until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

On-track form won’t ‘hugely change’ Schumacher’s future anymore

by Edd Straw
5 min read

Mick Schumacher doubts his on-track results in the final two events of the season will “hugely change” his Formula 1 destiny, with Haas team principal Guenther Steiner suggesting a final decision on its 2023 driver line-up is imminent.

Nico Hulkenberg is the clear favourite to land the drive for next season, although Schumacher does remain in contention and insists he doesn’t yet know if he will hang onto the seat.

Steiner said that “hopefully next week we can announce something”, meaning Haas should have confirmed who will partner Kevin Magnussen before the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Schumacher has scored points only twice this season, for eighth in the British Grand Prix and a career-best sixth in Austria. But he was hopeful of a good weekend in Brazil before a disastrous qualifying left him last on the grid – meaning it’s perhaps good news that he expects the Interlagos weekend to have little impact on his future.

“I don’t think it will hugely change it, but a good result is definitely something that we’re targeting,” said Schumacher before on-track running started at Interlagos.

“Our car seems to work well here so hopefully we’ll have a good weekend.”

Should the 23-year-old not continue with Haas, his F1 future is uncertain. While he insisted that “I’ll think about that when it’s time to do that” when the possibility of a ‘Plan B’ such as a reserve role was put to him, the uncertainty means he and his management team will have put plenty of consideration into his next move if he can’t race in F1 next year.

There have been suggestions he could align himself with Sauber given Audi, which will become its “strategic partner” from 2026 and has bought into the team, is said to be keen on a German driver.

Logically, Schumacher’s priority will be to ensure he keeps at least a foot in F1. While the Ferrari Driver Academy door officially remains open, it’s widely expected he will no longer be part of that scheme in 2023. So a reserve role elsewhere seems the most likely strategy, although he could also remain in the Ferrari fold in such a capacity.

Though Schumacher’s results have been patchy, with an average qualifying deficit in dry conditions of just over two tenths of a second to Magnussen, at his best he has proved himself to be an effective driver at this level. On the downside, he had major crashes in Saudi Arabia and Monaco and has too often struggled to turn underlying pace into results. His qualifying failure in Brazil on a day when Magnussen starred will come as a bitter blow, especially as it likely confirms the team’s perception that he isn’t its best choice for next year.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship United States Grand Prix Qualifying Day Austin, Usa

But Schumacher remains confident he can still become what he calls a “top” F1 driver given the opportunity.

“For me personally, I know that the trend which was there is what matters, to see that consistent improvement over the course of the season,” said Schumacher of his season.

“I have achieved some of the things that I wanted to achieve. Obviously I haven’t managed everything but in many ways I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to reach that because it’s Formula 1. Formula 1 is very different compared to all the junior categories that I have had before.

“Many people have said it, but it’s worth saying it again: nobody was a fully complete driver in Formula 1 after two years. There’s a lot to learn still.

“I’m intending to learn those bits and pieces, and show that once I put everything together – as I have shown in junior categories – I’m sure that I can be a top driver in Formula 1 as well.”

Schumacher also argues that he has produced some strong performances on weekends when Haas has struggled, as well as losing points in races where he could have scored.

He cites Zandvoort, where he ran 10th in the first stint but slipped back to 13th as the result of a slow first pitstop caused by a front-jack problem, and Montreal where an engine problem put him out after running eighth early on. He also held 10th at Suzuka initially before being left out in the hope of a red flag, failing to score as a consequence.

“The most positive ones were Canada, Silverstone, Austria, even some other races where we didn’t expect to be quick – like Monza, which actually turned out to be pretty strong,” said Schumacher.

“We had some very strong races and races where we could have scored a lot of points, like for example Zandvoort where we had a problem that put us out of contention.

“It’s obviously unfortunate but nevertheless we had some great races and some strong results.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Brazilian Grand Prix Qualifying Day Sao Paulo, Brazil

If – although now it’s likely a question of when – Schumacher is dropped by Haas, it will be for the legitimate reason that Hulkenberg’s experience and proven consistency means he is likely to bank more points for the team. With each step in the constructors’ championship worth approximately $11-12million, that is Haas’s priority.

But it’s clear Schumacher himself believes the high points he’s shown so far prove that he has a big upside as a driver. It’s just that, depending on what team owner Gene Haas decides, there’s every chance he will need an opportunity with another team to have any chance to prove he can make good on that potential that has been evident over the past two years in F1.

It’s just not been on show as much as it needs to be to ensure he has a place on the grid in 2023.

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