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Formula 1

Vettel rooting for Schumacher to make 2021 F1 grid

by Edd Straw
3 min read

Sebastian Vettel says Formula 2 championship leader Mick Schumacher deserves a Formula 1 race seat next season, describing the Ferrari Driver Academy prospect’s free practice debut at the Nurburgring this weekend as a “kick-off” for his grand prix career.

Schumacher, the son of seven-time world champion Michael, will drive for Alfa Romeo in FP1 for the Eifel Grand Prix and is a leading contender for a race seat with the team next year alongside Kimi Raikkonen.

The 21-year-old leads the Formula 2 standings with four races remaining and has likened his relationship with Vettel to the one that Vettel had with Michael Schumacher in terms of the guidance and support offered.

“He deserves his shot this weekend and hopefully we see him not only tomorrow but hopefully [on] another Friday this year and then hopefully in a race seat next year – that’s what I wish for him,” said Vettel.

“Obviously, he’s having a great season, he’s leading the Formula 2 championship and I hope he can seal a seat for next year.

“I think he’s a great kid, I really like him and I’m sure he’s going to go a long way and do well. So this is probably just a sort of kick-off.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Tuscan Grand Prix Race Day Mugello, Italy

Schumacher, who has already driven F1 machinery on grand prix weekends for demonstration purposes, most recently in his father’s Ferrari F2004 at Mugello last month, is set for a tough start given the expected conditions at the Nurburgring.

Low temperatures and possible rain could restrict his running during the 90-minute session, which Schumacher prepared for with a test in a two-year-old Ferrari at Fiorano last week.

Charles Leclerc, who stepped up to F1 with the Sauber team that runs the Alfa entry after winning F2 in 2018 and had Friday practice outings with both Haas and Sauber in preparation, says the weather conditions will not be ideal for Schumacher.

“Looking at the conditions of this weekend, it’s probably not the easiest debut,” said Leclerc. “But speaking to him, every time he tried a Formula 1 car or a new car it was always in the rain so it won’t change much for him.

“It is going to be a tricky session but he doesn’t have to prove anything, I think he has proved everything he had to in Formula 2 this season and I’m sure he will do a great job tomorrow.”


Sebastian Vettel Turkey 2006Schumacher’s grand prix weekend debut comes 14 years after Vettel himself had his first run in an F1 event at the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix.

The third-car rules in effect at the time allowed Vettel to run in both Friday sessions for the BMW Sauber team alongside regular drivers Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld. This made him the youngest driver ever to participate in a grand prix weekend at just 19 years and 53 days.

His running didn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts, earning a pitlane speeding penalty just nine seconds after FP1 started after forgetting to press the button to engage the limiter. But he ended it eighth-fastest, 1.649s off pacesetter Kimi Raikkonen and just under two tenths slower than Heidfeld.

Vettel then grabbed the headlines in the second session by setting the fastest time, 0.073s faster than Ferrari driver Felipe Massa.

“I am surprised at this result,” Vettel said at the time. “It has been difficult for me as I didn’t know the circuit and have had only one proper Formula 1 test. However, I felt very comfortable, I was able to deliver some information and on top of it all it was great. What happens in the fast corners is just indescribable.”

Formula 1 Grand Prix, Turkey, Friday Practice

He also caught the eye of The Race’s Mark Hughes, who was watching Friday practice from trackside.

“All that struck me was he looked like he’d been doing it forever,” says Hughes. “He didn’t look obviously the fastest visually, but he did look like he knew exactly what he was doing and that F1 was no big deal.”

Vettel’s performance in Turkey then on Friday at the following race at Monza earned him the third-driver slot for the rest of the season, a role he retained for the first part of 2007 before making his F1 debut in place of the injured Kubica at the United States Grand Prix.

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