Mick Schumacher, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023 pre-season test

Why the driver who was “burned” by 2022 exit has few options for an F1 return

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Mick Schumacher endured a tough second year in Formula 1 in 2022, which undermined the foundations of a promising career in the sport.

The son of the seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher found out just how cut-throat F1 can be and his hopes of emulating his father’s long career in the top flight were dashed. The team which brought him into F1 two years earlier dropped him for a 35-year-old who had not raced full-time since 2019.

At the time, few questioned the decision of Haas team principal Guenther Steiner. Schumacher had struggle throughout the season, committing a series of clumsy mistakes which cost Haas a lot in damages. Nico Hulkenberg brought the promise of experience and the team chose him over Schumacher.

The confirmation of Schumacher’s departure came late in the year and despite his pedigree as a Formula 2 and Formula 3 champion, and the help of a famous surname, his hopes of finding a race seat at another team for 2023 were slim.

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Did Haas give up too soon on Schumacher? The writing appeared to be on the wall for him after his second big crash of the 2022 season in Monaco. A clearly unimpressed Steiner all-but said his time was up afterwards. “It’s not very satisfactory having a big crash again,” he fumed. “We need to see how we move forward from here.”

At first, Schumacher bounced back in style. Denied a strong result when his car broke down in Canada, he scored his first points soon after at the British Grand Prix. He followed that up with a season-best of sixth at the Austrian Grand Prix a week later.

But Haas found points harder to come by in the second half of the season. Schumacher picked up no more from then on, though team mate Kevin Magnussen only took three over the same period.

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He was thrown a lifeline by Mercedes – the last team his father raced for before he retired at the end of 2012 – who signed the 24-year-old as their test and reserve driver for 2023. The team said he would “play an important role in the ongoing development of the W14” and “conduct regular work in the simulator at Brackley throughout the year” as well as attending races.

Mick Schumacher, Mercedes, Pirelli tyre test, Circuit de Catalunya, 2023
Schumacher has tested the W14
Without Mercedes, there was little interest from others in getting Schumacher back into an F1 car. Although other drivers have successfully returned to racing after being reserves, as things stand it’s hard to see where Schumacher might slot in.

Schumacher has made public appearances alongside Lewis Hamilton and George Russell and the two racers credited him for his contribution after their double podium finish in Spain. The team are not allowing his name to fade from view, and that visibility could be vital to landing his next opportunity and the chance to return to racing which he craves.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff described what they are doing to help him find a way back onto the grid. However he admitted the team can’t lean on any of its rivals to take a driver – something Wolff resisted in his role at Williams before he joined Mercedes.

“Wherever I can speak highly of Mick, that’s what I’m doing,” said Wolff. “In the end, it’s every team’s authority to decide on the drivers and I very much respect that our contracts with the teams were never ‘you have to take our junior driver’ or ‘you have to take our reserve driver’, because when I was at Williams, I wanted to have my own choice.”

However Wolff made it clear he believes Schumacher was hard done by in his departure from Haas and is firm in his conviction that he deserves a race seat.

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“I think teams are missing out, to be honest,” he said. “I think he was burned last year.

Mick Schumacher, Toto Wolff, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023 pre-season test
Schumacher was “burned” by his 2022 experience, says Wolff
“You need to provide an environment and framework that is different to every driver, we are different human beings and I believe whoever gets him will have a very good pilot.”

But Wolff hasn’t been able to convince other teams that is the case. Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko described how they were not convinced by Wolff’s overtures about the driver. According to Marko, Wolff tried to facilitate a meeting with Red Bull CEO Oliver Mintzlaff to discuss a future for Schumacher at AlphaTauri.

Speaking to German television channel Sport1, Marko said: “It was mentioned at a meeting. It’s just stupid that Mr Wolff at the same time openly made politics against us at the FIA again. With that, the topic was off the table.

“Why should we take Schumacher? He is a Mercedes driver. Mr Wolff is responsible for him. If he thinks so highly of him, why not let him drive in his own team or use his influence to get him into a customer team like Williams?”

Schumacher’s performance as a simulator driver and recent F1 racing experience with 42 grands prix under his belt make him an asset to Mercedes, as Wolff admitted. “It’s great to have a mature, successful and experienced F1 driver supporting us in the sim and with his feedback, that is a tremendous advantage,” he said.

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“On some of the European grands prix, having him in the sim overnight and providing data for the Saturday is a super advantage for us.”

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It’s clear Wolff would be prepared to let him take up a race seat somewhere else. Could Williams be an option as Marko suggests? There are few obvious alternatives: the two Red Bull teams can be ruled out, Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren are unlikely to change their line-ups next year, Alfa Romeo and Alpine also look set and the Haas bridge is seemingly burned.

Mercedes has strong links to Williams not only as its engine supplier but through its team principal, James Vowles, who joined them earlier this year following a long stint at Brackley.

But Williams have a strong set-up at the moment. Alexander Albon signed a long-term deal last year and just produced a fantastic performance to finish seventh at the Canadian Grand Prix.

Rookie Logan Sargeant has shown promise but is still finding his feet. That said, it would be hard to make a case for dropping him in favour of Schumacher. With an ever-growing audience in America, which has three races to the zero of Schumacher’s homeland, the famous name may not be enough of a pull for Williams to usher Sargeant aside so hastily.

Mercedes and Williams have co-operated on driver arrangements before. Russell spent three years at Williams while he was a Mercedes junior driver, and was even moved across to perform as a substitute for a one-off race in 2020, before taking his current place alongside Hamilton last year.

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Wolff may also want to keep Schumacher available to perform a substitute role if needed next year. “If George or Lewis were to have fish poisoning – well, Lewis can’t have fish poisoning, it would be avocado poisoning – then we know we have a super guy that will drive the car and drive the car well.”

However, Wolff maintains his preference is to see Schumacher back on the grid. “As much as I like the situation for the benefit of the team, I would prefer every day of the week that Mick sits in the cockpit and actually races.”

But for any team to take a chance on Schumacher, they need to believe he is sufficiently quick and error-resistant to be worth it, and he didn’t do enough at Haas to prove he is. Friends in high places like Wolff will increase his chances to remain in motorsport, but while he’s probably guaranteed gainful employment as Mercedes’ reserve for a while, that doesn’t promise a direct path to a race seat.

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Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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25 comments on “Why the driver who was “burned” by 2022 exit has few options for an F1 return”

  1. Wolff is great at talking up drivers who would be great at other teams, he’s sure of it, just not his own.

    1. Agree, look at de Vries, toto’s best third driver.

    2. This. It’s very cheap praise.

  2. I do not understand why Toto gets this much attention for this non topic. Some drivers are not suited for F1. This is one of them, judging by no one being interested. Let’s move on.

    1. Not true, he wasn’t given enough time, he’s no worse than stroll, who for obvious reasons was given more time than necessary. If you don’t get the time to prove you’re good enough the other teams won’t express interest, that’s why haas should’ve given him a 3rd year.

      That said, it’s obvious we’re not looking at a potential top driver, in that case he would’ve shined already, but there’s plenty of drivers in f1 now who will never be champions.

      1. From that angle I understand why you would have liked to see him in a 3rd season. My angle is however aimed at that F1 should improve the overall level of F1 drivers by raising the bar. Imho F1 should not be a place to learn or get adjusted. It only holds 20 seats. I would like to see Sainz level as the absolute minimum. Which means 50% of the current field is up for debate currently. Bringing back Hulkenberg (however nice it is to have his personality around) is not really a promotion for the level of the pinnacle of Motorsport. To that regard, what is FIA doing to improve this? It turns out their Academy is focused on women, which to me sounds rather non-inclusive. Better would be to provide means for the less fortunate in which gender is irrelevant. I bet there are plenty of Hamilton, Alonso and Verstappens out there that simply do not get a chance and we the audience lose as well in this. So, no please no Mick, we should move in the opposite direction.

        1. Ah, right, in that case I see how you don’t think schumacher could become good enough, and indeed hulkenberg should be about middle of the pack and there definitely are other top drivers that don’t get the recognition they deserve because lack of money.

      2. If you don’t get the time to prove you’re good enough the other teams won’t express interest, that’s why haas should’ve given him a 3rd year.

        If certain personalities in F1 would just admit the “sprint race” doesn’t belong as part of the championship points set, then they can re-use the time slot for a similar length race using previous years cars and having potential new F1 drivers in the seats. Possibly make the cars a bit more spec?
        If a driver can’t hack it in an F1 car, that will be apparent.
        If a driver shines, then the team has an easier choice about who could be in a valuable F1 seat next season.

        That would probably remove the crash-prone noob from the F1 track.

      3. @esploratore1

        I think the big difference between Stroll and Schumacher is self respect. Schumacher probably has the funds to secure a drive for himself, and can stick around in the sport for as long as he likes, but he’s unlikely to do so, as he has set expectations for himself as a driver and competitor. Stroll on the other hand, just wants to be on the F1 grid regardless of how her performs.

  3. Tommy Scragend
    29th June 2023, 7:50

    Let’s face it, if this guy’s surname wasn’t Schumacher, he would be nowhere near Formula 1.

    1. He won the previous formula as far as I know.

    2. That is a bit simplistic. You wouldn’t know. Given what Mick has been through and how he is shouldering the pressure of the Schumacher name. We simply don’t know how these factors influence Mick’s track performance and how he would have performed otherwise. I have always been very impressed by Mick; composed, well spoken and driven to succeed. Last year things came a bit apart but I don’t think that is a reason to write him off – he definitely deserves another chance!

      1. I think so too, however he should definitely cut the crashes if he gets another year because that’s what brought steiner to fire him, performance wise was doing ok, was only behind in points because the car was only good early in the season and he improved halfway.

  4. Realistically thinking, he won’t return full-time next season indeed because most teams intend to continue with their current lineups, including Williams, not to mention Sargeant hasn’t given a strong reason for sacking by his performance, especially as he’s fared better than Latifi, which was the minimum expectation & additionally, rookies need time considering how limited real-life testing is in F1.
    Overall, I see the Red Bull B-team as the only one where any driver change would realistically happen for next season & most likely De Vries getting replaced by Lawson.

  5. The fact that he’s very good at preparing cars to drive – by improving Mercedes results and looking at the pale results of Haas this year compared to previous (KM has 2 points, had 14 last year) – will earn him a new position sooner or later. There are fare worse drivers on the grid right now.

    I’m glad he left Haas, that’s a joke of a team led by a toxic jerk.

    1. Indeed, on the basis of the points he should fire magnussen now!

  6. Wonder if he’s doing the tyre test after Silverstone?

    1. Presumably

  7. Another day, another Mick Schumacher article.

    He’s not THAT big a deal to have all this promotion everywhere, every week. What has he done other than have that surname?

    I like the guy but he’s no F1 material. The fact that Hulkenberg is performing so well against Magnussen, who himself did brilliant in comparision with Mick, doesn’t paint a good picture. He should’ve stayed at Ferrari and try to grab a WEC ride or something… move on from F1, there’s life elsewhere.

    1. Schumacher was basically a rookie against magnussen! I’m sure he’d have matched him with another season, he was already improving halfway, he was simply not given enough time.

      Even sainz matched verstappen in the first season, and ricciardo was closer to verstappen when verstappen was young than later on, so that’s too soon to say he’s no f1 material, at least as long as drivers like stroll remain, which btw is the real joke based on how good the car is.

  8. If Toto and the other team
    Principals haven’t been so against new teams joining in, there could be 4 – 6 potential seats available to slot in Schumacher.

  9. If modern fans and such were around then i doubt Gilles Villeneuve would be seen as the legend he was because he crashed a lot and made a lot of errors, Way more than Mick did.

    Yet Gilles was given time primarily because Enzo loved him (As did fans).

    Same with Jean Alesi actually, He made a lot of errors as he just wanted to drive at 100% which fans adored yet now ‘He’s pushing too hard’.

    Now fans who think they know everything but in reality know nothing are screaming about drivers been useless after just a handful of races.

    In todays society everything has to be ready now, Nobody wants to give anyone any time to learn or improve and everyone is far too quick to write people off. It’s the social media instant society who have no patience.

    Back then drivers had unlimited testing to learn and improve at a faster rate. Now there’s no testing apart from 3 days pre-season yet drivers are given less time than when they had unlimited testing which is bizzare.

    1. That’s not our fault, that’s just the name of the game these days. And anyway, has Mick shown anything in the 41 races he did (which are far from a handful of races)? other drivers in tricky situations have had flashes of speed. Gilles and Alesi included. But give me one race where Mick was just outstanding…

      1. He did pretty well mid season, one of the austria races, there were 2-3 good races around there.

    2. Teams will hire a veritable army of lawyers to get their hands on prime talent. Guys like Alonso, Räikkönen, Vettel, Leclerc and Verstappen all instantly showed their promise in midfield-at-best cars during their debut season. Hamilton obvious did as well, but he immediately had a title-worthy car so it’s a bit different. By the time some of these drivers had done the number of races Mick has, they were already fighting for their first title.

      Yet other teams would rather hire Hülkenberg, De Vries, Albon, and Zhou than even consider Mick. The great talents don’t need a lot of time. When guys like Tost say you need three seasons, it’s obviously because he can’t actually get rid of Tsunoda. Red Bull has dumped many other drivers much quicker. He’s just being diplomatic.

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