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Formula 1

‘Now I do have a reference’ – Schumacher on Magnussen return

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
5 min read

Mick Schumacher did as much as could be expected of him in his rookie Formula 1 season. One of the many aspects he could not control was the lack of a reference alongside him.

As part of an all rookie line-up with Nikita Mazepin, Schumacher had a chance to establish himself as Haas’s lead driver. He took that chance, not that Mazepin offered much resistance (well, at least not on-track…).

On one hand, Schumacher’s comprehensive demolition of his fellow Formula 2 graduate was impressive. On the other hand, Mazepin’s low stock and poor form meant that not many people gave Schumacher much credit.

Into his second season, with Haas putting all its efforts into producing a much more competitive car, Schumacher sensed a shift in fortune. And after a surprise mid-testing shake-up, he has an even bigger opportunity than he could have hoped for.

Kevin Magnussen Haas F1

Mazepin’s out and Kevin Magnussen’s back in. The circumstances that led to Mazepin’s F1 exit are extremely regrettable. The outcome, in pure sporting terms, is that Haas’s driver line-up has been upgraded.

And Schumacher goes from having a problematic, tense relationship with a weak team-mate to sharing the garage with a proven grand prix driver and popular team member.

It’s quite the shift, and Schumacher knows it. A driver of Magnussen’s calibre and experience is potentially a goldmine for someone as studious and committed as Schumacher: he’s a resource to learn from, an excellent presence inside the team to work with and a known quantity on-track to benchmark himself against.

In short, Magnussen is everything Mazepin wasn’t. All the while Schumacher was trying to establish himself in F1 it was in the knowledge there was no reference for how good a job he was doing.

“Now I do have a reference,” says Schumacher. “Which is good. It’s not only about just driving but you have to put everything together to succeed. That’s what Formula 1 essentially is, you want to be under pressure, you want to be able to perform under pressure.

“And to have that sort of pressure now also within the team is quite positive.”

Mick Schumacher Haas F1

Schumacher is right to term it as “pressure”. It’s an excellent opportunity but it is very much a test he needs to pass.

Get beaten by Magnussen – a very good driver but not a superstar, or he wouldn’t have found himself spending a year out of F1 – and it could bode poorly for Schumacher’s reputation.

The extent of the defeat would determine the nature of the consequences but Schumacher can ill afford a heavy defeat. The very best young drivers are ready for big things quickly.

At the same time it would be unwise for Schumacher to get into a territorial contest with Magnussen. That could easily happen, with Magnussen the man with four years’ prior experience and a warm relationship with most personnel and Schumacher as the incumbent driver from 2021 and potentially the future.

There’s no point arguing over whose team this is. It’s in both drivers’ interest to re-establish Haas as a midfield force and the best way to do that is by working in tandem. Both seem ready to do that.

“It’s the first time that I kind of feel like the older driver,” Magnussen jokes. “I’ve never tried that before! It’s exciting.

“He [Schumacher] is going to be super-motivated, and you can very easily feel that he is super-focused.

“He’s a Formula 2 champion, he’s going to be very strong. So I’m looking forward to learning from him and working with him.”

Schumacher says: “We should both benefit from each other and bring the team forwards. That’s what matters right now.”

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Day Two Sakhir, Bahrain

It will take some time to build up a rapport but there is already a little bit of a connection there as Schumacher was part of the Haas team on Magnussen’s farewell Abu Dhabi weekend in 2020.

There’s a natural complement to this kind of pairing. Magnussen should plug a few gaps in Schumacher’s F1 knowledge, Schumacher should bring the kind of enthusiasm and hunger that a driver early in his career has in abundance.

Schumacher says the two have not spoken “directly” about how they would best work together but “I think indirectly we all know who is worth what”.

“Obviously Kevin has a lot of experience in Formula 1, he can probably guide the team in some direction that I might not just yet,” Schumacher says.

“But if we both do the right job and work in the same direction, there’s no reason for us not to be successful.

“It’s definitely beneficial for me and for the team. He’s been part of it for four years, then obviously had a one year break. But everybody likes him in the team.

“I think the emotion and the feeling in the team is really good. And he’s a good reference. So it’s only positive for now.”

Haas’s potential competitiveness and the return of one of its favoured sons means we stand to learn a lot about Schumacher this year.

Haas F1 testing

Both drivers must be able to contend for better results than Haas has become used to in the last couple of years. If this goes as well as it could, they should push each other to that level.

That was unlikely to happen with Haas’s original 2022 line-up. Schumacher’s development risked hitting a lower ceiling as a result.

Instead, Magnussen will be a great benchmark that will give us a much clearer idea of Schumacher’s capabilities.

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