are both pretty handy drivers. Not quite in the Leclerc or Verstappen bracket but not far short either. And maybe there were other drivers like Ilott or Shwartzman who also performed well but there were only 2 seats available and it was clear that finances would be high on the agenda. If they can do a double act like Norris and Sainz and work as a team, it could work wonders for Haas. And that would be a good thing.

    1. While that sounds nice, but who can make their car better? I don’t think it will be 2 new guys.
      I’d think that is a worry for them

      1. The huge amount of money Mazepin brings with him might help Haas develop the car more. Remember, his father was trying to buy Force India before Stroll got it, and Haas, as told in the drive to survive series, have the smallest budget and team in F1 right now.

        I hope this is the case and I hope Schumi Jr can go on to be a great driver, he seems to be consistently quick as opposed to blisteringly fast but erratic, and whilst that style may not catch the eye as much, being able to pick up points on a consistent basis never hurt Perez or similar in their careers

      2. Maybe, although its not exactly been a rip-roaring success with two experienced drivers so far. Haas have nothing to lose really and much to gain. McLaren haven’t done too bad with a rookie and a young driver.

        1. I agree. Despite reading the Romain gave excellent feedback relative pace of the car still declined. I don’t know all the politics involved (Ferrari, Mazepin cheque) of course. But sporting wise I believe they would be better of with a Perez or Hulk besides a new guy. Maybe they tried to sign either of them and failed. Maybe the money and Ferrari just had a bigger say.

      3. Oh, definitely Mazepin’s Russian moolah ;)

  9. Jonathan Parkin
    2nd December 2020, 12:54

    He’ll be able to exceed his father and his uncle in one respect. Neither finished their first GP, Michael because of clutch failure and Ralf because he spun out

    1. This is the only mention of the other Schumacher on this page so far.

      What a load of cobblers.
      (Bilingual pun, apologies)

  10. The way I see it, if part of the reason Mick’s made it into F1 is his last name (which, let’s not kid ourselves here, it is) then why shouldn’t we burden him with the appropriate expectations?
    Privilege goes both ways.

    I don’t expect him to make miracles out of the Haas but at the very least, getting ahead of Mazepin consistently, if not conclusively, should be the first order of business.
    Mazepin’s quicker than most people are giving him credit for, though, and he’s not the kind of journeyman Latifi is so I honestly don’t think we’d be seeing any kind of Russell-like drubbing next year.

  11. if he is as disciplined as his father, he will do OK in F1.

  12. I can’t imagine a more gentle, low-pressure entry into F1 than as a teammate to a pay driver in a backmarker team.

  13. Such a shame his father is not there to coach him, as that would probably have taken him quite far.

    Still, I think we can all separate the father and son, so no extra expectation from me.

  14. Maybe the legacy of Micks old man will keep the pipeline open to Ferrari for better bits for the Haas, so it can challenge and unseat itself from bottom of barrel teams.

  15. Totally agree that he should be judged on his own merit. But that probably probably has to start with the media not making every article about him into a biography about his father, as you have done here:

    1. +1

      The media want the hype of the name but not the expectation that rests with it?

  16. Totally agree that he should be judged on his own merit. But that probably probably has to start with the media not making every article about him into a biography about his father, as you have done here:

  17. Why it happens is probably a bit nuanced, but F1 does love a family name. Piquet, Hill, Villeneuve, Rosberg, Fittipaldi, Schumacher, Palmer, Andretti, Brabham, Magnussen, Verstappen, that’s just off the top of my head. The second generation is often overshadowed by the previous (Max and perhaps Nico being the exceptions I can think of from that list).

  18. To be honest I really hope he has more pace than his father. Michael Schumacher is by far the most overrated driver in the history of the sport. Hardly midfield-material without massive car advantage. Mick should do better and if not then bye-bye.

    1. Are you high?

    2. I truly don’t understand why Kieth allows posters with the IQ of a sack of potatoes to post on this site.

      1. Look I love the challenge of a good difference of opinion as you may know. But in this case the Schumacher comments hit below the belt and are just not true. Actually below my own standards. You had a laugh and now we think less of you. Your opinions and comments are welcome here, but you gotta step it up if you don’t want us all to think you just a goof ball.

    3. Michael Schumacher is the greatest driver that has ever lived if mick is half as good as his dad he will be fine

  19. Good Luck Mick! Wish you had better tools to work with.

  20. It will be hard not to compare . All drivers and team-mates are compaired .
    Now look at the article 5 before this and the talk about why he picked #47. So he isn’t helping the comparisons not happen.
    I am sure he is a great driver . but that name / the marketing potential AND comparisons are going to be there.

  21. To me Mick isn’t a truly dominate driver and doesn’t seem flashy but he just seems to get the job done quietly. Winning the F2 championship will definitely take some pressure off his shoulders coming into F1 and I think he’ll be what he is in F2. Solid driver, if he get any in a good car someday maybe some wins and who knows, maybe a championship. It will be fun to watch though and we should all be happy we have a Schumacher back in F1.

  22. Leave Him Alone.
    Let him do his thing.
    He must win.
    He must improve the Haas program
    He must survive the Media.
    So Leave him Alone.
    He will find his own success.
    He will win championships
    All he needs to do, is be left alone.
    But it won’t happen like that.
    Imagine the pressure
    Imagine if he is just OK not Star bound.
    Imagine if the media could just be silent.
    Imagine his success could become worth the effort
    Imagine the first victory and the miracle of that knowledge somehow awakens his Father
    Imagine the smiles we all might share then.
    So leave him alone to find out where his journey will take him.
    This pressure at this level breaks many.
    I am most excited for the second victory
    That tells us a very different story

  23. Somehow I feel the Bruno Senna comparison is more apt than people seem to think.

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